Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Things I took for granted

I was thinking today of things that I took for granted before I became a pastor. You know, those things that just seemed normal, until I became ordained, that now seem kind of special.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

Anonymity. Being a pastor in a small town, it seems like lots of people know who I am, and not just people from my church. I will go some place and be greeted by someone with, "Hi Pastor Mark!" and I will look and them and be pretty sure that I have never met them before in my life. Or I'll go somewhere, and not recognize anybody, but then later when I do see people I know they'll say, "Hey Pastor Mark I heard you were ________ [fill in the blank]!"

Bars. Sometimes it's fun to go have a drink and a good time and maybe sing some karaoke. But let me refer you to the previous entry.

Clothing. Ok, get your mind out of the gutter! Allow me to explain. Since becoming a pastor I have seen a lot of clothing, particularly t-shirts, and I'll look at them and read the funny little saying or look at the witty picture and think, "That shirt is hilariously irreverent!" and then I'll think, "When could I actually wear it?" and then I'll go look at the polo shirts, instead.

Daylight Saving Time. Specifically when it begins and we have to spring forward. On a Saturday night. When I already have to get up at an ungodly hour the next morning (see also, Weekends).

Evenings. In college and seminary, if I didn't have an evening class, most of the time my evenings were free to do with what I chose. A lot of the time that should have been studying, but it was my choice. If I wanted to go out to a movie with friends, or sit around and watch television, or play video games, or go somewhere else fun, I could. Because my evening was free to do with as I chose. In my current reality, that is not always the case. What's that, you want to get together on Wednesday evening? I'm sorry, I have Confirmation and choir rehearsal. Thursday? Well, shoot. That's committee and council meeting night. Monday night? We have a mission trip meeting that night. Sunday night? Sorry, we have a worship service then. Friday? Well, it's my day off, but I have a wedding rehearsal...

Friends. I have never really been at a shortage of friends. I've always had people nearby who I could hang out with and visit, who would ask me to go places or do something with them. Especially in seminary, when all I needed to do was open my door and step out into the hallway and chances were good I'd see or run into someone who I considered a friend. But now, since I've moved to a far away state to be a pastor in a small town, I've come to see how lucky I was to have so many friends so close by.

Greetings. One morning I walked into the office at church, in my own little world, thinking about what I needed to do when I got back to my office. Obliviously, I walked right by the room where some of the ladies were volunteering to fold the newsletter, and I didn't say hello. Well, I hadn't gone too far when I heard one of them say my name with a hint of disgust. Then a few others chimed in about how I had walked right by without saying hello! So, I quickly ran back, poked my head in and said hello. Greeting people is important. Especially the church ladies.

Holidays. In high school and college and seminary, holidays were times when school was on break and I was able to go and visit family and relax for a few days. Now, it's kind of the opposite. Christmas dinner? Sure, as soon as I'm done with the four extra church services...

Lunch. While health professionals might argue that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I would contest that it's lunch with the quilters/church ladies. One day, after they had finished quilting for the morning, they called down to the office to let us know that they were having their lunch and we were invited to come up. Well, I was in the middle of doing something and didn't want to stop, so I kept going. A little later on that day, I was running over to my house for some reason when one of the ladies was getting into her car. "You didn't come up and join us!" she said. "Yeah," I said. "I was in the middle of something and didn't want to stop." I then received a very stern glare punctuated by a "Hmmph!" That was it. But now I drop everything when it's time to eat lunch with the ladies.

Money. Or talking about it, really. Talking about money (specifically the giving of this money) is a touchy subject in church and I do NOT take for granted that my senior pastor deals with this more than I do.

Volunteers. In college and seminary, since I didn't have a youth group of my own, I would volunteer at other churches to help with their youth program. It was easy to assume that there were people like me who would step forward and express interest in being involved in various areas. Now, that way of thinking makes me chuckle. Sure, there might be a few volunteers like that, but the vast majority of volunteers I get are a result of me asking and calling and e-mailing and begging and bribing. I have also learned how important volunteers are, which is why I've learned I need to do a lot of those things previously listed.

Weekends. Yeah, I know, I know. When you take a job where the Big Day is Sunday morning, it kind of goes without saying that you will not have a "regular" weekend. But I didn't realize, back when I could, how much I enjoyed going places for the weekend. Or, on Sunday mornings, laying in bed and thinking, "I don't feel like going to church today." I can't really do that now. If I try, they show up at my door.

So this is just a short list of things I've come to view much differently, or appreciate much more, since I've become a pastor. Please know that there is much humor included and intended in these words. But there is also some truth, too. Sometimes all at the same time.

What about you? What are some of the things that you'd include on your list?


  1. I took friendships for granted before becoming a pastor. The friendship variable is related to the weekend variable. My wife and I (clergy couple) found that as we've gotten older, most friends don't want to get together on Friday night. They prefer Saturday. We can only do that on a non-vacation week once or twice per year. Makes it hard to maintain friendships when Saturday nights are occupied.

  2. Minister of Music empathizes...I miss the options. Option 1: Sleeping in on Sunday morning. Option 2: Drinking mimosas with breakfast on Sunday morning. Option 3: Staying out with friends on Saturday night. Option 4: Making enough money to take a vacation during the year. Option 5: Being able to worship in the same place that I "work." Option 6: Being able to be "me" instead of a perception of what I should be according to the congregational members. Option 7: Being able to tell the pastor that I didn't like the sermon today. Option 8: Be able to change churches but still keep a job!