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Fresh out of Bible college, Jerry begins his first pastorate with freshman excitement. People, preparation, preaching, and potluck dinners-pretty much what he expected for his opening months in this Iowa farming community. Yet before his first anniversary as pastor. Jerry walks over a high bridge outside of town and thinks jumping might be the easiest way out. Fortunately, he concludes that a quick resignation and a change of employment is all he needs.
The first pastorate can be difficult. Certainly not all pastors contemplate suicide in their first church. There are the born naturals who, right from the start, quarterback that first congregation with Joe Montana ease. But for many of us, the first time around in ministry is especially tough.
This fact caught me by surprise.
I had the privilege of being raised in a parsonage. I cut my teeth on the hymnal and was 10 years old before I realized that not everyone went to church three times a week. Daily I observed my father in action as a pastor. He loved his work and enjoyed fruitful ministry. I grew up thinking there was no better life nor higher calling than the ministry.
My positive view of ministry was reinforced by my Bible college and seminary training. My ministries during these years only confirmed that God had directed me to serve him through the church.
As a result, I was stunned when I found myself struggling through my first pastorate. People weren't responsive. The responsibilities overwhelmed me. I never felt caught up.
I loved my church and knew I was called, but why was I so frustrated? Why the high level of anxiety? To complicate things, I added guilt to my burden: Real pastors don't feel this way, and if I was truly spiritual, I wouldn't either! After 22 months, my emotions and my marriage could no longer handle the strain, and I resigned.
Fortunately, a friend convinced me to try the pastorate one more time. Now, a happy three years later, I have come to understand my rookie experience a little better. ...