Pastors as Career Counselors?

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Lots of things that pastors do are not included in any job description. For example, did you know how often you might be asked to be a career counselor? This sort of thing happens to me much more often than I would ever have thought. The questions I field about jobs usually don’t have to do with how much money a given job will pay. Instead the issues go deeper.

I’ll let you read part of an email exchange I received had with a woman (I’ve changed the name) who is not a member of our congregation, but with whom I’ve worked on a denominational committee. What do you think of her query? How might your response differ from mine?

Blessings on the journey!

Note from “Cheryl”:
“Hi there, Jim, and happy Monday morning! As I've been thinking, praying and preparing for the job applicaion I corresponded with you about last week, I've been questioning whether or not I do actually agree with Unitarian Universalist theology/philosophy? It is something that I think I can relate and speak to, especially given that my work experience (teaching ESL) has exposed me to people who adhere to so many different religious and cultural practices. Back in the late '90s as well, around the time that I served on the committee with you, I was also on a CRC campus ministry. One of the many activities that we organized, and that I became quite involved with was the Muslim/Christian discussions.
If you have the time to do so, would you please send me your thoughts/beliefs on Unitarian Universalist thinking? It would be quite helpful.

Cheers to a great week!

Cheryl

My Reply:
Good afternoon, Cheryl. Sorry for note getting back to you sooner. But here goes for a quick answer:
I think you make a good distinction between Unitarian Universality (UU) theology and philosophy. I don't agree with UU theology. It's not Christo-centric, not theo-centric, because according to their perception, there are G(g)ods, divine sparks everywhere.
Rose and I have talked with and about fine friends of ours who are UUs. We’ve come up with a smart-aleck comment that they like because they share our sense of humour and the perception that NO ONE has a lock on all Truth about God. We’ve talked with them often and once came up with this: “Maybe we Calvinists don't believe enough about human goodness being infused with the Spirit of God/Christ, but the you good folks believe way, way too much about that sort of thing!”
"Theology" aside—as I said, some of the finest people I know are UUs. I think that's perhaps helpful for you. The philosophy is distinguishable from the theology. You can be friends with, work with people who don't share the former, but with whom you find much common ground in the living out of the latter. Thus it seems to me that your reference to the Muslim/Christian discussion in campus ministry gives you a fair comparison. We can walk down the same road for a long way with people who wish to and actually do good things in the world. We can talk with each other seriously and deeply, probably learn from each other--even though there's always a risk we'll be "infected"! See--there's my Calvinist talking!

Maybe that's helpful?

Blessings--and sorry again for not responding sooner. I hope this isn't too late for you.

jcd
 

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Great post! I was thinking that all of us, not just "career counselors" or "pastors", are called to help people with what they want to do in life. My college-aged daughter wants to know, and frankly, sometimes so do I. How do we help each other?

Participant

Thanks for your reply. I think we help each other in this way! We think about our conversations, write them up, ask questions, promote discussion. I STILL want to know how to keep helping my own kids (WHEN they ask!), but they help me keep my head screwed on straight too. In a perfect world, "career" and "vocation" would overlap significantly. Sometimes, though, that doesn't happen. But even a partial overlap can be God-pleasing and not personally wearying.

How do we help each other? The answer, at first thought, is simple: follow Jesus’ example. Reflect on how He lived, prayed, interacted with others...all pretty straightforward stuff. Easy. But we humans seem to dislike ‘easy’, and prefer to super-size our lives with always wanting more-like Adam and Eve. We take the easy and complicate it with our free will and create a recipe for drama. *Sigh* (just kidding)

At the community college I attended, we were told not to bring our Christianity anywhere near our jobs as counsellors. Apparently, it tends to conflict with clear thinking, and one might be at risk of misleading their patient. I understand that “UU” has a place in this world, as not everyone believes in the same things...but to ask me to leave my Christianity at the door was something I could not-and will not ever do. How does one remove a part that makes up the central core of who they are? Is there a surgical procedure for this?

Learning about other’s belief systems and respecting those beliefs goes a long way in creating a helpful relationship, and as you said, we may even learn from each other. When I run into cases where I wish that I could freely talk about God, I look to the UU way of thinking and carefully choose my words. So, while I may be thinking about (my) God and offering conflict resolution ideas to them, they hear or perceive something neutral, such as-“If you were in Mary’s shoes, how do you think you would feel?”, not “Do unto others...”. It sounds rather fluffy, but that is what I need to do so I do not offend someone who believes in some big guy in the sky, or an entity that can seriously screw up good karma.

In the end, it is helping. So I have to change gears a bit and consider things from another person’s perspective-isn’t that what helping is all about? I have not heard of a surgeon that will perform a religionectomy, but then again, I think that is a good thing-and a procedure I would never have! When we help simply because that is what God has called us to do, we cannot mess it up, or cause harm-not when it comes straight from Him.

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