I’m grateful for the heartfelt comments about yesterday’s post. Some comments were basically about call.
The thought that professional ministry is now a “job” rather than a “call” is painful because it presumes that issues like “climbing the professional ladder” and “seeking a church that can pay more” would be expected. Actually, by God’s Spirit, some pastors are called to small congregations who can barely pay a minimum salary. Some are called to larger churches in poor communities. They will never earn the salary of a rich Big Steeple church pastor. And this is not fair.
It’s also true that when the congregation expects their pastor to sacrifice family time it’s painful. As I wrote in a Facebook comment yesterday:
My biggest regrets in parish ministry have been those times when I chose my congregation over my family.
- The church treasurer’s daughter was scheduled to get married on Saturday and on the Wednesday before, my mother’s skeleton basically collapsed as a result of the breast cancer that had spread to her bones. I flew home to be with her Wednesday night, but my clergy spouse stayed behind to officiate – which was a blessing to the bride and groom. But my husband didn’t get to say good-bye to my mom or be with me in those holy hours. Mom died on Friday. HH officiated the wedding on Saturday.
- A beloved church member’s daughter wanted to get married on May 5th which is great except that May 5th also our TBC’s birthday. TBC was hoping for a Friday night slumber party (but I would have a wedding rehearsal that night and all the wedding events the next day.) I worked it out and did it all: the rehearsal, the wedding (but no reception), and the slumber party. And I learned that I would never be available for weddings on my children’s birthdays again.
- I missed Senior Night for FBC’s last lacrosse game in high school because I had a Session Meeting. Yep. I was that mom who missed my child’s event because of a meeting.
Our calls are indeed “work.” And it’s good to balance church expectations with family expectations. The more children the pastors have, the more parenting events they will either 1) miss or 2) attend at the risk of hearing punishing comments from parishioners about “taking too much time off.”
It’s not called Tug of War for nothing.
Someone asked yesterday how to change this culture, and it’s basically about love and respect. If I love my people as their pastor, my hope is that they will respect my need to spend time with my family. (Note: for single pastors, you too need to spend time with your family of origin/chosen family.)
So – yes, professional ministers* are called and not merely hired for a job. And also I ask you who are church members:
What family event would you be willing to miss for your job?
And can we be the kind of church family that encourages our pastoral leaders to take at least one day off a week, all their vacation time, and all their study leave time?
Healthy Pastors = Healthy Congregations.
* I use “professional minister” not to emphasize professionalism but to distinguish between Ministers of the Word and Sacrament and ministers who are The Baptized, called to the priesthood of all believers.