Greetings from the Land of Pilgrims, reader! I’ve safely made it back up to my homeland for the summer to serve as “seminarian in residence” (the staff voted on it, I did not come up with that) at my home church. This is the end of the first week and hoo boyo, I did not actually know what pastors do for a living.
So this week has been weird because I’m at a church I know well but at which I’m functioning in a totally new capacity. Previously, I’ve been a congregant, a teacher, a leader of sorts, but I’ve never been on staff. I’ve also never really had to see the whole picture of this church, noting the connections across the wide web and paying attention to the full administrative layout. It’s a whole new way of thinking, which makes this feel like a new church, which is terrifically jarring in its way. It’s sort of like those godawful drawings from the 90s that seem to be just geometric patterns until you cock your head just so and all of a sudden there’s a ship. (I was never, ever good at those. I couldn’t see the damn ship even after friends outlined it to me. I don’t know what that means about my brain processes.)
But anyway, I’m learning to see the ship now and it takes some doing. This first week was just shadowing Interpreter, the lead pastor, to as many meetings as possible (and oof is that a whole other weirdness, to add that role to the complex mess of Interpreter and I). I worked about 35 hours from Sunday morning to Thursday night and I swear to you at least 80% of that was meetings. Not that I’m complaining—when they’re run well, I actually like meetings (I know, it’s an illness) because they’re concrete ways to get specific kinds of information from people in a set amount of time. But holy crow, the vastness of the information this particular pastor has to oversee is daunting. I can’t do this for a living.
The thing that I’m trying to tell myself (since this is only the first week and all and panicking now is a bad idea) is that I probably won’t have to; each church is unique to itself and has its own way of doing administration and business, for better and for worse. Even if I were assigned to this particular church at some point down the line (and that would top the weirdness meter), it won’t work like it does under Interpreter because churches change just like any family/organization. This is a fantastic learning opportunity, to see this scale and be able to add or lose bits as I need them in moving forward. And Interpreter is really good at making sure to toss me at whatever he can so I can see that, too, and then ask questions about it and compare it to what I already know so that I actually understand rather than just observe.
I’m not in the camp of folks who say “oh, Jesus didn’t have to go to meetings like this and it’s a perversion of the priesthood that we have to” because Jesus and I have very different kinds of ministry due to our time and cultural differences. I go to meetings but He got crucified, so I think I’m okay with my lot. Even Paul was nearly stoned to death a few times and was then executed, so I’m not going to say that going to two meetings about the facilities in the same day is a cross to bear. But it does mean that I have to be super mindful of what my own spiritual life looks like while I’m doing this. One of the meetings this week was basically a clergy support group where some area pastors can get together and remind each other why they felt called to this on the days when there is just one email too many, and that was fascinating. We ended up talking about how necessary it is to have some kind of life outside the pastorate, some hobby or whatever that is not this kind of service to remind ourselves of who we are outside the metaphorical collar. Nobody is going to give us that because there is always something to be done. But we have to give that to ourselves; no one can serve water from an empty well.
It’s funny, this being my second internship in a church setting, to think that I could actually learn how to pastor. You can’t. It’s a monstrosity of a job with 1,000 arms and it’s a different color every day and sometimes it eats you; yes, the pastorate is, in fact, the kraken. But there is ministry, and service, and love, and hope, and the good work to which we all are called, professionally or not, in most of it. (Not all. Poorly run meetings are Hell.)
But damn is this whole thing hard for an introvert. Reader, I have peopled so much this week. Pray for my people skills. I’ll keep you updated on the meetings.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. (2 Corinthians 9:12-13, NIV)