This week, we look at a very tough challenge for anyone:
I had to leave a congregation a couple of years ago because of a family move, due to my spouse's work. It took seven months for me to find a call in our new home. It is an associate pastor position, doing work I love with children and youth, women, social justice, evangelism. In the past, I have had really great experiences working with a senior pastor--in fact, they have been more co-pastorate positions. But this one is turning out to be more difficult in terms of co-ministry.
I don't have near the autonomy I have had in the past, even when fresh out of college. I constantly feel second-guessed, or questioned on decisions I make--or, at times, dismissed! My colleague is a wonderful pastor, someone I like and respect deeply. But the second-guessing has come back, usually in matters of opinion or theology.
In addition to speaking to the colleague directly, I have spoken also with my pastoral liaison; it is too early to start looking for another position, but I've realized I am not happy here.
So how long until it is ok for me to start looking at other opportunities? In my heart, I know I am being called to expand on my worship gifts and skills more, and leadership, and yet on the other hand, I want to honor the time and effort the people in the congregation put into the search and call process and the ministry with which I am engaged. How can a congregation be happy and not me? How much am I called to sacrifice for the greater good of the ministry at the expense of what I feel individually called to?
Sounds like you have been forthright in addressing this with the senior pastor and other appropriate people. He may be a great pastor for others but not for you. The first thing to recognize is you are not colleagues. He is the boss and you are not. I am not sure how much power he has to make your life difficult or fire you, so am sort of making assumptions from the information you've given.
If the congregation called you and is happy with your work and you are happy with your work for and with them, the question becomes how much can you let the relationship with the senior pastor just "be." It is not going to be collegial - and he will no doubt continue to behave as he has so far. You can't change him no matter how nice or strategic you are.
Have confidence in yourself and your work - get some other real colleagues outside the church to meet with regularly for check in about how much time you are spending on his issues. Do not waste yourself in trying to make him happy (something in the Bible about casting pearls before swine?) Be yourself and do the work you love.
Is it possible to let his comments go with a mental "thank you for sharing"? That might help you to move within the area where you have work to do.
As to leaving - definitely seek out information on what is available, and if something calls to you - go. God is happy when you are furthering the kingdom—not withering!
Dear Bad Fit,
If you are looking to (maybe) leave anyway, what's the harm in confronting head of staff with your concerns and reminding him/letting him know that healthy churches are permission-giving churches? Just so you are working within the core values of that congregation, you should be able to do your work as you see fit. For him to second guess you constantly is to discourage your ministry. Ask him if he can imagine someone (the elders?) doing that to him.
In the event that he's also second guessing every other volunteer/staffer, remind him that this kind of thing is harmful to the health and success of any congregation's ministry. But if he'sonly second guessing you, ask him if he is threatened by you for some reason. Okay, this is super difficult to do. But, if you're leaving eventually, this will actually help him discern his own issues and help the next associate pastor.
I'd talk with him as fairly and honestly as possible.It sounds like you appreciate his ministry.Maybe it's a generational thing?
Assuming it takes at least a year to be called to a new position, I'd start looking. A year would be the minimum stay, I'd think. Can you talk honestly about the seriousness of your concerns with your liaison? If you are so unhappy, you are ready to move on, someone needs to know this. They called you because they wanted you. I assume they'd make attempts to keep you.
Have you ever run across this in your ministry? Share your insights in the comments. And as always, we welcome your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.