June 04, 2007

Uncertain Future

One of the major stresses for me lately has been financial. The problem is that my small country church just isn't able to afford to support a full-time pastor. A few years ago, the church treasurer said to me, "I honestly don't know how you survive on what we are able to pay you."

Well, it seems that I'm not. Last summer, I decided to begin the process of finding a new church to be pastor of. And yet, as my "search and call" papers were circulating, I began to feel uneasy. Sure, I could move to a church that can pay more. Yet this is where I felt God was calling me to be. I had several contacts, most notably from someplace in Kentucky ("We know you want to stay in California, but we still thought we'd ask if you'd consider coming to the bluegrass state..."), but I realized I couldn't do it. So I stopped the circulation of my papers.

So, now what? I'm exploring two other options. One is to find a separate job that I can have, that would enable me and my family to stay here. I've already been to an information session at the local Chapman University College campus, to find out what it would take to earn my teaching credential and begin teaching full-time. I know that this is something I could easily do and would enjoy, given the experience I have as a substitute.

The other thing I have looked into is seeing if there is another church nearby that would like to "share" a pastor. I don't know yet if this is possible or feasible.

And then, in the back of my mind, there's still that voice: "Maybe you should just leave. Find a new church, or even a job outside of the ministry, a job that is less stressful, a job that won't keep you awake at night, shaking with anxiety."

I'm not sure what to do. But at yesterday's meeting, I shared openly with the elders my ideas. I had been quietly looking into them on my own, but now it's out in the open. Now I have the freedom to act. But which path should I take?

I can't imagine worshiping anywhere other than in a small community church. Sure, the music leaves a lot to be desired, and there aren't nearly as many programs as at a large church, but the sense of community and family is beyond compare. Yet many in our area are opting for a 30-45 minute drive to town, to go to one of the big mega churches that feature rock-concert style worship and have technological wizardry up the wazoo. Naked Pastor recently wrote about a conversation he recently had with one such church-goer: "It's nice ... and big." Clearly, getting a few more folks to come to our country church would help with the finances. But if they want to go to a church because it's "nice ... and big," then would they really be happy here? If they'd rather be anonymous in a cavernous sanctuary of 1,000, and have very little involvement in church ministry, would we really benefit them much ... and they us?

A small country church is a special place. There are many of them all across the U.S., hiding in the shadows of their much larger city cousins. At Fairview Community, we don't do things the fancy way. We're just a group of people who gather once a week for worship, people who call and visit each other during the week to make sure everyone is doing alright, and who seek to minister to the community around us. If only it weren't such a struggle....

Photo taken at Asilomar State Beach earlier this spring.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I feel your pain, man. The Search and Call process is difficult, and frustrating. I hope you're able to find the right community to pastor.

I submitted an article to DisciplesWorld for their October Issue, which is going to feature the Search and Call process. I doubt it'll get published...I don't have a "platform" acceptable to them yet...but when I get into the office next week I'll try and remember to send it to you.

By the way, thanks for the link. I've reciprocated on my blog. Thanks for reading, I enjoy yours, too.