pecaspers: a Blog in transition

September 1, 2009

Job Hunt: It Is Finished!

Filed under: My Life in General — pecaspers @ 1:07 PM
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It Is Finished!

I’m hired. Or in Chirstianese, I’ve been called to a church. It’s been a long hunt, and now it’s over. On Sunday night August 30, 2009, Liberty Baptist Church in the Friendship Community of Tallassee, AL voted unanimously to call me, Paul E. Caspers, to be their new part-time youth pastor.

At 6:30ish, the pastor called to tell me. He even put me on speaker phone and held his phone up to the mic so I could thank the congregation. It was very surreal. …It still is a little bit. Now I have to figure out what to do.

They currently have one lady teaching on Wednesday night, another teaching on Sunday night, and a 21 year old guy (who has huge potential as a leader and will be both partner and mentoree) about to start teaching the youth Sunday School class.

The story of how all this came about is sort of interesting. A friend’s dad heard from his friend that Liberty was maybe thinking about possibly hiring a part-time youth minister. My friend’s dad called and asked me for my info to pass on to his friend. A few days later, that friend called me, and I sent him my resume. A couple of weeks after that, we arranged for Jessica and I to go have dinner with the friend and his wife. A few days later, they called back and arranged for us to have dinner and a talk with the whole youth committee and the pastor (Jess turned out not to able to make it because she was puking her guts out, but she insisted that I go). After that, we set the date for me to preach at the morning church service on Aug. 30, and to have some meet and greet time with the youth the Wednesday night before. Things went well that Wednesday night. Because of some technical difficulties and an extra song on Sunday morning, I went up to preach later than usual. Therefore, my only slightly (IMHO) too long 42 minute sermon didn’t end until 12:20–a solid 10-20 minutes over in Liberty-time. Still, the majority of people told me they enjoyed the sermon, and nobody said anything negative to me at all. Plus, they all voted for me that night, like I said. The other angle on this story is that there was another guy whose name and info came to the church at the same time mine did, but his wife got pregnant and they needed to be somewhere full-time because of it.

You can help me out by lifting me up in prayer, because I’ve rarely felt so at a loss for what to do as I do now. I don’t want to go in and rearrange everything, but they’ve hired me to lead and to me that means (among many other things) both teaching and planning stuff. They’ve been doing all their planning by committee (with little success at making much happen, as it’s been reported to me), so THAT should be a relatively easy thing to take over. But, like I said, they have 3 people teaching already…4 if you count the pastor’s wife who does a missions focus night once a month. Not that I expect any major struggle, because thus far the support for me coming has been so univocal.

The first major hurdle for me is just going to be learning everyone’s name. God help me. God help us all.

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August 5, 2009

What’s in a Name?: A Blog in Transition

Filed under: My Life in General — pecaspers @ 12:17 AM
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What’s in a name? If you are wondering why my blog is entitled “A Blog in Transition,” then 1) I hope you are only wondering about it as a way of taking a break from pondering much greater things, and 2) You are about to have your curiosities satisfied.

In part, the reason is very simple. I had to call it something. The default was “Just another WordPress blog.” Now, I don’t usually strive for impressive labels, but that was far too bland a thing to be. Nobody wants to be “just another” anything. It’s not even self-debasing; that would be something. To call it “Thoroughly Average and Uninteresting” would have earned more style points. It had to be something more than the default, so it became “A Blog in Transition.”

I almost said, “it ended up…” but that’s not right. Actully, that’s just the point. It hasn’t ended up anything. It really is in transition. The name will potentially change, so in that sense the name fits for now.

It’s early in this blog’s life, and I’m not entirely sure what will become of it. Things being what they are right now, you may have noticed posting has been somewhat irregular. My schedule is irregular, and we don’t pay for internet at The Container. If/When I get a job and/or we move, I hope things will get a bit more consistent. For the time being, my blog–like myself–is in a state of transition.

Of course, There is also a sense in which this blog will always be “A Blog in Transition.” “In” in the sense of transition is the topic of the blog, rather than the condition of the blog. (English is a fun language.) Life is a transition, and my transit through life, or the transit of my life, will obviously come out in the writings found here.

It’s good for me to remember that life is a transition. At times, I think I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking, “When I get a real job, then I’ll have arrived.” That isn’t any more true than it was of getting married, graduation (any of the three), or any other of the host of things I–and all of you too, if your honest–have looked or am looking forward to. This kind of reminder helps to shake off some of the effects of what I call spiritual inertia. (Side note:Spiritual inertia is that force that tends you toward doing the same things you’ve always done in spite of the fact that you know there is more–or in some cases less–that you ought to be doing regarding spiritual discipline. [Side-Side note: Spiritual friction is that force that tends you to regress on the progress you have made in spiritual discipline until all growth stops and you barely resemble a Christ-follower. Maybe I’ll blog more about this in a later post.]

Where this idea comes into play here is that when we look ahead and see some milestone approaching–the certainty or uncertainty matters not–we tend to push things to the other side of it. Hey, I know I’ve done it. Try this, have you ever said, to yourself or to someone else: “I know I should ________, but when _________ then I’ll _________ for sure”? The point is, apply this to yourself as you will, I won’t instantly become more godly or disciplined or organized by virtue of having a job.

