John Wimberly, the HOS, sat down with me when I was on the job for about a week. I spent six years as a solo pastor, and I was just beginning my first associate position. I never imagined myself as an AP, but when I began to apply for HOS jobs, some older, wiser friends told me that I wouldn’t get them because I needed more time in a multiple-staff setting.
Plus, Western’s amazing. It really is. I felt a strong call to this church and it’s a great honor to have the position here. I’m learning a ton of important things, and it began with that first meeting.
The HOS said, “You need to find a place for all of your energy.”
I felt exhausted. I wasn’t settled from the move, there were so many things that I needed to get done. I responded, “I don’t really have any energy.”
“Not physical energy, intellectual energy,” he explained. “Now that you’re not preaching every week, you need to find someplace to put it, or you won’t last six months here. You need to find something outside of the church walls.”
He was right. I had a month of waking up on Saturdays, saying, “I’m free! No sermon to write!” I made pancakes for breakfast and went to the park with my daughter. But after about six weeks, I missed it. I was writing sermons in my head, frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to preach them.
My job’s demanding. There’s a lot to do. An awful lot. But it’s a departure from a solo position. I preach about once a month. I rarely do the weddings or funerals. Plus, we have a secretary, sexton, janitor, and security guard. I’m not multi-tasking a hundred different things.
Do I miss running off the bulletin while I shovel the snow? Well, no. But the AP job is different.
I’m a general associate. Every once in a while, I teach a class, but that’s it. I watch my wise and intelligent friends, frustrated because they feel like “cruise directors” in their AP positions, channeling people from one program to the next. I didn’t go to seminary to be a cruise director.
So, I began writing. I’m applying for a think tank (a benefit of living in DC). And, I’m looking into local Doctoral programs for the fall.
(That’s another thing I’m told I need to get for an HOS position. “People like to be able to call their pastor â€˜Doctor.'” I’m not real excited about that fact. Don’t get me wrong, I love to study and I’d love to get a doctorate. It’s just that we recently sent our “last” check to Sallie Mae. Gheez. Why are pastors expected to have doctorates when we barely make enough money to pay off our MDiv’s?)
The HOS has been in his position for 25 years. It’ll be thirty when he retires. The congregation has flourished from his long tenure. They went from being a handful of tenacious people who fought off the vote to close, who couldn’t afford to pay their pastor from month to month, to becoming a vital mission in the heart of the city. The HOS even stayed after a major building project–a time when most pastors bail.
When I asked him how he did it, he said he learned to channel his intellectual energy. While serving the tiny congregation, he’s gotten a PhD and an MBA. Then the church started a breakfast program for the homeless in our basement, an art program for children in transitional housing, and poured the foundation for a health clinic in Ethiopia. He keeps actively engaged in starting new projects, and he transfers them off to able hands.
Being wise with our intellectual energy seems to be important in almost every position in the church. What sort of things have you done channel it?