By Tina Teng-Henson

Did I really say "Yes"?

Is that how you become a pastor?

Your pastor calls you up and asks for your take on being called the outreach pastor, not just the outreach director. “Well, because you’re not just a lay person, Tina...you’re on the road to becoming a pastor.” “But I’m not done with seminary yet.”

Deciding on a short phone call to take on a title I am working towards, but never really wanted? I never thought I’d be a US pastor...never thought I’d be a pastor, period!

Is that how I became a pastor?

Does this change things? Then why did it get so awkward all of a sudden?

photo by Shootingsnow I’ll call myself the pastoral intern as long as I can. Nicely nebulous. Lots of people have interns. Lots of places have interns. I’m just the intern.

“But I’m too _______ to be a pastor,” runs through my head. Female, emotional, uncertain, young. 

Since when did I get like this? Did I say yes too hastily? Did I move too fast? Well, yes, and God’s gonna have to work it out. (God, I’m sorry for making messes for you to bail me out of. I know you don’t mind, but still…)

I AM excited about the job. Yes, I do want it. I’m just trying to figure out how to make the rest of my life work (?!) and not feel anxious, nervous, or scared now that I’ve said yes.

I still have about two years left in seminary, and you gave the go-ahead to start trying for kids...

Is this crazy? Is this not a good idea? Oh, Lord.


About a month ago, one of the staff at our church plant announced that he’d be leaving at the end of the year, so funds became available for the lead pastor to ask me if I wanted to be hired to work at the church part-time. (I had been interning there since the early spring without pay for my Fuller ministry internship.)

After some wrestling and reflection, I said yes.

In so many senses, I felt real gratitude for being “invited in” and feeling “led” in the process. I didn’t have to ask or advocate for myself, and that felt like a gift. Even the job description felt tailored to the gifts I bring to our church plant.  Having come out of InterVarsity, I felt incredulous that I’d now be paid money I didn’t have to fundraise!  I mostly spent my reflection time thinking about how I’d steward, save, and give the money I earned to support others in their ministries (who’d recently come asking).

But for whatever reason (and perhaps for all the reasons that you might intuit from the above), after the announcement had been made before the church, when it came time to sign the paperwork, I felt overwhelmed with what I’d agreed to do. I realized I hadn’t thought through the consequences this would have on the rest of my life. I discovered my husband and I hadn’t talked this decision through thoroughly, what with the recent houseguests we’d hosted and a weekend trip out of town. As I sat there processing with the pastor, I realized I felt stressed about my schoolwork, scared I’d never finish my seminary program, worried about what would happen if we did get pregnant, and painfully aware that I should probably have figured some of this out before showing up to sign the paperwork!

This reflection feels vulnerable to post, as I feel keenly aware of my inner anxiety showing in each line of the poem and — as an Asian-American woman with the usual expectations — some  shame or embarrassment for not having figured this all out on my own already. I wish I had more companions who were doing the same thing I am, to see in person and pray with on this unique journey of seminary, church work, and potential parenting. (Any of you out there living in the Bay Area?)

A few days later, I simply feel aware of the inherent complexity and uncertainty related to all these different strands coming together. I know I’ve been called to God’s service and I’m most fulfilled when able to lead out in outreach, but I have a lot of time left in my M.Div. training. I would love to have this season of seminary done with, as friends have said that it’s better to have school done with before you start having kids. But I’m thirty, and God said to start trying for kids. If only life (and faith) could be as neat and tidy as I would like. But this is life by faith.

So I guess I’d really love it if some of you would pray for me. And send along any wisdom. And speak God’s encouragement into my life.

Thank you. May the Lord be near you today, in whatever stage of the journey you are on.

(photo by Shootingsnow)

This piece was originally posted at the Asian American Women on Leadership (AAWOL) blog. AAWOL exists to gather evangelical Asian American women for leadership renewal and development.

About the Author

Tina Teng-Henson was born and raised on Long Island, New York. Although she grew up in a Chinese church, she became involved with the multi-ethnic InterVarsity chapter at Harvard and a socioeconomically diverse church in the South End of Boston where she felt her world and heart blown open by God. Tina was also significantly influenced by seasons of life spent overseas in the Dominican Republic, China, and Kenya. In addition to being a wife to John and a mom to their young daughter and son, Tina is serving at  First Presbyterian Church of Santa Clara (reachingthevalley.org), having completed her Master of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. She loves playing volleyball, helping people grow in their spiritual life, and is always up for connecting with new people! 

 

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