Friday, June 17, 2011

Moving far from home, part 1

At our denomination's General Assembly last week, I had the chance to speak with a few friends who have accepted pastoral calls a long way from "home." Over a few posts, I'll share some of their wisdom.

First let me say this: I define "a long way from home" as meaning either simply too far to drive, or far enough that it requires several days (3 whole days or more) of driving to get from where you live to where your extended family generally lives.

Also, a quick disclaimer: I realize that the question of "home" is relative for some, and it certainly is loaded with implications, spiritual and otherwise. Here I'm using it simply to mean where the larger part of your family is, whatever place (or places) that may be.

So, first up is "Brian" who grew up in South Carolina. Several years ago, Brian accepted a call to be a pastor in Colorado; when they do the drive, it takes his family 3-4 days of solid travel to get back "home."

Brian commented that the most difficult part has been this:

"When we first accepted the call, we made the decision to 'put hand to plow' and not look back. Our mistake was in thinking that was a one-time decision."

This is a powerful reflection. Brian elaborated, stating that the decision was one they kept making on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis. That being the case, it is easy to see how that would represent a regular struggle, individually and as a family.

Does that mean that a pastor cannot effectively minister in those circumstances? Not at all; in his years of ministry, Brian has been quite effective and a great asset to his congregation. But the struggle is there nevertheless.

How have they dealt with it? In Brian's case, they have driven back most years; by scheduling a week or more of family vacation after our denominational General Assembly, Brian's church is happy to cover most or all of the gas costs as an expense related to his involvement in the assembly, and yet he and his family also get to spend an extended period with their families. Often, his wife and children will spend the week of the assembly there, as well-- amounting to even more time with their relatives.

This arrangement is a great solution. Of course, it is contingent on the congregation being strongly committed to Brian's attendance at the General Assembly all or most years, which may not be a commitment that every congregation is able or willing to make.

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