Who Are You When You Are Not a Pastor?

Note: This post is specifically for pastors, but you can insert your own occupation if you don’t happen to be a professional minister. (Reformed theological reminder of the day:  all baptized Christians are ministers. A few of us are called into professional ministry.)

One of my favorite people told me last week that the purpose of a Pastor’s Sabbatical is to figure out who you are when you are not a Pastor. The truth is that:

  • Most pastors don’t get a Sabbatical at all.
  • Some get a Sabbatical but use it to outline future sermons, write a book or take classes to enhance their pastoral effectiveness.
  • Most congregations do not understand why a pastor might need to take a Sabbatical for the purpose of refreshing her soul or nourishing his spirit set apart from clergy responsibilities.  The Lilly Foundation makes it possible to convince skeptical congregations.

My identity for the past 33 years has been as a Pastor.  I was “Pastor Jan” for 27 years as a congregational minister. And my ministry has continued in Mid-Council work for the past six years.  Church World is my life and my focus. It’s hard for me to read a novel or magazine article, or to listen to a podcast without having a sermon idea pop into my head.  While this might sound annoying, it’s actually an interesting intellectual exercise.  I outline sermons in my head all the time that will never be preached.

Church World can also become an obsession and an idol.  Who am I when I’m not a Pastor?  Sometimes it’s hard to say.

I was a Pastor before I was a spouse or a mother or a blogger. I wonder what it’s like for my retired colleagues who are no longer anyone’s pastor after 40+ years in professional ministry.  My hope is that they have a strong identity in something new that stirs their deepest joy.  Bee-keeping. Dancing. Weaving. Golfing. Poetry Writing.

Here’s a real question to those of you who are in active professional ministry today as a parish Pastor or a Chaplain or a Seminary Professor/Administrator:  Who are you when you are not a Pastor?

As for me, I am a baker, an (unenthusiastic) gardener, an explorer, a traveler, an art lover, and a friend. What about you?

Image of me and TBC on my 2009 Sabbatical in Petra.


3 responses to “Who Are You When You Are Not a Pastor?

  1. Gardening, reader, photographer, Scrabble enthusiast, theatre lover.


  2. All kinds of relationships. Husband, friend, father, mentor. Reader, traveler, cook, gadget guy, goof off. As I think about the question, not only is it important to know who you are when you’re not a pastor; it’s also important to be who you are AS a pastor.


  3. Interesting. I am a CRE and after I pastored a church for 13 years, I served as Minister of Visitation at my home church for several years. That position ends on October 1. I will remain as Parish Associate. I am very much wondering what I will be when i am not a pastor…or, maybe you are always a pastor!


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