and now for something completely different

As we speak, BK is presenting the personnel committee of our church with my resignation.

Not only am I resigning my post as associate pastor, I am leaving ministry.

There are many reasons, most of which I'd rather not go into. In any event, it comes down to the fact that I am choosing to do something different with my life, starting now. Not that my next career is going to be anything spectacular; starting in January I'll be working for the federal government performing an essential though seemingly mundane service for the general public.

It's not what I will be doing that I'm looking forward to, it's what I won't be doing. I will, at least for now, no longer be working for the Church. Those of you who know me personally know of my level of frustration with ministry and with the Church. That frustration combined with the economic realities of supporting a family on what I make, and the complete lack of job security in a church such as mine, well, it's difficult. My wife and I will both be working for the first time in over a decade. It's going to be stranger for her than for me, I think.

People have told me again and again how much they respect the risk I took more than a dozen years ago, entering ministry with nothing but volunteer hours as both experience and education. Respect however, as nice as it is, doesn't pay the bills. Just a couple of weeks ago, yet another good friend gasped in amazement when I responded to her gentle request to say how much I make in a year. I like living simply, I do. It is amazing to see how God supplies. God has frequently stretched our dollars for us, even in the rare moments when we've been stupid about money (my wife manages our finances, and any seeming stupidity on her part was probably my fault).

But it's gotten a little old. The Church so often assumes that her workers ought to be more than satisfied, even grateful for the thin gravy she passes off as compensation. She asks so much of us: virtually 24/7/365 availability, willingness to be compassionate at all times, even when our own lives are falling apart etc. I know there's a common misperception out there that people in full time ministry don't do much in the way of work, but in reality there are few fields that demand as much of their professionals, and ministry pays less than almost any of them.

In my current assignment, there have been some very encouraging people who have helped a great deal in taking the edge off a very difficult last couple of years. Probably they are not reading this, but on the off chance that one or two of them find their way here: thank you. It means a lot.

However, it's gotten to where I simply can't do it anymore and I'm not talking about compensation. The Church has taken a great deal from me and has given very little back. I'm trying to avoid generalizing too much because I know this isn't true for everyone employed by a church. Moreover, there have been times when I knowingly allowed myself to be taken advantage of because I thought I had the best interests of my congregation in mind; falling on my sword, being a good soldier and all that. But no more.

Whatever the causes, I'm leaving with two bruised cheeks and legs that are worn out from walking many, many extra miles.

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