Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A sabbatical and the small church pastor: Part 2.

Dahlia of the day: Jax. This photo does not do justice to Jax. The color is a deep red. The blossom is fairly round. It is one of the most awe inspiring dahlia's that I have.


Finances in the small church are always tight. (Probably in large churches as well.) One tithing family’s departure can mean the difference between ending the year in the “black” or in the “red.” Most of the church’s budget goes to support the pastoral expenses, heat, lights and insurance. It gets really tight when there is a mortgage to pay. Many small churches will tremble at the thought of paying a pastor to go on sabbatical and paying for guest pastor while the pastor is away. The sabbatical could add close to $10,000 to the budget.

There are some grants available to assist the church with the sabbatical. Be sure that any grant requirements are met.

Finances would not be a problem at this point in Evergreen’s history. After several REALLY difficult financial years we are experiencing a time of blessing.

The many hats:

The large church generally has a large staff; small churches have little or no staff. The pastor will wear many hats: preacher, teacher, counselor, Bible study leader, hospital visitor, prayer, evangelist, mission worker, musician, computer specialist, sound and lighting guru, phone answerer and all around great person. It may be easy to find a person to preach on Sunday mornings. It can be crippling when the church cannot find people to fill some of the other rolls. The most difficult “hat” to fill when I am out of town is leading our two worship teams. I am a pretty decent guitar player—for leading a worship team. My brother is much better “technically” on the guitar but that doesn’t translate into being a better guitarist for leading a worship team. The music quality takes a HUGE hit when I am out of town. We can find a guitar player—it just isn’t a worship team leader.

Finding the “right” fill in pastor is not as easy as it would seem. Each church has its own culture and theological position. Many of the folks at Evergreen were not “Presbyterian” before coming to Evergreen. They stay at Evergreen because of our biblical base, evangelical theology, casual style and excellent music. The prolonged presence of “progressive/liberal” preaching would cause a loss of membership/attendance.

Different pastors wear other hats. One pastor I know is also the best pianist I have ever met. He has perfect pitch. He can transpose almost any song to any key within seconds. If he hears a song a few times he can play the song. Needless to say, he is the main pianist for his church and leads the choir. He would be almost impossible to replace. One pastor I knew was also the police and fire chaplain for the small town he was in. His absence would affect the entire town—not just his church. Finding the appropriate people to wear all of the pastor’s hats can be difficult.

That’s enough for today. Check back tomorrow for more random thoughts on sabbaticals.

PS. July 21st was Stephanie’s last day at The Oasis (my office away from the office). Stephanie is a pastor’s daughter and worked afternoon. She knew my favorite drinks and always had a warm smile. She will be heading to Europe with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Best wishes Stephanie!


At 8:43 AM , Blogger Presbyterian Gal said...

It seems a shame that seminaries do not offer senior students to fill in on pastor sabbaticals. It could involve a call and interview process, not as intense as hiring a pastor, but enough to make the congregtion comfortable.

And in your case, maybe two students...


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