Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Other Side of Candidating Season

While there is a lot of celebrating during candidating season, there is also a lot of mourning.  My congregation received word this week that our Minister is leaving us for another congregation.  To say I am upset is an understatement.  It caught the majority of our congregation completely by surprise. In an effort for transparency, the Minister and Board will be hosting a fireside chat session next week, but is that enough?  Do Ministers owe their congregations any sort of warning? I feel a bit betrayed.  I really like our Minister and I have no idea on why he felt a need for another church.  I thought he was happy here. Obviously, we will know more after the meeting, but I feel if he knew this was a possibility for a long time, why didn't he say something?  We spent the whole year in the dark about his future intentions.  I don't think I am alone in feeling this way.  I feel that there is a special relationship between a congregation and its Minister and we deserve more than a vague announcement.  Thoughts?


Amy said...

It's really painful, isn't it? I hope you will get some answers at the meeting. I too have been reading the "who's going where" announcements with some pangs, knowing that almost every exciting change for a congregation and a minister also involves sorrow and loss. Of course, some people are quietly relieved that their minister is leaving . . . Not everyone thinks they have the best minister possible.

I think I can clarify something about why ministers don't tell their congregations they are in search until the search is complete. The search process is very long; it began several months ago, and the soul-searching about whether it was time to move on from the congregation they are serving began before that. If ministers told a congregation every time they considered going elsewhere, many of our congregations would be in a state of uncertainty all the time. Likewise, I'd rather not hear every time someone in the congregation thinks, "We have GOT to get rid of Amy"! These things usually pass without anything coming of them.

If a minister announced, in February, "I'm interviewing at a couple of other congregations--I may or may not get a job offer, and I may or may not decide to take it," and then, in April, announced, "I didn't get another job--I'm staying," how would things be between you then?

It is a tender matter. Ministry is a person's livelihood; unless they're independently wealthy, they can't endanger their current position by letting it be known that they're considering another. In this way we ministers are like all the people of their congregations who do not tell their employers they're job-hunting until they have a job in hand. (Actually, ministers tell their congregations before that, before a contract is signed or a final decision is reached on either side.) And yet we are not only employees; we have a relationship of love and care with our congregations, and are doing what we love because we love them. Sometimes I wish that was the entirety of my relationship with my congregation, but I and my family do rely on the salary too.

All the best to you, the rest of the congregation, and the minister as you walk together through this poignant time.

Jamie H-R said...

I do not wish to be unkind, because I appreciate that this is a shock and you are hurting, but this is the last thing you posted before this post:

"We are constantly on the edge of deciding whether or not to keep a full-time minister or ask him to go part-time. We have already drastically cut our DRE's hours."

Is the minister's decision so hard to understand?

plaidshoes said...

Thank you, Amy. I just wish there was a better way to be more transparent about the whole process. Of course, I don't have any solutions ;-)

Jamie - I realized that irony, too, when I posted this. I certainly understand the need for some sort of salary certainty. I had just got the feeling from him that we were all in this together and that we would get it figured out, together. My husband is on the finance committee and it looked like we were going to be able to keep him full-time.