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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Youth Specialties
June 8th, 2015

I have a confession to make: I never really wanted to be a pastor.

Don’t get me wrong—I genuinely love people, and I’m passionate about helping people know the triune God. However, for the first twenty years of my life, I watched power-hungry staff and congregants kick around some of my family members and close friends. Why would I want to be subjected to that?

This experience made me scared to submit to my calling to pastor. In my early ministry career, my fear of ministry combined with my lack of emotional maturity made me want to run from nearly every difficult situation. I’m thankful God brought wise people into my life to help me distinguish between God’s calling and my insecurities and angst. Now with 12 years of pastoral ministry under my belt, I’m more secure in my calling than ever. While there is no formula to help us know God’s will, there are questions we can ask to help us approach situations with a healthy posture.

Here are a few centering questions followed by a helpful discernment tool:

What are my non-negotiables?

You’ll never find a perfect place to work—you’ll always disagree with something. But make sure the areas of disagreement aren’t on your list of non-negotiables. Early in my ministry I thought my non-negotiables were only related to theology. Now that I’ve been kicked around enough to know I’m not invincible, I have some management and organizational non-negotiables.

Am I running from something?

My spiritual director likes to remind me that there are two kinds of pain: There’s pain that’s a result of oppression, and if you’re in an oppressive situation, it’s best to leave. But there’s another kind of pain that is the result of your ego dying. Lean into that pain. Communicate your frustrations in a clear and respectful manner. You’ll have a chance to help bring health to the organization and allow yourself to be transformed. If you run from soul-shaping pain, your junk will follow you to your next ministry spot.

Is this new possibility in line with my long-term trajectory?                                                              

Every time I’m a little anxious in my ministry, I get an itch to leave. Usually when I have this itch, God is doing deep soul work, and I’m supposed to stay, wait, and learn. But I hate waiting. I hate feeling pain. So I start entertaining unrealistic thoughts of other jobs that have nothing to do with my long-term calling. Unless you really need the income, don’t pursue jobs if they don’t meet your long-term ministry trajectory. God will not abandon you.

God, are you in this?

At times God’s calling is so strong I can’t avoid it, but that’s not usually the case. When God’s calling isn’t clear, I simply take one small step and pay attention to God’s movement. I ask, “God, are you in this?” Part of discipleship is taking a small step without knowing exactly where you’re going or when you’ll get there. Here’s the key: As you’re taking one small step at a time, listen for a no just as often as you listen for a yes. Do your research, ask good questions, don’t rush things, pay attention to yellow flags, and ask for advice from people who are bold enough to tell you if you’re making a stupid decision.

A Discernment Tool

I’ve found this discernment tool to be much more helpful than a basic pros and cons list. Throw it into the mix of prayer and seeking the counsel of others—it could help some of your deepest desires rise to the surface.

Step 1: List factors that are important to you.  

Step 2: Weigh each factor according to importance. A higher score means it’s more important. The total must equal 100.

Step 3: List each scenario. Weigh factors for each scenario according to the scale you established.

Step 4: Add the totals in each scenario. The higher the score, the more it fits your ideal scenario.

Example:

Important Factors Weight University Chaplain Memphis, TN Associate Pastor Portland, OR

Good salary with benefits

13

6 12
Affordable town

8

8

4

Invigorating job

16

10

13

Work/life balance of staff

18

18

5

Family buy-in

18

10

16

Near extended family

10

8

2

Near mountains

5

0

5

Diverse town

12

10

4

Total 100 70

61

Conclusion: In this example the Memphis scenario slightly outweighs the Portland scenario. While that doesn’t mean you’d have to choose the Memphis job, it does give you tangible things to consider and pray about as you discern and listen for the voice of God.

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COBY CAGLE lives with his wife and two kids in Seattle, WA. He is the Youth Pastor at Quest Church and you can follow his meanderings on faith, family, and life at CAGLEJOURNEY.BLOGSPOT.COM.

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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