As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
When calling a pastor to a church, there are so many emotions that go through the congregation and the pastor’s family. Until recently, I was only aware of one side of the equation: the pastor’s family. These past few months, going through a pastoral transition in my own church, I have been given another set of eyes into the congregational end of what this transition looks like.
As a pastor’s kid, you experience the surprise, potential frustration and anger at moving, the hesitant anticipation about the coming change, and finally, face the fact that life is not going to be the same in a matter of weeks. As a member of the congregation, I have been pleasantly surprised to be personally invested, feeling curiosity, anticipation, and hope.
Growing up in a pastor’s family meant knowing eventually we would move. It was simply a matter of when. When those times came, there were a lot of emotions that would come in to play. A pastor, their spouse, and their kids all experience this change differently.
As the pastor’s child, I was always surprised when I learned that Dad had been entertaining a call from another church. I don’t think I ever found out right at the beginning of the interview process because one never knows if the process will continue until there has been more time to interact with the church and learn more about them, too. When I heard about the new church, it was a couple weeks before their calling committee was going to be in our present church.
Some emotional processing would take place, some wondering of how to tell friends I might be moving, wondering what the new place would be like and if I would fit in—and then what the church itself was like. Following the surprise was sometimes frustration or anger. There were thoughts like: “Why do we have to move now? I had anticipated graduating here, or learning more in my extracurriculars there. Does this mean that completely ends? I like it here!” Then, when the interview process was over and my father was officially called, we visited the new church and school and experienced the process of finding a house vicariously through our parents. This stage was followed by some anticipation and curiosity about whether everything might actually turn out better than I imagined.
Fast -forward about 10 years, and now I finally get to experience the congregational aspect of calling a pastor to the church. While I am sure being on the calling committee itself would shed a lot more light on the situation, experiencing it from the pew is new to me.
When a new pastoral candidate comes to the table, I curiously try to find any similarities between them and my family. Do they preach like my dad? Did they go to the same school? How does the pastor’s spouse handle that role? What does their ministry together look like? Do they have any kids? How old are they? Are they prepared to move?
Then, through their preaching, information from the calling committee, and getting to know them through the question-and-answer time, I begin to anticipate what our church life would look like if they did come. I anticipate if there will be a venue for me to work with them in some way, what tangible differences could be present in the next couple of years, and how their preaching style could enhance our worship experiences. Finally, I begin to feel hope.
I hope we can be a congregation that warmly opens their arms to the pastor that comes, whether it is this one or another one. I hope they feel at home and accepted for the creative individuals God has made them to be. I hope the kids already here are ready to include a few more children into their circles. And I hope the pastor and spouse feel loved for who they are as people, not just for the role they play.
The calling process is not a simple one. Simple steps, yes, but not simple emotions. Both sides—the pastor and their family and the congregation—experience this potential change differently. God is always good and has his best in mind. Now seeing both sides, this is still the truth.