Some Truth About “Part-Time” Ministry

You’re hiring or calling a minister for the next year, starting July 1. Say your congregation really can’t afford a full-time minister with all the benefits. That’s okay. You have to be honest and realistic about the congregation’s finances and viability: that’s part of good and faithful stewardship.

But here are some things that clergy won’t tell you, because they are wishful thinkers by nature, they need a job, and they have inherited a tradition that embraces poverty and silent suffering as a mark of holiness. Bad combination when you’re trying to pay the bills and survive in America!

So I’m going to tell you what your potential pastor is only discussing with their spouse, colleagues and maybe best friends.

Not only do they believe you if you are telling them that this position has the potential to grow into a full time situation with benefits, they are already tasting that raise they hope will come in a year or two. Their ego wants to imagine them being wildly succesful in ministry with your community, even though they are acquainted with reality and trends in ministry. They may also have been in enticing conversations with people in the church who whispered reassurances about rosy futures to them. Maybe that bequest will come in. Maybe the partnership with the arts organization or the day care will materialize and generate income.

Friends, please help the clergy to hold reasonable expectations with you about the possibility of job security or growth. It is important to be hopeful but just as important to be honest.

If you are hiring a minister to serve you half or three-quarter time, understand that parish ministry is not an hourly position. The moment you get a minister in place, they represent the institution in the wider community (ie, they are never not off the clock in their role), and they are ultimately going to be held responsible for all programs, the functioning of staff , and the health of the congregation.

You maybe offering a 30-hour a week position, but know that when a priest, rabbi or minister assumes the title of Spiritual Leader of [Your Congregation’s Name Here,] they take on the psychic burden of holding the institution, its concerns and its people in their awareness at all times. They respond to crisis at all times. Emails, text messages, phone calls come in at all times. For all the focus on “healthy boundaries in ministry” these days, there remains a big emotional and often unconscious expectation that the minister is omnipresent. Whether they are actually physically present, part-time clergy are assuredly thinking about their ministry setting far beyond the official hours they are getting paid for.

Resentment takes hold when there is not open, honest and frequent communication between clergy and laity. If you do it often enough, it doesn’t have to be stressful and formal. Have an iced tea together. Remember that you have a shared love and commitment. Remember that it can be scary and difficult for everyone to talk about money, contracts, and professional expectations. Remember that this is extremely weird work, that it is not work we should discuss or evaluate in corporate terms, but it is someone’s job.

I wish you the best in having honest, appreciative conversations.

PeaceBang is an independent on-line ministry of the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein.

Two Mothers Day Prayers


A Prayer For All Who Mother

We reflect in thanksgiving this day for all those whose lives have nurtured ours.
The life-giving ones
Who heal with their presence
Who listen in sympathy
Who give wise advice … but only when asked for it.
We are grateful for all those who have mothered us
Who have held us gently in times of sorrow
Who celebrated with us our triumphs — no matter how small
Who noticed when we changed and grew,
who praised us for taking risks
who took genuine pride in our success,
and who expressed genuine compassion when we did not succeed.
On this day that honors Mothers
let us honor all who mother
All those generous souls
who from somewhere in their being
have freely and wholeheartedly given life, and sustenance, and vision to us.

Dear God,
grant us life-giving ways
strength for birthing,
and a nurturing spirit
that we may take attentive care of our world,
our communities, and those precious beings
entrusted to us by biology, or by destiny, or by friendship, fellowship or fate.
Give us the heart of a loving mother today.



Spirit of Life,

Known to us in many ways, but so often, in so many cultures, in the image of a mother,

Hold us in your arms this day.

Let all that we value and all that we hold dear in the images of motherhood we carry be our guide.

We are grateful for all the parents that share the community of this congregation: The young ones and the old ones, those still with us and those departed. May the blessings they give us be rich and overflowing.

For some of us our experiences and images of parents have been tarnished by absence or abuse. Let us not forget that not all mothers, not all parents, have been able to rise to the many challenges that parenting brings us. May we find healing and maybe even forgiveness for all the ways that our parents fell short of fulfilling the love that gave us birth.

The community of this church gives us a great blessing: we are gifted with the chance to celebrate births, and parenting, and the glorious unfolding of human potential. Today is a day for such celebration. Let us make the most of it. Let us use it for thanksgiving and renewal and re-dedication in the good company of loved ones and friends.

May it be so! Amen.

AI And Sermon Prep

My co-worker asked me today about using A.I. as a resource in preaching. Great question.

I did this once, and I don’t see myself doing it again, and here’s why:

When I entered a bunch of my writing into ChatGPT in April 2023 and asked it to generate a sermon about stewardship of the earth, it spewed back a nicely organized set of sentences and paragraphs that kind of sounded like me. It was certainly readable prose. But was it deliverable prose? Was it sermonic? No. Nope.

That is because Artificial Intelligence is not alive, and a sermon must come from the life force: the preacher’s living connection to their body, their life in relationship to the Holy Spirit, the ruach hakodesh, the cosmos, creation. I cannot deliver something that was not born but generated. Jesus said that thing about not feeding our children stones when they ask for bread. Stones actually have a lot more life force in them than does AI.

What do you believe about the transmission of life, hope, love and wisdom-giving energy through the generations, through the natural world, the sacred realm and through and among human beings? The way you answer that question will inform your decision to use or not use AI as a resource in your preaching. For myself, I do not want to begin with something dead and inert and have that enter my brain and creative process. It felt to me like gulping a meal of concrete. After reviewing my ChapGPT-generated sermon, it took considerable time and intention after that consumption of cement to get a sense of the blood flowing through my veins and the creative channels opening. Such a strange sensation, to feel a sense that I need to recover from ingesting inert reproduction of my own syntax and ideas.

I want to explore the fantastic potential of AI but I will not be using it as a resource for sermon preparation.