Ask the Matriarch - It's Graduation and Time for Interviews Edition
This week's post is quite timely...our love and prayers go out to all our sisters who find themselves in a similar place this Spring...
I am graduating from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. I am getting ready to start call process conversations in the next few weeks. I have enjoyed the words of wisdom, humor and support from RevGals and wonder what would be the wisdom from the road others might share with me?
Ah, the call process. What fun! Here's my top 10 list:
1. Enjoy! You will love this, especially if you thrive being the center of attention during a friendly grilling. (I loved it!)
2. Be impeccable about being your authentic self. God's best church-pastor matches are honest matches.
3. Be clear about what you require and what's fair, salary and otherwise. Consult denominational guidelines if available, and ask one or two colleagues serving in your denomination.
4. Get the important things in writing. Your covenant or contract should specify vacation time, conferences, salary, to whom you are accountable, etc.
5. What's important to you is, by definition, important. My adult children are scattered. So, my covenant substitutes grandmother leave for maternity leave. That's an extra week of vacation at the birth of each grandchild.
6. Don't count on well-intentioned, heart-felt promises that the church will raise (or add) anything "later when we can afford it" or "later when you've been here awhile." Proceed as if that day will never come.
7. If the committee communicates high expectations for your ministry with them, that's a good sign IF they also can easily identify by name those in the congregation for whom those things are also important enough that they are eager to work with you in that ministry.
8. If they use the words "save" or "savior" -- as in "We are looking for a savior for our Christian Ed program" -- kindly let them know that the job of Savior has already been filled and it's not you. (True story !)
9. Pay attention to your gut. If something seems off, say it out loud. If you get a creepy feeling walking into the sanctuary, don't blow that off. If the committee makes a joke about something, pay special attention. If the committee takes you to dinner and you see them pooling their individual money to pay the bill, instead of there being money for the committee to spend on their business, ask about that. (Again, true stories!)
10. And ... ENJOY! You are fulfilling God's dream for you and for your very fortunate congregation-to-be.
Congratulations on your graduation! And welcome to the world of the gainfully unemployed! As a Luth-Episck, I do understand the vagaries of the call process in our denominations.
First of all I would like to appeal to you to look at synods beyond your own locale if you can. There are many places in the ELCA that need you. But PA should have many congregations that can't be covered by traditional one congregation/one pastor types of configurations. And if you can wrap your head around that kind of ministry, go for it. It teaches you lots in a short amount of time. But perhaps your own bishop has something in mind for you. I know of a little congregation in Upstate NY....
Secondly, in the calling process, do your homework. When you get an inquiry from a congregation, have some questions in the back of your mind. If you know clergy in the synod, call them and find out what the synod is like, how the bishop relates to the clergy and info about the congregation. Be prepared to earn little. This is not a business that is going to help you pay off your loans easily. You will need to know what kind of mentoring there will be for new clergy in your synod, because no matter how good your seminary was, it did not prepare you to walk into a congregation. The learning curve is huge and you need to be prepared for it.
Thirdly: Love your people. They will hurt you all the time. Be prepared for it and love 'em anyway. Don't try to lead from the front. Lead them from the middle or push from behind. And keep humor as your your best prod.
Fourth: Never fib to your congregation! It is so easy to try to cover yourself when you have made a mistake. Don't do it. Let your integrity speak. Admit your mistakes and move on. If you are bewildered, admit it. The ministry is a shared work and collaborative leadership works much better than other forms if you can get your folks to do it. Don't let them get away with being passive. The Christian life is something we all have to do.
Fifth: Relax and have fun. Christ has come so that we might have life abundantly--the joy of pastoring is immense. Blessings on your willingness to open yourself to the life as a pastor. May your career be as joy-filled as mine has been and even better!
What can you add to these two thoughtful lists? Share your "wisdom from the road" with the "Post a Comment" function of this post.
We have just one question in the queue, so now is a great time to send in your questions. Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org