Here are some figurative and not so figurative things I have learned to keep handy on my journey as a solo rural pastor. If you have any to add throw them into the post as well. Help a brother out!
- A Hat Collection: Are you a “jack of all trades master of none” kind of person? The life of a solo rural pastor is full of hats. If you have what it takes to walk into this emotionally dynamic and action filled profession you will need to enjoy hats. Within the span of just one week you will wear many. You will manage and create budgets, help people move, fix furnaces, babysit children, study the Bible, teach the bible, work as a community volunteer, fix lawnmowers, repair drain-fields, paint, install sound equipment, install projectors, fix computers, network computers, manage volunteers, set mouse traps, clean baptismals, learn to get water out of carpet in the sanctuary after letting the baptismal over flow because you had an urgent phone call and forgot about it, drive people to detox, mow lawns, fix roofs, fix drywall, build porches, develop leadership, be a youth pastor and be a hospital chaplain. So keep a couple hats in your back pocket.
- A Relay Baton: The solo rural pastor is not an individual sprinter or solo runner of any kind for that matter. Have you ever ran in a relay race? Every solo rural pastor must have a baton in their back pocket. God will bring you people every year (month/week for some) with their hands open to take part in the race. The anchor in a relay race is the last guy to get the baton, dash for the finish line and receive the Glory. If you are a rural pastor, you are not that guy. Learning to hand off what you have picked up, have been handed or have started will be the only way to avoid burn out.
- A Pause Button: A pause button is a wonderful thing when watching movies. It works great in a rural church as well. Many times a rural pastor will find himself in a situation where he needs to get his flock to stop and think, take a break or have some water. For a volunteer ran church many people can get lost or burnt out in their service to God and His church. They will teach for years and feel guilty about stopping, taking a break or just regrouping. Pull out your pastoral remote control and push pause for the person and let them rest. Let them know that they can start again when they are ready.
- Pepto Bismol: You will hear, see, stew on and feel things at times in the solo rural pastoral context that will cause your stomach to turn. The stress level can be almost unbearable at times for those solo rural pastors that are ministering for the right reasons. You will think your fine some weeks but the stomach does not lie. It’s good to have some of that pink stuff in your back pocket to chug on while your pressing forward.
- A Handkerchief: One of the best things you can do to a person in your community that is broken and grieving to the point of tears is to give them a handkerchief. You might not be the person who has all the right things to say. You might not even understand but a little package of Kleenex is something people who are crying will be blessed with. It says more that a thousand words and it fits nicely in your back pocket.
- Flower’s: We have some core women in our church, that are big time volunteers and hard working moms, social workers, grandparents etc. We don’t have a huge flower budget but I try to take flowers to them at their jobs once a year to say thank you and to let them know that I pray for them. Make sure you have a budget line for flowers and just bomb the hard working women in your church.
- Scissors: You will absolutely become weighed down by a ton of commitments as a solo pastor in a rural church. These commitments will need to be re prioritized from time to time. Some will not fit and you must. I repeat must pull out some scissors tell some people sorry and cut those commitments off. Its tough if you have a big heart to let people down but you cannot please all the people all the time. Keep your family in mind when your commitments beginning to consistently encroach upon precious time with them. You will thank me for those scissors the first time you use them!