I was talking to a few pastors last year who, knowing I designed websites, suggested I create an Airbnb-type of a website for pastors and churches looking for temporary opportunities to work / find a pastor. When I heard the idea, I knew I could build it, but I had some questions, and the idea was later shot down by some kind of authority figure. That said, it's still an interesting concept for a website.

 

The pastors I talked to said that they felt like they sometimes needed to get away from their own church for a while, but because there was not some kind of sabbatical system set up (or maybe it was too long-term), they thought trading congregations or just being a substitute somewhere might recharge their batteries. It was implied that these pastors would sometimes take calls to new congregations because there was not some kind of temporary system they could use.

 

As the conversation continued, the pastors expanded the potential for the website to include very short-term stints, like a weekend or two in Miami. I am sure there's a list of local, retired, or district pastors willing to fill in, but these pastors believed a national database could be very useful. I believe the general consensus from these Florida-Georgia pastors was that they'd rather get a workation in Maine in autumn than drive to Ocala to fill in for someone.

 

I've had similar conversations with my wife about LCMS Lutheran schools, which must be one of the largest school districts in the country (if you count them all together). Why not pool resources for textbooks and Chromebook orders? Or at least have a national curriculum so that when parents move from town to town, they know what the local Lutheran School will be doing? Anyhow, I enjoyed the conversation with the pastors and said I could come up with what they wanted. Not that anyone was going to pay me to do so; just that I could.

 

I suggested LCMS in Missouri would have the easiest conversion to doing this type of system, since each pastor (and teacher, dce ,etc.), church, and school already has a profile on the site. From there, you'd just have to create a way for these profiles to interact.

Really, all LCMS would have to do is add a tab to both churches, schools, and people with a heading of "Looking for…" or something similar. Churches might be looking for one month in August while it's sole pastor is in Uganda. A teacher might be looking for a full call to California. A pastor might be looking for two weeks in Tucson during baseball spring training. It could really be as simple as that.

 

For added incentives, you either have that added in the main description or as some kind of tab. Stuff like Housing Provided or Vehicle Provided.

 

Best of all, and keeping with the keep it simple idea, I would treat it as a trade (unless the pastor is not currently employed). Church A gets a month having Pastor B fill in. Church B gets a month with a DCE C to set up VBS and Sunday School. Church C gets two weeks with a youth pastor from Church A and a music director from Church D. These folks all get their regular paychecks, so no fuss or muss. Don't need anyone this year? Then bank the time for next year when the deaconess might take maternity leave. If you take too much from the pool, money would have to eventually be paid in. I don't think it's too complicated. Lutheran's are pretty smart.

The main idea would be to prevent burnout, which the pastors said they'd felt when things got stagnant at a church. And one of these guys was retired and just looking for a way to travel (which implies the need for a pool of actual money). The Lutheran Church is uniquely equipped to prevent this kind of burnout through a system that allows some movement without the call process.

 

Now, for the authority figure (and I don't recall who it was) with whom I discussed this idea. He said that those pastors sounded disgruntled and unprofessional, and that there's no way LCMS would allow for this kind of job exchange system. I suppose that's the opinion of a pastor who is not burned out. And when God is involved in the Call you have, there's pressure NOT to be disgruntled or burned out. I get that, but I also know it still happens. Partially because my wife was one of those people who took a new Call after one year. Maybe a few months somewhere else would have helped her school see what they would have missed without her. Or the other way around.

 

In the end, I am not an LCMS pastor, official, or even teacher. I only mostly understand the Call process through my wife. I also know a fairly good idea when I hear one. You probably do, too, and maybe you know the right way to make change happen. I know that change is scary, but people feeling like they need to take new Calls or quit is also scary. A system like this might help with the retention of pastors and teachers in Lutheran churches and schools, but it might also help with satisfaction from parishioners and parents.

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