In fact, there will be one more thing to deal with. Well, in my case it might actually make for a net loss in things to deal with: a real job means the bills get paid without late-night Village Photographers events or all-day and/or night spent working for EOG on gamedays. However, the time investment into whatever is next will surely be more substantial than whatever gets dropped. I used to think I was busy in college. I really was busy in seminary (under-employment is way easier than seminary), but I still had enough free time to stay sane and find a wife. I’m sure life will get busier wherever God leads me next. And I’m even more certain that it’ll get WAY busier when c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n enter the picture (which I’m totally looking forward to, don’t get me wrong).

I guess all this has been to say that I know things are going to be changing soon. And more than that, I realize that things will constantly be changing throughout life. Someone once said, “The only constant is change.” (Google it if you’re curious, inform the rest of us if you do.) He was close. The Most High God is also a constant. As I’m thinking about what’s to come, a Scripture verse comes to mind. “Many are the plans in the heart of a man, but it is the Lord who directs his steps.” It’s somewhere in the wisdom literature; I’d look it up, but I haven’t re-installed E-Sword yet and it’s not worth it to go track it down the old fashioned way.

Whatever transitions God has in store for you, I hope you meet them well with, by, and in His grace.

July 2, 2009

Ministry Job Hunting

Filed under: My Life in General — pecaspers @ 7:21 PM
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(This post must be read with a smile on your face. If you aren’t smiling, then you will read it in the wrong tone.)

Most of May and June were spent taking pictures at graduations around AL and GA. In June I spent a week in IN building a church building with Carpenters for Christ, then a week getting ready for Vacation Bible School, then a week working VBS, and finally most of last week I was preparing for a sermon I preached this past Sunday. At long last, this week has been largely spent job hunting.

I hate to even call it that, “job hunting,” but I don’t want to confuse people or hyper-spiritualize it by calling it something like “potential place of ministry research.” It’s a funny thing though; I’m willing to use a good, easily understood secular term like “job hunting,” but I shudder at job posts that read as though a church is looking for a business manager rather than a spiritual leader. Too often for my sensibilities churches list as the qualifications something like this: “motivated, self-starter, strong administrator, organized, multitasker.” Those are great, but ultimately unhelpful since nobody–in business or ministry–is looking for an apathetic and sloppy slacker who needs to be watched like a hawk and never finishes what he starts. Yes, I appreciate that there is some commonality in the two job markets. There is a difference though, isn’t there? Shouldn’t there be?

As a Southern Baptist, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between looking for a ministry position and looking for a secular job. We have job search sites, emails with interview tips, and all of the other useful tools for finding employment as there are for secular career seekers. I regularly check the classified ads in a number of Baptist papers, online of course, looking for possible leads. (My favorites are the ones where the church obviously can’t afford more than the minimum words in the ad so it reads like this: “FBC Somewhere is prayerfully seeking pastor. Send resume to 101 Co Rd 777, Somewhere, AL,” and they leave you knowing NOTHING about the church. Also, these churches almost never have up-to-date websites where you can learn more about them. I’m sure I’m not walking close enough with the Spirit to hear Him calling me to a place based solely on an address. But I digress.)

I regularly cruise through the postings on the SBC website as well as those posted with the Ministry Resources department of The Southern Baptist Seminary. These are usually pretty informative; I assume they don’t charge by the word to be in these. In these postings, the job description or qualifications often include some reference to the biblical qualifications for a pastor/elder. And this gets to the part where I think I’m a complete hypocrite, because seeing that in a job posting seems ridiculous to me too. Oh, really, your church is looking for someone who is spiritually mature, faithful to his wife, and doesn’t dabble in the dark arts? That’s good to know.

Most churches seem to be looking for someone with 3-5 years (or more) of experience in the same type of position at a church of the same size. What really gets to me are the relatively small churches that say they are looking for someone with two to five years of experience in a man who won’t consider their church as a stepping stone to somewhere bigger. I know what they mean; they mean they are looking for someone who will stick around. But don’t they see? They are asking for someone to leave wherever he got his experience and treat that place as a stepping stone up into their church? People need to decide if staff moving from one church to another is something they approve of or not.

I also take issue with the idea that a person MUST be specifically called to an age group (or even place or people group) to work with said age (etc.) group. Can’t a guy who is called to build up God’s church do that just as well with youth as he can with adults? I understand that for far too long youth ministry really has been seen as merely a stepping stone into something “better,” and that is a tragedy. And I know that God apparently does call and gift people to work specifically with youth (or senior adults, or West Africans, or post-modern twenty-somethings, or whatever). However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a guy called and gifted to teach and equip God’s people can’t or shouldn’t minister among God’s young (or whatever) people.

But now it just sounds like I’m ranting. Hmm… I suppose that I have been ranting to a degree. Let’s turn a corner.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s frustrating. And I’ve had a number of people respond to the very mention of the word “frustrated” as though it were another F-word. God tells us in His Word not to worry, not to be anxious, never once does He tell us that we can’t or won’t feel frustrated. I’m not anxious. I don’t lose any sleep over not having a place of vocational service. I do not worry about it. I know that God has a perfect plan and His timing is better than mine. I am waiting, as patiently as He has enabled me. (And sometimes too patiently for my wife’s taste.) And still, I can feel the schemes of the Adversary and the pressure to conform to the ways of this world FRUSTRATING my search.

So maybe it’s a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word. I mean only to say that I can tell that there are forces at work against me and that it wears on me. God is my Rock and my Refuge and a very present Help in times of trouble. I’ll be in trouble if I stop resting on him and start focusing on the frustration, but I’m not there now. In fact, I haven’t gotten to that point very much at all.

Here I am waiting on the Lord’s good and perfect timing. Watching (that is to say, job hunting) and waiting.

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