Wednesday, April 08, 2009

So Here's the Deal...

The standard model of post-seminary life is that one gets a job as an assistant in a parish for a few years.

That model works well if you're young, (generally) male, and you want to focus on youth ministry, since most rectors want someone to bring in young families, and it is their perception that young deacons/priests do that.

I am not young chronologically. I have done youth ministry, and can do it well, particularly if the work is around recruiting, motivating, and training lay persons to do the work. Junior High lock-ins, not so much.

Nevertheless, it has become clear that I have a tough time even getting into an interview because committees and rectors look at my resume and think "Hmmm, middle-aged female. Academic chops, great preacher, lots of major league life experience. This is not what feels like a youth ministry assistant." And the resume goes into the B or C pile.

As I've mentioned before, this passing over has happened several times now, and in one case I was told I was overqualified for such a job.

So here's the epiphany moment: yes, I am overqualified for most of these jobs. So maybe these aren't the jobs I should be applying for. Maybe my husband, my Field Ed supervisor, and the last guy who turned me down for a job are right.

Henceforth, I'll be focusing my efforts on vicar and rector positions. Smaller places with challenges like prior conflict, dwindling membership in changing neighborhoods, confusion about their mission. Calls that would utilize my skills in conflict resolution, transitional ministry, and administration as well as preaching, pastoral care, and spiritual formation.

Now, this bucks the Standard Operating Procedure in a number of ways. I will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate right after I graduate, so there is that sticky problem of what to do about Eucharist for the six months between ordination to the diaconate and priesting...not insurmountable, since there are retired priests in many of the areas where i'm looking at positions. If I stay in this diocese, I would need for my bishop to do something that hasn't been done here before in approving a deacon to take the reins of a parish. it's been done successfully elsewhere, though. And if I didn't think I could make a good case for it, I wouldn't be going down this road.

This will also most likely mean it will take me a bit longer to find a job than I thought, but Lord knows I'm not beating off offers right now.

Don't know, but it feels like the Spirit nudging me. What do you think?


Lauralew said...

Good idea. The SOP never seems to work for a person who does not fit the SOP mold--and you don't. Six months before priesting is not a long time and I'm sure you can find a place where the celebration can be arranged during the interim.

And the Holy Spirit continues to reveal places and things we never would have imagined!

Rev Dr Mom said...

"middle-aged female. Academic chops, great preacher, lots of major league life experience."

Um, yeah, me, too.

My bishop insisted that I be an assistant first.(He's since backed down on that b/c his diocese has NO assistant jobs and so we all had to go elsewhere). And truth be told, I didn't mind being an assistant. But the bias you describe is very real. And very unfair. I can do great children's ministry. I connect well with families with kids. The young male model is not a sure bet. And my younger classmates hated being stereoptyped that way, too.

Now I'm looking for a rector job and the thing that is working against me is--guess what--age combined with lack of previous rector experience. I can't win.

Ageism is alive and well in the church--along with a few other isms!

Rev Dr Mom said...

BTW, good luck with your search. I hope your bishop supports you in this.

Crimson Rambler said...

go get'em, Mibi. One of my dear friends (and a former curate) described his time out in the hinterland entitled "Deacon in charge" as the "world's greatest oxymoron EVER"...but he survived, so did they...and so will you, dear heart!!

Crimson Rambler said...

and BTW I served my curacy as the minister in charge of pastoral care to seniors!!! it worked fine!

cheesehead said...

Well, our systems are different, as I was only ordained once and could celebrate communion from that day on, but I went for a solo pastorate from the get-go, once I figured out I was over-qualified for "youth guy" jobs in my denomination. It was like a crash course in ministry 101.

Now when the Holy Spirit decides I am ready for another challenge, there won't be very many things I haven't done.

Good luck in your search. The church that lands you will be very lucky!