In one of the routines from his television show, Jerry Seinfeld talks about how men and women differ in our ways of watching television. He says, “Men flip around the television more than women, I think. Men get that remote control in their hands, they don’t even know what … they’re watching. You know, we just keep going… Women don’t do this. See now, women will stop and go, “Well, let me see what the show is before I change the channel.” … Men just fly. Because women nest and men hunt. That’s why we watch TV differently.”
Though not gender specific, those two archetypes apply to associate pastors. Some of us are hunters. We have barely unpacked the boxes of books from our last move before we are surfing churchstaffing.com, or calling our denomination supervisor, looking for the next opportunity. Others of us are nesters. We think every job is the last one we will have until retirement.
Petyon Manning is a nester, and I find it refreshing. A quarterback who openly says that he wants to retire with the franchise that drafted him out of college. In a time when athletes often chase after the top dollar with little or no loyalty to their current team, Manning says he wants to remain an Indianapolis Colt.
I too am a nester. The shortest stay I have had in a ministry job is 5 years. I had one for 10 years, and am currently in my eighth year. I have found this a good way to do ministry. As a youth pastor I have walked with young people from third grade through high school graduation. I have had college graduates return, and have performed weddings for “kids” who were once in my middle school youth ministry. I have walked with families through good times and bad, built relationships of trust, and have walked with people through the breaking of a relationship and been with them as that relationship is restored. I have also had the privilege of sharing in the growth of a congregation, and the spiritual growth of individuals.
It is not always easy being a nester. You have to know yourself and your call well enough to challenge those with whom you have been close. You have to be comfortable in your ministry and find new ways of approaching the same topics. The nester has to be able to adapt. I am convinced those challenges worth the reward.
I fear the hunters among us run the risk of missing out on what is right in front of them. Rather than focusing on the ministry opportunities we have, we scan the horizon for that more prestigious job, better fit, more money, bigger numbers, or where I can get my book published. Ministry though should not be about building a resume, but about being the best pastor you can be to the people God has placed in your trust.
Recently, my friend and colleague Bob Kaylor echoed this sentiment when he shared advice he received early in his ministry: “Make the appointment you have the appointment you want” (we are United Methodists who are appointed by our bishop to our ministry positions). Rather than longing for something better, build the better where you are.
Are you a hunter or nester?
Hunters, please share the other side of this story in the comments below.