Moving from Pastor to Prof

I am in the midst of Year 3 as a professor.  After spending 10 years on church staff as a youth pastor and associate pastor, I am finally coming to some sense of the difference between the pastorate and professorate.  For any of you considering either callings, you will find they have significant differences from each other.  Here are just a few I have found to be true.

1.  A Pastoral View of People vs. An Academic View of Students – A pastor sees their people as sheep needing a shepherd.  Pastors provide their people protection, care, encouragement and exhortation in their spiritual and daily lives.  Professors see their students primarily as individuals seeking completion of an academic degree.  So the relationship between the two is more about challenging, spurring, teaching them toward professional and academic achievement.  For some profs, they see their role as a pastor of a small church in constant transition.  But they have to remember their class only lasts for 16 weeks and then everyone leaves and a new batch enters.  That doesn’t happen at church…at least it shouldn’t. 

2.  A Primary Leader of the Church vs. An Organizational Member of the Institution – This difference has been beneficial and frustrating to me at the same time.  As a pastor, I pretty much led in the direction God was giving me.  As long as I had the senior pastor and ministry team leaders blessing, I could direct the ministry as I felt led.  As a member of an academic institution, I don’t make that many decisions.  I serve on committees and work in collaboration with others, but rarely does my opinion matter singularly.  I am one of 350 employees, not one of 4 church staff members.  Its frustrating when you want to get things done and are faced with bureaucracy and red tape.  It is beneficial knowing that others share the weight of the work.

3.  Preparing 2-3 Teaching Sessions per Week vs. Preparing 10+ Teaching Sessions per Week.  The shift in preparation and delivery is vast.  I am constantly working on material, content, teaching plans, curriculum design, media integration, learning activities, and assessment strategies.  You don’t normally do that much for preparation on church staff.  Now teaching the same courses over and over relieves some of this.  But good professors are constantly working on their content making it better, so it never really stops.

4.  Constant Unexpected Extras vs. Managed Unexpected Extras – The pastoral ministry is full of constant, time-demanding, unplanned, unannounced, unexpected extras.  I can remember days going to church and at the end of the day, not having done any of the things on my to-do list.  I was constantly bombarded with unexpected pastoral “emergencies.”  In the professorate, your schedule is more regulated.  You will have unexpected extras from time to time, but they are far more rare than before.

This is but a few of the difference between the two callings.  I am finding I love them both.


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