“Leaving the Nest” Syndrome

The other day in conversation, Corey pointed out to me that I have been in ministry of some form or another for almost 15 years.  15 years!  I started out as a youth ministry intern/staff for St. Luke’s UMC while I was in college.  I also interned as a chaplain for Wishard Hospital during that time.  I was 19-20 years old.  I then served as a student pastor in seminary, followed by more chaplain work.  And after seminary, I started serving churches as a pastor full-time.  Now, almost 34, I look back at how far I have come, and also how much more ministry I have ahead of me.  I have TONS of sermons, Bible studies, pastoral care visits, weddings, funerals, mission projects, and I’m sure LOTS of church meals awaiting me in the years to come.  I look forward to continuing to live out my calling.

I am now about to enter into my third full-time appointment as an ordained elder.  And here’s what I wonder as a young clergy woman: when, instead of leaving a congregation that says, “We’ve seen you grow so much while you’ve been here and we feel like we’ve helped get you to the next phase,” will I hear these words instead: “We’ve done good ministry together and you have led us well.  Blessings on the journey.”  In my past 2 appointments, I have left feeling as if people see me as “leaving the nest.”  I also know good and well that people believe that good ministry and discipleship has taken place, and I do not discredit that at all.  But I do, however, feel an overwhelming sense that I am still seen as a little bird who is still waiting to take flight, and that’s not how I see myself living out my ministry calling at this point.  I have a lot of years ahead of me, but I also have a lot of years behind me.  I hope one day for people to see beyond the “leaving the nest syndrome” when they consider my ministry and leadership.

Yes, I still have a lot to learn and a lot of growth ahead of me.  But I look forward to the day that I am not seen as the young clergy woman who is “earning her wings” and “is leaving the nest.”  I am genuinely curious if this is a gender thing, an age thing, or something else.  Does anyone else experience this, and in other vocations, too?  Maybe I should take it as a compliment, and be glad that evidence of my growth is authentic and real.  But I am also taking it as a statement that perhaps younger clergy are still seen in a certain light that is difficult to escape.

Am I alone in this?  What do you think?  Has it happened to you?

 

 

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