Friday, November 22, 2013

Falling in Love Again...

Searching for a new position as a Pastor is different from other kinds of job searches. Everyone wants to fall in love with their employer and be loved by them in return, but at one time or other, we've all taken a job we knew we probably would not love just to stay afloat financially while looking for something better. That doesn't work with Pastors. Our jobs are referred to as our "calling" for a reason: if we don't truly love the folks we serve, we will not be successful (and also will not likely be employed for long.)

Finding that "just right" fit--the ministry that feels right to both Pastor and congregation--doesn't always happen, and that is a frightening fact for Pastors and churches alike. The bond between a Pastor and ministry position is more like the bond in a marriage marriage than it is like a conventional job situation. Compatibility is a key factor, and it goes beyond merely finding someone with the right skill set. The personality of the church has to mesh well with the personality of the Pastor. Another fact that isn't always acknowledged and dealt with in a healthy way is that churches and Pastors change over time. That has happened to me more than once. A position that felt "just right" for a long time started to feel less than perfect. It's difficult sometimes for a Pastor to realize this and to seek a new position in a timely fashion.  After all, we do truly love the folks. It's hard to acknowledge that just because we still have love for people that we are no longer called to serve them in the same way anymore. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. And because we're human, we hesitate to leave, fearing that we will regret leaving a good situation for the unknown.

The truth is, falling in love, whether in a romantic situation or metaphorically, as is the case when seeking a new Pastoral position, is scary and risky. Things don't always work out. Heartaches happen. There is no surefire road map. Back in the stone ages when I began preparing to be a Pastor, we got little education in discernment--the art of figuring out what God wants for us. Now there is more emphasis on practicing discernment as a type of spiritual discipline. St Ignatius came up with a technique for discernment that is still widely used. I have used this method and find it useful.  Others swear by engaging in regular sessions with a Spiritual Director, a trained professional that helps people stay in touch with their spiritual side. There is, however, no substitute for a daily spiritual practice to allow you to get and stay in touch with what God is calling you to do. It's easy even for Pastors to let this fall by the wayside, especially when we get busy. A time of seeking a new calling can be an especially busy time; in many cases it means holding down one full-time position while actively seeking another--which can seem like a second full-time job at times. It is, however, important to trust your heart and trust God's leading--even if at first it seems as though God expects too much of you, or that God is calling you in an unexpected direction. God is full of surprises. That's one of the best things about Ministry--a miracle is always just around the corner, and we get to witness an above-average share of them. If you are searching for a clergy position, may you find the right calling, and may it feel miraculous and amazing when it happens.
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