Posts Tagged ‘job’

beat-the-clock.jpgThose of you have known me for a while now know that I love listening to news talk radio.  When I still lived in Regina I was a regular listener and caller to news talk 980.  One of my most noteworthy calls was into Dave Arnold’s morning show to play the “Beat the Clock” game.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it essentially involves a non-existant “clock” counting up dollar amounts from $0 up to $1000.  You can yell stop at any point and keep whatever the last stated dollar amount was, or you can let the clock keep counting up, but if you get too greedy the buzzer may go off and then you get nothing.  When I played I yelled stop at $380.  Then Dave gave me the uprecedented option of carrying on with a guarantee of half that money ($180) even if the buzzer went off.  I decided to give it a go, and was propmtly greeted by a loud buzzer within two seconds of the clock starting again.  Fortunately Dave felt sorry for my plight as a masters student trying to pay off my tuition and graciously offered me the full $38o when I came to the station to pick it up.

You may be wondering where exactly I’m trying to go with this right now.  I could just leave this story as it is, and have a moderately interesting anecdote to add to my blog, but fortunately this story actually relates to a conversation I had today.  It kind of came up out of the blue during coffee break this morning as myself, the secretary Ruth, the senior pastor Cliff, and the custodian Joyce, chatted shortly after the rep from Mennonite Bretheren Biblical Seminary dropped off some pamphlets at the church and hit the road.  The conversation turned towards the church and leadership development.  It wasn’t the eye-rolling, yawn inducing conversation you might have expected though.  I explained how in reality, there was very little incentive for any right thinking person to get into pastoral ministry.  This came as somewhat of a surprise to Ruth and Joyce, and Cliff grinned slyly in the corner seemingly with some kind of understanding of the skeleton’s I was about to unearth from the church’s closet.

I explained that there are very few reasons that an intelligent, hard working, young person would want to enter into pastoral ministry.  The pay is low.  The tuition is often close to twice as high for a bible college degree as compared to a similar four year BA at a university (tuition has doubled in the last 4-8 yrs to over $800/class in many cases).  As soon as people learn you are a pastor their guard goes up and it becomes difficult to make real relationships with people.  It is quite often a job that involves constant conflict as members of the church claim ownership over the church, and thus its staff as well.  I don’t think you could likely find a Christian that hasn’t been aware of an ugly situation involving a pastor in their church at some point.  All in all there are a lot of deterents to being a pastor and many of the benefits aren’t realized this side of heaven.  There may be the occasional “good message” on Sunday after church or Hallmark thank-you card found in your church mailbox, but all in all there aren’t a lot of earthly perks to the job.  All in all, no right thinking person, apart from divine revelation and intervention, would choose to be a pastor.

This is where the part about “beat the clock” comes in.  I also voiced my opinion that the way the church and our culture is going, the biggest deterrent to becoming a full time pastor is that it may not be a viable career choice in as little as 10-20 years.  As it is, many churches have difficulties keeping the finances balanced and as the older, more afluent, generation passes away the finances will likely only get tigher.  Even in our church, which is fairly well off, we have to have the treasurer give the “money talk” a few times a year when giving slows down.  I know of at least a couple churches in town here that are talking about having to let staff go because they just can not afford to keep them on any longer, and this is at wages that most college/university grads would scoff at.  I think the era of the full time career pastor is drawing to an end.  Not only is it fiscally difficult to keep viable, but even the model of the church itself is moving more towards a lay-led ministry rather than a pastor centered ministry; a move which I applaud.  The church was never meant to be dependant on one or two people to make it run, the church is supposed to be a co-operative endeavour.  That why the author of Hebrews called us a nation of priests.  We are all supposed to be doing the ministry, not just paying a few people to do it all for us.  There will always be a need for leadership in the church, but I’m not so sure that the model of the paid full-time pastor is going to be the long term model.  The church survived for around 1900 years before we adopted this model, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that this model won’t last forever.

All that being said, I do feel a little somedays like I’m playing “beat the clock” with my career.  Now before you get all huffy, yes, I realize that being a pastor isn’t “just a career”.  It’s a ministry.  It’s a full time calling to leadership within the church, but we have to be really delusional not to admit that it is a career for pastors to.  So in my case, being only in my late twenties, I have to look forward to what I’m going to do with the rest of my life to support myself and my family.  Can I really expect to be able to work as a full-time paid pastor for another forty years until I retire?  Will it really even be an option twenty years from now?  The way the church is moving right now, I’m not so sure of it.  As a Christian, that doesn’t bother me, in fact I think that’s exciting that the members of the Church are starting to feel empowered in that way.  As a pastor, it makes me start to think about whether I should be yelling “STOP!” and getting out of the paid pastor scene before I get too old to retrain myself to do something else.  I don’t want to be the one that waits until I’m hearing numbers in the $900 range on the clock but then getting buzzed out and receiving nothing because I held on too long.  I’m not going to yell “STOP!” yet, but I am at the very least trying to stay aware of the world around me so I don’t get buzzed out.