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.