Situation Normal, Part 1

Those of you who are familiar with fun military acronyms know where I’m headed with that title. I thought it appropriate given that this post is about the path I began to forge that took me away from working in church.

When I started in divinity school, I looked for a job as a youth minister–because it was what I was called to do in the end…and because I had bills to pay. Nothing panned out and I found myself doing my usual job of working in some sort of daycare facility. Let’s face it. That isn’t a lucrative job when you work it full-time. I was only able to work part-time because of my class schedule. After one semester, I knew I needed a new job or a new living situation. I opted for the latter because my best friend and I BOTH needed better paying jobs–but perhaps between our measly paychecks, we could pay rent.

And then I got a job working as the graduate assistant for campus ministry at Campbell. I joined a long line of wonderful ministers who at one point worked as the BSU intern for Terry-Michael Newell. I kinda liked campus ministry, but I realized that year that I still hadn’t quite recovered from my own experience as a student in BSU (a completely different story for a different time), and I decided to make what could have been a two-year contract only one. In the end, it made T-M’s job easier because they were going to cease funding one of his assistants anyway. That decision had already been made in my mind, but it was further solidified when my mom died very unexpectedly at the end of that April. I suddenly found myself focusing on other things–and having no energy left over for doing ministry.

I moved home–another decision that had  been made prior to Mom’s death–and another decision to which I stuck. As Dad and I tried to pick up the pieces, I continued school and went back to working with children at the afterschool program at my church. I also got sucked in to a lay leadership position, which I took on not realizing just how little energy I had.

And then came Supervised Ministry. It was easy to find a location. It just so happened to be an incredibly difficult situation for many reasons. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say it was a GREAT learning experience. That left me even more depleted.

Al and I were also trying to figure out how to pay bills and who was going to work what job and the financial feasibility of the whole marriage thing. One random afternoon at Campbell, I had an impromptu interview with a pastor who was looking for a youth minister–preferably one who understood military culture. We sat in the conference room and talked and I really liked him. He kinda reminded me of Donald Sutherland, too. Not long after that conversation, I received a phone call asking me to come for a more formal interview with the youth council and personnel folks. The pastor and his wife took us to dinner, showed us around town, told us about the church and the youth ministry and I got a more detailed description of what I would be doing if I took the job.

By the end of the night, they offered me the job.

I told them I’d have to think about it.

And I did. And each time I did, I felt physically exhausted. At my gut level, I knew this wasn’t the job for me. I could do it, but not for long. I simply didn’t have the energy or the drive anymore.

A different church called and asked if I’d consider taking their youth ministry job. By that time, I knew I didn’t have the energy for ministry. Not the way most churches expect their youth minister to do it. And I set my sights toward something else.

It was about a year after Mom’s death and I started looking at the possibility of doing Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at WakeMed in Raleigh. Campbell Div students had had a good experience there–and have seemingly since taken over. The application is a beast, but I finally did it–sitting facing a window looking out over a river at a friend’s house in New Bern. And I was accepted for the fall unit–for the semester that was my last at Campbell and during which I got married. We moved all of our stuff to Apex that Labor Day weekend.

While doing CPE, I realized many things. Among them, I realized that I really am more oriented toward direct service. I learned exceedingly well in church that, though you are on staff as a minister, the bulk of your work isn’t ministry–it’s administration. I also realized, while visiting a patient who was in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt, that I really missed psychology and I wanted to do counseling.

Unfortunately, getting an M.Div. makes you a one-trick pony.

I knew I’d have to go back to school.


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