Monday, June 21, 2010

Life change

Deciding to resign from my position, more than that – to leave pastoral ministry is a pretty big deal for me. It has not been a quick decision, in some respects it has been years in the making. It is as much about where I am going as it is about what I am leaving behind.

I have never been one who believed that I was “called” to be a pastor. I’m not sure anyone really is. Rather, I believe that we are all called to be who God made us each to be. For me that means I am called to be a discipler, a teacher, an artist, a coach. For 15 years, pastoring youth and young adults has been the most logical way for me to BE my calling to the fullest. I am now in the season of discovering that there are better ways to be who I am called to be. God has made this clear to me in two main ways.
The first way is through what is commonly called “burnout”. Over the last 15 years of ministry I have periodically come to a place in life where I feel so drained emotionally that I cannot continue. Fortunately, I have had the help to recognize this before I reached a serious breakdown. In my case this does not happen as a result of over working or long hours, but it’s the emotional drain of life as a pastor that gets me. Imagine a gas tank inside each of us – filled with emotional energy. There are things in life the supply energy, and things that drain energy. If my “tank” is slowly being drained more than it is being filled – I will eventually fall into crisis, depression, and other bad stuff. As I am reaching this crisis point for the 3rd time in 15 years, I am learning that I am unable to continue in this work. I can’t find a way to do the work of pastoral ministry in a way that is sustainable. If there was a perfect job for me to find a way... this job would have been it. It’s not that there is anything wrong with WECA (my church), and I do really love the people I get to work with in facechurch. I just KNOW that I am done now, it’s time for a new leader to take my place here. It’s taken some doing for God to break through my thick skull to tell me that this is OK. It does not mean I have failed – it means I have discovered what God wanted to show me. That there is a better way to be the man He created me to be – my calling.
This leads me to the second way God has spoken to me. I have discovered that I am born to be a coach. A professional coach is kind of like a counsellor, but different in their approach. A coach is trained in creating a dynamic relationship with the client, in order to help them discover their own insights and answers. A coach is the not expert, does not offer a diagnosis, or even advice. Rather, a coach asks questions, discerns truths, and challenges assumptions in a way that makes the client more able to see clearly, and be honest with themself. Often this is a much more dramatic way for a person to discover who they are, and what they want to do about it. Up until last year the only job that allowed me to do what I’m called to do for a living, was being a pastor in a church. Now I have discovered that professional coaching is an even better fit. As I look back, I clearly see that I have been “coaching” as a pastor the whole time. It has been the most energizing part of my job. Unfortunately it has only been part of my job. I have been coaching people all these years without being trained, until now. Last year Jaime and I invested in my training, by way of an extensive coaching training course. Through that course I came to realize that this work is why God put me on the earth! (If you’d like that same kind of certainty in your life I have two pieces of advice; 1. Get to know your creator, 2. Get a coach!)
It’s true that it would make more sense to continue in my job and learn coaching on the side. But God’s will does not always make sense. After much prayer, Jaime and I feel very strongly that the time to step down has come. I do not have any illusions that I can coach full time right away, so I expect that I will have to get some kind of part time job. I have no idea how we are going to pay the mortgage and buy groceries, but we have faith that God has a way (I really wish he would just tell us). This is the biggest faith leap of our lives, but somewhere deep inside we both know that it’s supposed to be. It’s amazing to watch my son. He is just over a year old and to him – nothing has changed. Mom and Dad still love him, and life is great. Jaime and I are trying to take a lesson from Tristan. Because our Father in heaven still loves us in a way we can’t comprehend, nothing has changed, and in this light, life is truly great.


Anonymous Jayson Williams said...

Rob, I too went through the same valley back in 2005. I had been working in the ministry for 6 years and doing what I thought God had called me to do, but I knew my heart wasn't in it completely. I too was feeling drained and emotionally empty. I was too stubborn to realize that God was telling me something. It took my boss at the church to finally lay me off to get me to realize that working in the ministry is not the be all and end all of serving the Lord. I took stalk of my life and God showed me that he still wants me to help others, but through a more secular route. I decided to go back to school - a huge leap of faith - to obtain my degree as a social worker. I am now only one year away from that milestone and even though going to University with a wife and three kids has been very tiring and stressful at times, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am excited to be almost done this next chapter and be able to move from being a student into what God designed me to do. Keep the faith. I would love to get together some time, I know we have tried in the past, but it has never worked out.

6:00 PM  
OpenID rainofgrace said...

Hi Rob, Thanks for being transparent. We too often try to compensate for the valleys and questions rather than walking through them with an open heart. I know you mean about being "called" what...pastor? It has been an 12 year journey for me and I am just starting to find out what makes me tick in God's Kingdom. I still remember our conversation over a year ago as you spoke into my life when I was walking through some difficult decisions re: ministry and secular work. That one seems to have worked itself out :). Working alongside a coach here in Sherwood park (Lorne McAlister) I get to see the reality of a guy who loves what he does. He gets blessed all the time as God uses him. I know God will unfold His mysteries and plans for your future. Proverbs 16:9

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Geoff said...


The journey of life is full of leaps. Sometimes they are simply big steps forward and other times it's walking off a cliff. I too have had burnout with ministry and have wrestled with my "calling". I'm still in that postion, but looking back over the last few years I can see where God has not only cared for me and Jen, but blessed us. My "calling" isn't ministry as a pastor, but one of living a life for Him in a world that needs him. My job as a truck driver allows me to have more impact in my world than a pastor did. My morning coffees with "the guys" is more fullfilling ministry wise than the role of a pastor in a church.

For me, understanding my "calling" is still going on, but I'm realizing ministry is far more than being a pastor. I can do more of what I loved about ministry, outside of the church. It's been difficult, but a transition that I'm beginning to understand.

God Bless you. Praying for you and your family. If you in Kelowna anytime, stop by for some sweet coffee!

Geoff Gilmore

11:16 AM  

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