Stefanie Hays, pastor at Ord First and Sargeant First in Nebraska responds to the following: What would you share with other entering young clergy regarding what you have learned about calling, mentoring, collegiality, and visioning?
Ministry can be difficult. Yes, that would seem like a “duh” statement or an obvious idea. True, that news is not earth shattering but what I found surprising were the ways in which ministry was difficult. I had prepared myself for differing opinions, difficult meetings, and days of hospital visits and death. I had not prepared myself for the difficulty of making friends. I came from an environment I am in two small towns where most people are connected to my churches in some way. Building friendships while keeping healthy boundaries sometimes feels like walking on a tightrope. Even in a city or bigger town our schedules and position still create difficulties. I had also not prepared myself for being “on” all day. People come up to me for pastoral reasons during lunch, supper, or while reading and taking time for myself outside. In my town of 2,200 people I am a public figure wherever I go. Often that reality is a blessing and I can reach new people and help redeem myths about pastors and Christianity. It can also feel like a weight pressing upon me.
The TiM program lovingly forced me into intentional community with other pastors around my age and in similar(ish) life situations. I need that community and collegiality. I love the clergy in my area but many of them have kids or grandkids my age. While we are friends and I spend time with them, there is something beautiful, profound, and nourishing about being with people in similar points of ministry. Time with the other TiM pastors refreshes my soul. The TiM program has helped create space for me to just be me. With my TiM colleagues I can share struggles and hopes. We can laugh and cry together. We can learn from one another and challenge one another. I have also learned that I have to be intentional about maintaining such relationships and building new ones throughout my ministry career.