Reverend Mommy posed these questions for ministers. Help her out and answer on your own blog or in her comments. The questions are worth entire posts on their own, but I'm going to try be honest but brief.
: 1. Is being a pastor detrimental or helpful to your faith?
Both, at times. Getting to be so intimately involved with other people's faith and having my whole life revolving around faith-related things often gives me the time and focus to really see God at work. On the other hand, the practices of faith can become required stuff to do (my "job") rather than reflective or encouraging of an internal faith.
: 2. Is being a pastor harder or easier than you imagined from your seminary days?
Harder. Much harder. No class can convey the variety and depth of situations you encounter in ministry. And I never understood how isolating ministry can be until I was in the midst of it. But then, it's also better than I imagined. I never saw myself as a pastor while I was in seminary.
: 3. Have you developed a passion/focus to your pastoral ministry?
Focus? Me? Seriously...I think that two foci have emerged: raising knowledge and understanding of Scripture, and encouraging a healthy, functioning community. Focus is difficult, though, when I'm the only staff member and have such a variety of "duties."
: 4. All this talk about clergy burnout-- is it any different than any other job?
It's different than the other jobs I've had. I can't think of very many jobs that require one to be constantly on-call, or to have relationships with people that are so complicated. Navigating the territory of being a spiritual authority and a friend and an administrator and a counselor gets tricky. I also don't know of many other jobs that cause the isolation and lack of outlets for frustration that professional ministry seem to bring for many of us. However, burnout seems to be an increasingly common phenomenon in our culture as a whole. It seems to me that clergy are just as susceptible to the hectic pace and demands for constant busyness, but we add to that a) guilt about resting and reflecting when we could ("should") be serving, and b) increased isolation because of the nature of the pastoral role.
: 5. How does the congregation show its support? What are the hidden perks to being a pastor?
My congregation is often really great at this. Verbal affirmation is pretty common here. Also, along with the requisite housing and such, I get gifts of food. Lots of food. And random surprises of furniture, dishtowels, and money.
: 6. How do you keep your children safe in their faith and church life?
My only challenge is getting the four-footed child to stay at home when I go to church, and not jump on the elderly people.
: 7. Do you admonish parishioners? If so, how?
Yes...occasionally...with much care and as much compassion as I can muster, and with a lot of centering prayer beforehand to make sure it's not my own stuff that I'm throwing onto them.
: 8. Do you pray for your flock? How?
Yes, but not as often as I think I should. I have an ongoing list that I pray through daily. I'm also working on using knitting as a prayer mechanism, going through my congregational and prayer chain lists and praying with each stitch.
: 9. Is it enough to be approachable? How do you approach them?
It's good to be approachable, but relationships require two-way initiative. I just try to be present whenever possible, and generally involved in their lives. It's a difficult balance for me to make it clear that I care and want to know them without forcing myself into their lives, but that's the goal.
: 10. Do you change lives?
God changes lives, and chooses to involve me from time to time in various ways. Sometimes I get to be a catalyst, sometimes I get a front-row seat, sometimes I just get a glimpse, and sometimes I miss it entirely.
: 11. Do you aim for greatness? What is your aim in ministry?
Well, I certainly don't aim for mediocrity. Currently, I aim to do what I do as well as I can, without going insane in the process. Of course, I have the occasional fleeting desire to be the "star," to be the consistently fabulous preacher, and the insightful teacher, and the amazingly creative worship leader, and the compassionate counselor. Then, reality strikes.
: 12. How do you keep the enmeshment of church/ministry/family from being overwhelming?
I think this is different for single pastors than those who are married and have kids. In some ways it's easier, because I don't have to worry about family members being pulled into the church web or ignored when church life absorbs me. However, I don't have the built-in away-from-church outlets that a family provides. I'm still trying to figure out how to build friendships nearby with people who are not in my congregation. I'm still trying to figure out how much of my personal life is appropriate to share with congregants. I'm still trying to figure out how to give myself space without holding myself too distant from the congregation.
: 13. Would you say you have deep relations with church members? Tips on barriers or boundaries?
I think that deep relationships take time to develop, and I've only been here for a year. I have a few relationships with church members that I consider to be deep...but, they're difficult, because I can't ever just be the whole me.
: 14. What is the difference between a mediocre and a good and an excellent pastor?
I know when I am being a mediocre, good, or excellent pastor. I know that regardless of what I think of myself, some congregants will find me to be mediocre, some will see me as good, and a few might see me as excellent. I think that excellence looks different for every pastor, depending upon their gifts and the dynamics of the church they serve. Okay, that all sounds like a cop-out answer.
: 15. What is a must read author/website?
You know, I have yet to find an author who has been really helpful to me in navigating life in ministry. For preaching, I read Barbara Brown Taylor and Fleming Rutledge.
: 16. Is there a difference in the way that men and women pastor? How would you describe the difference?
I hate stereotyping these things, because I so seldom fit the stereotypes, but...It seems to me that women tend to be far less comfortable taking the authority roles in ministry, whether that authority be in teaching, administration, or admonition. This reluctance is, of course, compounded by congregants' difficulty in accepting women in these roles.