Last night I talked with a friend of mine who used to be in ministry.
I have several friends who used to be in ministry.
There was a time in my life when I was close to joining the ranks of those who used to be in ministry.
Why is “used to be in ministry” becoming such a common descriptor?
Ministry as a vocation is a complex profession. Most ministers are expected to be:
- Theologians – they are expected to be “experts” in the things of God
- Leaders – they are expected to cast “vision” for the church, to set the course, to have a plan, etc.
- Managers – they are expected to manage staffs, volunteers, etc.
- Care-givers – they are the ones called on to do funerals, comfort the sick, pray for the suffering, etc.
- Counselors – they are asked what to do when marriages are falling apart, addictions have become public, etc.
- Administrators – they create and send out the board meeting agendas, lead the meetings, handle the “business” of the church, etc.
- Financial planners & CFR’s (Chief Fund Raisers) – they are the ones everyone looks at when the church encounters financial hard times
- Model husbands/wives – they are the ones that everyone expects to have it together. After all, if you’re going to teach on it… shouldn’t you be doing it?
- Model parents – see the note above…
And they are expected to do this consistently, under the pressure of everyone watching and far too often on a beggar’s income.
They receive far more criticism than praise.
Their vision is often subjected to the whims of a board member who has the leverage of money or influence based on tenure.
They are talked about and to but, not often enough, with.
Their families are subjected to criticism and the cold shoulder of church members who are at odds with the pastor.
They, too often, do not have job security (i.e. the bishop can move them or the congregation can vote them out).
They are too often underpaid, overworked, under-appreciated, and constantly overwhelmed with the greatness of their calling, and way to commonly called on to do this… alone.
So one can understand why the phrase “used to be in ministry” is a common descriptor among clergy types.
Here’s what’s tearing my heart apart…
There are too many “used to be in ministry” types that are wounded with no one to care for them.
They hurt and yet smile.
They have all the answers and yet none of those answers seems to quell the pain of betrayal and the guilt they feel as they walk away from ministry.
They are too often:
- a “good riddance” to the people they pastored
- forgotten by their denominational leaders
- “prayed” for and used as illustrations by their fellow clergy members
- almost irrelevant in this world as they stumble about trying to find a place to fit in… discontent because they were carved out for ministry but to wounded to press on
As I talked with my friend last night I asked him how he felt about the church (at large) over these last few years.
He said that in the three years since he’s left ministry I was the only person who has followed up with him. He’s not the only person saying this.
Why do we do this to our soldiers? Why do we leave them?
Please, if you know someone who “used to be in ministry” do this:
- Call them and let them know you’re thinking about them
- Take them out for lunch and ask how they’re doing
- Send them a card
- Send them an e-mail
- Give them a hug
- Tell them of some way they have positively impacted you
Please do something! We’ve let our wounded lay for to long.
It’s time to go back and pick up the hurting and care for those who “used to be in ministry.”