I began ministry in my twenties. Many of my peers believed it important while they were attending seminary to give themselves completely to the "ministry of preparation". For many of these folks, this practice worked. I knew it would never work for me. Was I too impatient? Too eager? Too foolish? I don't know, but I could not just spend most of my time in classrooms and cubicles. I needed to get out among people. I needed to get plugged into the church. And, besides that, I needed a little bit of income to support myself. Why not start my career in ministry working part-time in a small church while I was in seminary? So that is what I did.
As I began my ministry, I was blessed to be single. This allowed me to devote all my time to ministry and to school. No family to care for. No time to be home. No children to bathe. Just a degree to complete, and kids to reach out to as a youth pastor in a small inner-city church. I am not sure I did that great of a job. I am not really sure whether I can judge that. What I do know is that I loved the kids I worked with, and to a lesser extent the church that I served.
This same lifestyle allowed me to take on other responsibilities. I became chair of missions and outreach on the student council at the seminary, and let folks at the seminary in a few experiences of hands-on compassionate ministry. I took on responsibilities at a local urban outreach. I even did an internship at a well-respected suburban church not too far from our seminary.
I moved on to take on a youth pastorate in Montana, and then an associate pastorate in Colorado after seminary. Each congregation called me to minister primarily to youth and young adults. I slept in, and then I worked late into the night most days. I grabbed dinners at 24-hour grocery stores after everyone else had settled in for the night.
I got married when I was 34 years old. I was just wrapping up the youth ministry phase of my ministry, and within a few months after getting married, I had accepted a call to be a pastor of a small church in rural Colorado. For a little under two-years, it was just the two of us. But in the fall of my second year in our small town pastorate, my wife announced that she was pregnant. My life changed.
Now I am a pastor of an average sized church in South Dakota. My wife and I have had our second child. With a little toddler running around and into everything, and an infant that wants our attention as well, our lives have morphed again. Like many pastors, I find myself serving an aging church in need of revitalization and reorganization. United Churches Hot Springs is healthier than many churches, but it is also an aging congregation struggling with declining attendance and significant budget concerns. Strangely, I find the process of learning how to be a dad, and learning how to pastor this church a remarkably similar process.
Perhaps it was presumptuous of Catholic parsons to give themselves the moniker "father", but the process of raising a child and leading a church toward renewal a similar one. You work hard at both, you never know if you are doing anything right. You seek to be faithful. You seek to help them grow in a healthy manner. You live by faith.
So, in the next couple weeks, months, years, or whatever, I am going to occasionally post how my experiences in leading a family and leading a church intersect, and perhaps where they are a little bit different as well. I invite you to join me on the journey.