Being a Pastor in the United Methodist Church Sucks Right Now

By Pastor Snowflake

This is a piece by a local pastor in the United Methodist Church who is experiencing anger and burnout. This piece is honest and raw, so be forewarned. But if you like honesty, then continue to read on. 

Being a pastor in the United Methodist Church sucks right now. And if you are reading this and the word ‘sucks’ bothers you, quit reading. It isn’t going to get better and you aren’t worthy of the point I’m going to make. 

I love Jesus and think his life matters; no, not his enshrinement on the damn gilded cross, but his actual life and teaching. He called out the powers of insecurity and jealousy and greed. In seminary we call that something more theologically robust with an air of superior education. It gives us pastors the authority to stand on a pretty box on Sundays and tell people what’s what. And truthfully, the insights and wisdom from Jesus is worth standing on a very pretty box and proclaiming loudly! But here’s the thing… the folks who do the box talk have become (maybe always were) a team of coffee-worshiping, precious assholes.

I just finished leading my congregation in celebrating Lent and Easter. For the progressive pastor Easter is a bit of a challenge with that ‘did he or didn’t he’ get bodily-resurrected crap. Let’s just say he did and move on, ok? God’s God and you and I aren’t going to bang this one out and come to a verifiable scientific answer. Let it go! Even with this tiresome controversy, Lent is what my congregation needs more than anything. They need a season focused personal reflection and repentance. Because, we are a people who’ve fucked things up and fallen short of doing good most days. I need the season of Lent because the darkside of my soul has gotten pretty cranky and mean and I need to be getting back to the heart of God. 

So, I preached my heart out during Lent and had a few of my best sermons. At the same time, I’m leading my congregation through a visioning process to do more focused and pro-active community ministry and discipleship. I added 6 extra home meetings with general congregation members and 4 extra leadership groups during the weeks leading up to Lent and during Lent itself! What a fuck-ton of work that has been. I did it because I believe in God and see the Holy Spirit at work in my community. I did it because the iconoclastic befoulment from the last national election demands that the faith community get it together!

The ‘blessed’ community needs God’s Holy Church! The world needs the Christian family to quit humping frogs and get reacquainted with the Prince of Peace! The on-going argument about whether LGBTQ folks are worthy and welcome by God has gone off the rails and is landing the UMC in the ditch of irrelevance. I’m grateful the Great Bishops of the denomination have invested so much time in trying to do some relationship building and bridge building and prayer time. I’m grateful we have a democratic organization that welcomes the opinions of everyone no matter how stupid or contrary to the Gospel message they are. Really, I am. 

But look…  I’m working my fat ass off doing visioning, leadership development, Discipleship planning, mentoring young adults and youth, engaging with my clergy colleagues and staying current with the latest greatest best-practices for ministry. I visit my homebound, shut in, grief stricken members who sometimes resent me and see the sky falling. I’m absolutely exhausted and this Easter…  I was so frustrated with the Church and my place in it, I just kept praying for God’s forgiveness and to be present in each moment. Being a pastor in the UMC sucks right now! And local church pastors seem to get all the blame for the receding Church. Seriously…  what the hell!?!?!  And if you send me another fricking form to fill out before Annual Conference, I just might gnaw my own hand off. 

I watch my colleagues with interest, some of who are snowflakes and some of who are kick-ass faith rock stars! I take joy in their joy and the pray for their leadership burdens. I can’t believe the ones who gripe and complain about their DS and Bishop and their congregations as if it were their hobby. I’m tired of the clergy who take for granted the privilege of being a stand-in for Jesus to the wounded and broken. I am tired of the clergy who show up late and leave early or make up dumb excuses for not participating in the work we do together. And I’m especially tired of the ridiculous argument about gay people…  and I’m calling out both liberals and conservatives here! You are all being assholes! 

Anyone… guns… epidemic of violence… homelessness… prescription drug addicts… public education and educators getting screwed for lunch…. The rich running away with the lunch money of the poor and moms trying to get decent healthcare for their children…. And men… good men awash in guilt and grief and left behind to pick up the pieces. Good men and good women trying to put life back on track for themselves and their families while the church fights a civil war over the place and worth of gay people! 

Being a pastor in the UMC sucks right now. My coffee-worshiping self is exhausted and yearns for some light in the darkness of our UMC. I’m clearly in the legion of assholes and I’m ready to throw mud balls at any whiny ass person who can’t be respectful or play nice. Seriously… what the hell is going on with you dumb upper leadership types??? Do you remember us broken pastors in need of redemption and grace…. Who are just trying to live and teach the Jesus-way?  Do you remember the call to share the Jesus story about how God loves bigly?! 

Can anyone hear me?

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