Both of my sons serve in the Air National Guard. One is a full time DOD employee and other serves as a traditional Guard member. When you enter the military, you sign a commitment for a specified length of time. The initial commitment for both of my sons was 6 years. At the end of that time you decided whether you want to “reup” or to discontinue your service. Next year my youngest will have to decide what he will do, so we are having discussions about what his long term military plans are.
Without realizing it, I have always had a similar approach to the ministry. My initial commitment to my current ministry was only on a part time basis as a bi-vocational pastor. Later, I committed to stay for 5 years and then allow God to move me at that time. If other opportunities came along and they did, I just told them I would have to wait. When things here got tough (and they did), I reminded myself of my commitment and tried to get things as healthy as I could until that 5 year period had come. By the time it got here, I found myself ready to” re-up”. I think this approach would be helpful for many pastors.
Over the 6 years I have listened to both my sons talk about good and bad leaders they have had. If it was easy to get out, neither one of them would have stayed the entire 6 years. There are certain situations in which they can leave, but it is difficult and not without great costs to them. The military has spent too much time, money, and effort on their training. If they leave before their commitment, it will cost them.
The same is true of ministry. I think too many pastors do not really weigh the long term costs. They allow the situation or the circumstances to become a major factor. They allow key people to become the focus and lose sight of the commitment. One way that I protected myself was through my personal commitment to a predetermined set time. I never signed anything or had any kid of formal agreement, but I had a personal commitment. It protected me in so many ways. I did not start looking a other ministry opportunities when things got tough. I had a set time I would do that, but not in the middle of a crisis. I counsel people to never make a major decision when you are in the middle of a difficult time, and that advice applies to pastors as well.
THOT – Have you set a “re-up” time for your current place of ministry?