Calling all clergy: Don’t settle.

Recently I was telling a colleague and friend who is in the midst of job hunting for a call in the PCUSA, “Don’t settle, wait for the right call.”

Easier said than done. You get out of seminary and you need a job. And for the majority of us, you need a call to get that ordination thing taken care of. And the jobs are less and less these days. And if you’re LGBTQIA+, the pool is even smaller. So telling people not to settle is not always helpful.

But still, don’t settle!

I’ve watched so many of my colleagues take first calls that aren’t right for them because they either just needed to get ordained or they really needed a paycheck. Even when we all said, “don’t do it!” Even though all along the way there were red-flags everywhere.

But when we have a greater need such as feeding ourselves or our families or paying back those seminary loans, we will often take whatever we are given and not be picky about it. Now that might work if you’re at a hospital cafeteria and you only get 2 flavors of Jell-O, 2 different kinds of pre-made egg salad, or some low-fat/low-sodium pre-prepared meal to pick from. That’s when you settle for the mystery meal or the Jell-O or hit up the vending machines because you got nothing else. But don’t settle when it comes to your call. Here’s why:

  1. Church people need to be held accountable (Romans 14:12). Too often I hear stories about how people interviewing candidates for church jobs ask the wrong questions, or worse, inappropriate questions. No, they don’t have a right to ask a female clergy person when they are planning on having a family. That’s not what you should be hired for. And if that is, then that church needs to re-evaluate why they are actually trying to call someone.
  2. You are being called to something particular (1 Samuel 3) and listening carefully is hard because it’s not always clear at first what that specific thing is. We all know that we are the clay and God is the potter. We have to be refined, and so does our job search. One piece of advice I offer to people searching for a first call is to take every interview you get. Even if you don’t want the job. The experience will be good for you and the people interviewing you, and you cans tart to figure out what it is you resonate with and what makes you go, “Nope, I don’t have that spiritual gift.”
  3. You have specific gifts given to you by God (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), don’t ignore them. If you aren’t someone who wants to work with youth, don’t take that associate pastor for youth job! It won’t end well and those young people deserve someone who is truly called to work with them. Don’t assume that God will just equip you once you’re there, that’s not how it works. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to the wider church to use your gifts. That’s why you were called!

My call process took almost 2 years. I interviewed with over 30 churches. And here I am with the people that I KNOW God called me to, and they to me. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever. But man, I had to wait a long time for them to come along. It was hard, and I wanted to pull my hair out, and I cried. A lot. I started to convince myself I wasn’t good enough. And I cried some more. And when I got that call, I cried a different kind of tears.

I held out. And so should you. Because you deserve the best call.

Laying on of hands at my ordination at First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, CT.
July 1, 2018

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