Friday, April 1, 2011

Dual Career Households and the 21st Century Pastor

Ozzie and Harriet were, in reality, a Dual Career Couple.
As the months tick by, and the necessary preparations for my departing my congregation continue, I'm keeping my radar crankin' to see where the calling might lead next.  Reality has so far served up some clear signals.    There are wonderful churches looking for pastors, sure.  There are churches where I'd be able to serve effectively.   But with a glut of pastors seeking calls in the DC area, it's looking more and more like things are trending towards a void.

When a supportive, insightful and good hearted Presbyterian official suggests that...given my locational limitations and the competitive environment...it's time to be looking at being Lutheran, things aren't trending well for the continued union of calling and gainful employment.

My set answer to folks who ask what I'll be doing after October 30, 2011 now tends to be either 1) I'll be the Associate Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Nowhere, or if I'm feeling less whimsical, 2) I'll be working on my studies, taking time to write, and "spending time with my family" or, if I'm feeling blunter, 3) I'll be unemployed.

One never knows, of course.  The Lord doth work in ways motht inthcrutable.  Still, my shamanic reading of the dripping entrails of the Presbyterian call system points in a very challenging direction, at least in the short term.

Most of my challenge comes, I think, from being in a 21st century relationship.  Were this 1957, I'd be the sole breadwinner, the one with the career in the institutional church.  With things wrapping up at my church, my poor-as-church-mice family would be preparing to follow me from my little country church to a bigger church in a larger town, living the semi-itinerant life of the parson.

But this is not 1957.  I'm not the only one who works.

Ours is, as is the case in so many American households, a dual income household.  Well, for the moment.  My wife's career...which is flourishing...is here.  When I entered the ministry, her income became the primary income.  Following a recent job change, followed by a raise, followed by a major promotion and another raise, she now makes more than triple what I make in my part-time Presbytery minimum pastorate, and more than enough to sustain our household even in the complete absence of my income.

More importantly, she's good at what she does, and she likes what she does...most days.  It's her vocation.  Which leads to the challenge facing pastors of a moderate-to-progressive bent in this era.  How do we balance our vocation with the vocations of our wives/husbands/life partners?

Do we just assume that they'll be nice and submissive and follow us around from church to church to church, because we are Called By God (tm) and they "just have a job?"
"Yes, I know you like what you do, honey, but if you don't quit, you'll be impeding the will of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has told me that I must now go serve a slightly larger church for slightly more salary three states away, just like He always does after I get into a fight with the Session."
I've got a Proverbs 31 problem with that, not to mention the fact that this way of thinking flies completely in the face of the Reformed and Protestant understanding of vocation.

Pastoring is not the only calling, eh?

Problem is, we've structured our church life under the assumption that it is, and that assumption prangs up against the reality of how most families look these days.

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