As a Christian who is committed to a bi-vocational life, it is expected that challenges will never escape in their lives. If you are one among those non-stipendiary ministers, balancing every aspect of your life, what maybe the common challenges that you will experience?
Too much commitment
The first challenge I see is experiencing burnout. The fact that being an NSM deals with work every Sundays and/or Saturdays (case-to-case basis) while weekdays would deal for our profession or loved job, it is no doubt that NSMs will suffer a feeling of dryness and burnout. According to Herbert K. Freudenberger, a New York Psychoanalyst and author of the book titled The High Cost of High Achievement, there are personality types prone to having burn out. One of these is a person who has much commitments. Freudenberger says these are ministers, missionaries and church workers.
Well, a lot of times when these feelings happened in my case.
There were at times when I felt much elated and passionate about serving for the church but there were also times I wanted to give up. A lot of ideas and projects have also been running in my head but out of that numbered ideas, I never presented it to my fellow youths and so the excellent opportunity just faded away. I can also say that I’m a Christian yet I do not get much of reading the Bible, I do not have the good mood to pray and I’m losing my passion to serve. All of these is the result of spiritual dryness. Does this mean there’s something wrong in me? Am I as an NSM too much committed to serve God?
The Dark night of the soul
Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline mentioned that it is normal when a committed Christian undergoes a cycle of lost, dryness and burn out which he called “Dark night of the soul.” We do not know why we are having such feelings but Bertram Lim (One of my favorite authors) in his book Practical Christian Living says God is letting that spiritual dryness stuck in our soul so he may work an inner transformation, but to some forms of dryness means it draws us farther in our relationship to God. Therefore, it is normal for NSMs to have these lost periods but signs of developing unhealthy relationship to God because of dryness is a warning. I remember one time when we’ll be having a meeting with the vestry plus the fellowship I needed to lead yet I intentionally woke up late and had arrived very late for the mass. The only reason was because of this thought, “I’m not being paid for it anyway. I used all my resources and did my fellowship guide and report overnight so I want to get late at mass.” I know, the reason was much unexcused but my main point is, too much commitment is not the only possible factor why we get dried and burned-out. For NSMs, this may pose a heavy challenge and I think, it’s inescapable for them to think and act such way in times of spiritual depression.
Just like stipendiary ministers who can experience burn out for so many times in their lives, NSMs are the same. Bi-vocationalism or doing two jobs for 6-7 days a week is not a joke so it is very important that the support of congregation for NSM should include anything related to overcoming burn outs and dryness. If other churches can provide support to their stipendiary priest for psychological evaluation or retreat or vacation leave annually with pay, then NSMs should not also be neglected. Even if they can pay for their own, they may one day have thoughts like the one I thought, and worse and not wishing for, they might give up their ministry.
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