Every other week my blog will feature a reposted work. I had been a contributor on two different sites that have since closed or no longer include blogs. I will be reposting pieces that had originally been featured on one of these two sites.
Lately I’ve been pondering the distinct differences between the various roles in my life.
Specifically I’ve been considering the differences between my job as a live-in professional on a Christian university campus and my family life. As a Resident Director I am in a Student Affairs/Student Services administration profession. Because I am at a faith-based university, there is an additional aspect of ministry to the job. I’m not a pastor by any means, but there is a pastoral aspect to my job. Interestingly, the Resident Director position has been [incorrectly] understood as “the youth pastor who lives in the dorm.”
In most ministry-focused professions there is a standard expectation to always be “on”; to always be in good form. Everyone knows the pastor has sinned, but no one wants to think he sinned today and we certainly don’t want to see it happen. Even on off days the Christian leader is aware that people are watching. This is also true for an RD at a Christian university, and it’s intense. My family and I live in a fishbowl.
|A Brick Fishbowl|
In the privacy of his own home a pastor might swear when he stubs his toe; there is no such thing as the privacy of my own home. I have students living across the hall and all around. The walls are thin enough that I have a heightened awareness of my volume whenever I’m simply talking in my apartment.
Another example, I’m allowed to watch R rated movies, but they are not. So what do I do if I’m on a date with my wife, viewing an R rated movie at the local theater and I see one of my residents? Do I interrupt my evening to have the awkward “you’re not supposed to be and we’ll have to talk about this in my office later. And, yes there are different rules for students and employees. And no, you don’t have to be ok with that.” conversation? OR do I ignore it and risk the misunderstanding that I’ve for later discussions “well, the RD didn’t do anything about it last time.”
A pastor or other ministry professional might have similar awkwardness at a movie theater. The parishioner may make judgments such as, “I’m here watching this R rated rom-com, but The Pastor shouldn’t be watching this”
Living where I work, there’s the added element of checking the volume the entertainment I might choose in the privacy of my apartment.
And there’s a difference between family and leadership. If I let something slide with my son, he’s not going to hold it against me or be confused next time. I don’t even have to pull him aside and say, “papa’s really tired now so I’m not going to react to what you just did, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok” (which is close to what I’ve said to residents before). He knows I love him when I’m not paying attention and he knows I love him when I’m completely focused on him. If I lose my temper in reaction to something he’s done, we both apologize and move on. He doesn’t go talk to his roommate and say, “the RD’s a jerk.” Parenting requires responding appropriately to your child about 30% of the time. I’ve learned in four years of being a Resident Director that responding correctly to students 100% of the time is sometimes not good enough for them, their parents, or the institution. (this is not to say that I have respond correctly 100% of the time, however it is much higher than 30%).
The same contrast can be described between my wife and the students. Candice forgives me when I’ve messed up or been lazy or failed her in some way. She encourages me to be better and is sad when I am not, but she knows my weaknesses and stressors and is forgiving beyond imagining. I’ve found that this is much harder with the students.
Maybe some of the difference is that the relationship is deeper with family. It’s more committed and more long-term. There’s not as much invested in one year (for a freshman resident), three or four years (for a mixed grade hall), or even several years (for a pastor of a church). In
I want to thoughtfully point out an imbalance.
My family depends on me much more than the residents do. If I fail as a husband or father it affects my wife and son much more than my failure as an RD affects my residents. Yet the expectation (as I feel it) from my institution and my residents is much harsher than the expectation from my family.
This is my own ruminating on my own experience. But I suspect I’m not alone.
I suspect that most pastors, ministers, and leaders in church or faith contexts feel similar pressure.
And I suspect that this pressure isn’t healthy for those in ministry or for the body of Christ.
Though this post was originally posted July 30, 2011 (as noted above), I did edit it somewhat to post today. Originally I had overemphasized the pressure and scrutiny of a live-in professional. That was not my intention. My goal was to focus on the scrutiny (I assume) is faced by all leaders in evangelical Christianity. Over emphasizing scrutiny in my own context distracted from the central point.