Today's question is pretty straight-forward:
I'm in the process of applying for CPE for next summer. I met the director of the program and he has all but assured me that I will be among his trainees. An added bonus - it will be the LAST set of credits for my M.Div. (Let's get this party started!!! WHOOO HOOOOO!!!)
I've also been asked to consider leading a contemporary service at a little church that has an influx of folks who want more than the hymnal. It would be a 6 hour a week job (paid for 4 - I'm figuring planning, encouraging, practicing and sharing the preaching.) I'm excited about the opportunity. The service would be on Saturday evenings.
HOWEVER - I am a little concerned about taking on anything besides CPE since it will be a full unit in about 12 weeks. Have any advice for me? I'd like to stay married and relatively sane.
Sue who blogs at http://www.innerdorothy.com/ writes:
Well, first of all, congratulations on being so close to the end of your program!!!!
Those 12 week intensive CPE units are very taxing on mind, body and especially spirit. I did two of them. The first one I started while I was still working in my first career as a lab technologist. I worked CPE Mon - Fri and the lab on the weekends. After 4 weeks, I thought I would either lose my mind or drop the course, but thankfully, my retirement from the lab came just in time. After that, CPE took up ALL of the rest of that summer. I had young children then and always felt torn between my *shudder* verbatims, my clinical time, my time with the boys and of course, my husband. There were a lot of things to juggle at one time. I was not sorry to see the 12 weeks come to an end - either time.
I'm not in your situation, so I feel a bit presumptuous making any comments about this, but honestly, a 6 hour job in which you are being paid for 4 hours is setting you up for a really unhealthy pattern of ministry. If the job is 4 hours - they get 4 hours of work. Period. The double standard around ministry time is simply unacceptable in 2009. Maybe it was "expected" that the minister always did more time than they were paid for in the past, but that was then, and this is now. I would encourage you to think long and hard about those two "volunteer" hours and what they could turn into a few years down the road.
I've been there. I was there for far too long - in that place where a 40 hour week suddenly turns into a regular pattern of 60 hour weeks until it's crash and burn time. Please don't let that happen to you. It's up to our generation of ministry personnel to end the "old ways" that weren't healthy for ministers or for their families. It's up to us to insist upon balance and fairness in our vocation, so that we don't have to sacrifice our personal lives and relationships to be in the ministry that God is calling us to fulfil.
Peace to you,
And Earthchick who blogs at earthchicknits.wordpress.com agrees...
I think you are wise to be hesitant to say yes to taking on additional ministry beyond CPE. In my experience, CPE actually takes more out of you than just the hours involved in the actual on-site ministry. I found CPE to be far more intense and taxing than anything else I did during seminary. It is more than just the hours you put in on-site (which is plenty - especially if you are on-call) - it is the emotional and spiritual self-examination that really takes sustained energy and commitment. Some CPE programs advise against taking on additional duties (such as classes or other ministry positions) during the course of the CPE.
It is also hard for me to believe that the ministry opportunity you are being offered would really only be 6 hours a week, especially if it involves sharing in the preaching!
My advice would be to let yourself focus on just one thing - CPE - and give it the energy and focus it deserves. You will have plenty of time after seminary to take on other ministries, but (assuming you go into full-time professional ministry) you will likely not have the chance again to pour yourself into an experience like CPE.
Your comments are welcomed and encouraged; please use the comment function at the close of this post to share your perspective and experiences.
May your Thanksgiving celebrations be filled with joy, with gratitude, and with those you love, and may you live in God's amazing grace+