Today we have a guest post by Rev. Dr. Velecia James of Atlanta, Georgia. She talks about her first church assignment and the challenges she faced during that time.
I am Rev. Dr. Velecia James. I went to seminary in Atlanta. I am a Methodist. In my denomination we are appointed to churches where we serve for 2-4 years and then move on to another appointment.
Needless to say, I was excited about my upcoming appointment. I was anxious to begin full-time ministry. Plus I would get to quit my job. You see, I was satisfied in my job but I was more excited about the possibility of being a full-time pastor.
So I waited in great anticipation for my appointment letter to arrive. Well the day came! The letter arrived. My heart was beating in anticipation of where I was going as I held the letter in my hand. I ripped open the envelope.
And I just stared at my assignment.
I couldn’t believe it! My joy was gone. Instead I immediately felt a great burden. I kept staring at the letter to make sure I was reading it right.
I had been assigned to 3 rural churches in Georgia. The larger church had service every Sunday. Another church had service every 1st and 3rd Sunday. And the other church had service on the 2nd and 4th Sunday. I was charged with growing the churches by developing programs and building up the membership. I neglected to say that the churches who only met twice a month had about 25 members each.
The biggest punch in the gut was I had to keep my full-time job because combined the 3 churches could not pay the salary I was due as a pastor with an advanced degree.
And on top of all this, it was already a taxing time for me because my mother was sick and in the hospital.
As my assignment started I went from work and church duties every evening straight to the hospital where I stayed late into the night. Saying I was stressed is an understatement. I was on the go so much that I couldn’t think straight. And each Sunday I tried to pastor 2 churches. The smaller church would meet from 8:30 am – 10:30 am. Then I would rush to the church which met every Sunday to be there by 11:00 o’clock when service started.
There was no ME time. I was being pulled here and there by 3 different congregations, visiting members who were sick, performing weddings, presiding over funerals, being present for special programs, in addition to being involved with the business and day-to-day running of the churches. Plus I worked full-time. And I was taking care of my mother.
At the time I was appointed to the 3 churches it was clear that women in the pulpit were not wanted. It was hard for a woman if she wasn’t strong. The sad thing is that it was the women in the congregation who didn’t want a woman pastor. I found that men were more accepting of me than the women.
It is challenging to be a pastor. And triple challenging to be a female pastor. Being pastor of a church entails more than preaching. It is demanding and requires lots of time. Relationships with parishioners have to be developed. Time has to be taken to listen to people and their problems.
A lot went through my mind when I was pastoring 3 churches. I had to get to know the leadership and members of 3 different congregations. There was not a whole lot of time to spend with either church.
The burden that I felt can best be described as constantly wondering, ‘How am I going to find time to do what needs to be done?’
At another time, if the circumstances had been different, and I only had to focus on pastoring these 3 churches maybe my excitement level would have been higher.
Several people felt that I was assigned 3 churches in order for me to quit. But I was strong. I determined in my heart that nothing would drive me from what I was called to do.
So I got through it!