A summertime analogy for ministerial formation

Summer is at its peak. It’s hot. And for reasons outside your control, the otherwise-reliable power supply has been cut. No air conditioning, and since you don’t know when it’s going to come back (it will come back, right?) you don’t dare pillage the fridge, so to preserve the chilled food you have left.

What do you do to stay feeling cool? These make my list

  • keep the curtains closed when the sun is up
  • try to draw a breeze by opening two or more windows
  • keep meals light and cold, or at least uncooked
  • keep the lights out, even if modern lights don’t produce much heat any more
  • take frequent, light showers (or at least make good use of a damp wash cloth)
  • drink as much cold water as possible
  • air the bedclothes before sleeping
  • wear modern fibers, which wick sweat, dry quickly and minimize feeling sticky

Of these, all but the last was common in my grandparents’ day, and perhaps their grandparents’.

When we read about — heck, know — about highly educated (and deeply indebted) ministers who are unemployed or under-employed in church work, it’s not hard to sense that times are changing, and are very unlikely to return to the go-go days of postwar Protestantism. The power is going out: short stoppages now, but there may be a day when the grid fails completely. We need to prepare for this risk, and be grateful that we still have choices (if not always happy one) and that these are not fundamentally life and death issues.

And, looking back on that hot weather solutions list, I’d like us to consider the wisdom of an earlier time that faced some of the same problems and had to cope. Relying on a practical ministerial education more, say, than an academic model. Forming more parish yokes. Making ministerial fellowship more flexible for dip in and out of (better paying, one would hope) secular work. Revisiting credentialed lay ministry, an inheritance from the Universalists, was only formally laid down a few years ago. Not to mention making conference attendance and professional development less of a financial burden.

There is surely room for modern technology, but I bet we already know and have known the essential steps to making necessary changes. The will is another matter. Until then, the heat is on.





2 Replies to “A summertime analogy for ministerial formation”

  1. The heat is on, and getting hotter. Your “how to keep cool” metaphor is apt.

  2. Gave this some thought. Here are my ideas…

    *Avoid accumulating much in the way of debt. And certainly do not let student loan debt exceed your estimated income for a single “lean year”

    *Hone skills that can be employed for income in the secular world. Always have a strategy for what to do when you are not working in ministry, or for when your ministry employment is marginal.

    *Like self-employed contract workers, you should probably save back 8-12 months of emergency savings that can cover your basic housing, food, utilities, and health insurance costs

    *Consider an intentional bi-vocational strategy. Possible options might include teaching and social work. Each will require its own license. Consider seminary educations that offer joint MDiv/MAT or MDiv/MSW (but be very mindful of the additional tuition costs).

    *You may need to reconsider the wisdom of buying and owning a home. Unless you are in a ministry rich region, renting housing may offer you more freedom to relocate and follow opportunities.

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