Career Story: Minister In A Protestant Church

Minister In A Protestant Church

Job Title: Pastor

Type of Company: I am the sole pastor at a multi-denominational, theologically liberal Protestant church that emphasizes social justice, spiritual nurture, and fellowship.

Education: BA, Religious Studies, Connecticut College •• MDiv, Andover Newton Theological School

Previous Experience: My first job was at a multi-staff, mid-sized church. I was the associate pastor with emphasis on religious education and spiritual development for congregants of all ages.

Job Tasks: As a sole pastor, I have responsibility for virtually everything in the church. Every day I spend plenty of time on the phone and on email and in meetings coordinating administrative responsibilities, finding volunteers for all sorts of tasks, managing staff, answering questions, making plans and raising funds.

I also do a lot of pastoral care. I meet with people to plan funerals, weddings and baptisms. I meet with people who are going through a difficult time, struggling with something in their personal, professional or spiritual lives. I am not a trained therapist, so I don't do long-term counseling, but I might meet with someone once a month.

I help the church be aware of social justice issues, in our town, the broader community and the world. I remind members of ways they can get involved, and I get involved myself as a representative of the congregation.

I am a liaison between the church and our two denominations. I go to meetings of the denominations, serve on committees of these bodies, read their mail and transmit relevant info to the congregation.

I lead and support spiritual nurture in the congregation. I work with the religious education committee to coordinate programs for the children of the church. I produce most of the programming for adults myself, so I research or write curricula, plan and publicize and then lead classes, workshops and small groups.

I am the person with primary responsibility for worship. I choose the theme, hymns, readings. I write prayers, children's sermons, the main sermon. This involves research, reflection and then writing. This easily takes ten or more hours each week.

I am also responsible for my own spiritual development. I am supposed to spend time regularly in prayer, meditation, reading, etc. In a similar manner, I am responsible for my continuing education. I read, take workshops, meet with colleagues in order to develop best practices.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: For me, the best parts of the job are worship leadership, pastoral care and spiritual nurture. I love the time-intensive process of preparing and participating in worship. I love sitting with someone going through a challenge or a joy and entering that sacred space with them. I love creating programs for people to "go deeper" into their spiritual selves.

For me the worst part of the job is the heavy administrative duties: dealing with building rentals, committee conflicts, staffing issues. There are moments of grace in these things, but most often they take a lot of time with little return.

Job Tips: As a pastor, you learn a lot on the job. So in the process of education and training, take as many opportunities as possible to work in churches - churches of different sizes, with different styles, in different settings. You'll learn as much from bad experiences as good ones.

During training, take advantage of classes in conflict management: as many as possible!

Once you join the ministry (and forever after, but especially those first few years) be in a colleague group. The first years are the hardest, especially if you're an associate, and colleagues and supervisors can offer support when things are tough, but they also can give you guidance and help you develop best practices.

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