Out of Touch Professors Like Me

It took about three weeks in my new post for me to feel like an out-of-touch academic. One afternoon last week I was sitting in my office about to send an email when I suddenly thought, “Oh no! I have no idea what’s happening in the church, ‘in real life’ ministry, right now.” It felt horrible.

After seven years of being in seminary, or leading a parish or emergent ministry, the transition to work in an office on a college campus has been striking. I can’t help but notice the contrast…

  • I feel as if the church, constantly changing as it is, has progressed well beyond my understanding in the last month.
  • I have lost several mayorships on (the geolocation social networking app) Foursquare because I’m on campus rather than in coffee shops.
  • I read and write more on a wider variety of topics.
  • Though I see many more people on an average day than I did when I served The Project F-M, I don’t relate to them as pastor. It’s not that I’m no longer pastoral, I just don’t function in that way anymore — as if I put my pastor golf club back in the bag, knowing I won’t need it much on this course.
  • And the strangest thing has happened: elbow patches have suddenly appeared on all my jackets and sweaters.

I suppose I should have known this would occur, but even so: I’m shocked with the speed of it. So I’m looking for ways to stay attune to the goings-on of practical ministry even as I become more engaged in the study of and faith and leadership.

Beyond networking with pastors (as I did a local synod leadership conference this week) what practices do you (or your best professors) use to stay up-to-date on Christian ministry?

image: “I Thought They Were Supposed To Be Ivory” by Roger Lynn


  1. Elaine Sveet says:

    I bet pulpit supply will help, chaplaincy opportunities, perhaps ministerial, and I’m positive your local congregation will discover ways to use your gifts as a pastor. I think the best professors are ones who work to have continuous connections with congregational life and are able to theologically reflect on that in the classroom. God finds ways to use eager servants and all their growing gifts.

  2. Jodi Dawson says:

    I agree. Staying active with your local congregation and playing an active role in policy review/creation, needs assessment as well as clergy support is extremely valuable to your professional growth in addition to your church’s growth..

  3. Laura Cunningham says:

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I say you’re already doing it! I believe best practices for ministry are always rooted in the ways we live beyond the church. We (I’m including myself as a pastor) forget that ministry is always “beyond [our] understanding” – beyond our walls, whether they are the sanctuary or the office or the classroom. (I’ve lurked around your blog enough to know that you already know this.) All this to say, I get your point about the transition to academic thing, but in the best sense of the priesthood of all believers, you’re doing great “real life” ministry. (Apologies if my affirmation sounds more like critique…)

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