Sadness, pain, death; these are debts humans have paid, pay still, will pay. In this post-site on Monday I wrote directly to vocational Christian ministers about the cost they pay each time they are invited into the shared human experiences listed here.
My point is pretty simple. Public people pay prices. Ministers are public people. Ministers pay the usual price, times the number of times you enter the human debt. No one needs feel sympathy for you, Parson, but the price is the same. Ministers break themselves on broken things.
And we have a lot of broken ministers. Ask a seminary professor how many of her charges wish to go into local parish ministry. The vast majority of the dwindling classes wish to do something avant garde, working for social justice or higher causes. Local parish ministry is seen as, well, lesser and other than that which the culture needs. There is no perceived prestige in the local parish. The local minister is a generalist in a world of specialization. People with access to media (read consumer/spectator) driven speakers and life coaches assume the local parish minister is something other, and less.
The usual things that mollify a typical human being are denied the local parish worker. She is on the front-line of ministry. Nothing much happens without her unit (congregation) because denominational units beyond the local parish do not exist apart from her work.
She is dying.
What are the things killing her?
There are the common Human Debt(s). She is in a life filled with pain, sadness and death. She will visit death more often than most professionals. She will need to find creative ways to increase joy in her daily experience.
So, what are the things/people/actions that tend to bring joy? One person gardens, another person reads, this fellow golfs, that fellow fishes. Family time is primary. The minister’s family is in the fish-bowl with him. He will need to screen their privacy as best he can manage.
He will have to grace himself. Few others will. He cannot trust that all who give him grace today will offer grace to him tomorrow.
The last person he can plausibly trust is the fellow who says, “You need someone to unload to, Preacher. Tell me your troubles.”
He may as well take out a billboard on I-35W.
He will need to offer grace to himself, at least as much as he offers to others, if not more. He is a local parish minister, the front-line of the faith. And he is a beleaguered breed