Creatively Engaging Senior Talent – A Case Study in Innovative Job Sharing (Part 1 of 2)

Rev Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson (left) and Rev Vickie Miller are “job sharing” the senior pastor position at Suncoast Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church

This blog, part 1 is this case study and Part 2 (link) is a summary of key learning points about job sharing.

Many of us continue to read about the growing labor shortage across the US, especially as the number of younger trained professionals entering the workforce is far less that the huge numbers of retiring “baby boomers” born between 1946 – 1965. One way of addressing this shortage is better utilization of the mature worker, many who may not be ready for full retirement.

One way to use this excellent source of skilled labor is part time work or sharing a full time position between two or more part time mature workers. A church in Venice, Florida recently took this innovative step when they hired two pastors to fill what was initially publicized as a single full time senior pastor position.

The two pastors hired to fill the one position are Rev Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, who recently retired as the Global Moderator (senior executive) of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), and Rev. Vickie Miller, who worked part time as a transitional pastor at four congregations following a full time 30-year career as a Guidance Counselor for a post-high school Vocational Technical School.

I recently had this discussion with Nancy about Suncoast Cathedral MCC’s process of hiring two part time pastors to fill the one advertised full time position.

STAN: “Nancy, where are you in your life journey in terms of retiring from a full time position but not being ready to totally quit working?”

NANCY: At 67, after a very intense career as a fulltime MCC pastor and then as Moderator of MCC for 11 years, I feel like I still have energy, stamina, skills and experience. And, during the 11 years as Moderator, I missed the challenges and joys of growing an MCC church.

STAN: How was Suncoast Cathedral MCC approached with the idea of job sharing?

NANCY: Vickie and I first talked to denominational officials to see if it would be appropriate for us to approach the chair of the search committee. They gave us a green light, and Vickie had a brief conversation with the chair. We were then encouraged to apply together and make our case. We were considered, as a team, along with a number of individual applicants.

STAN: What were the initial concerns when this idea was first considered?

NANCY: For us, our concern was that “part-time” would be a myth. So we convenanted to really keep track of our hours, and budget our time really well. We often drive together (it is a 45 minute drive with no traffic), and that gives us time to debrief, collaborate, check in. Also, would we work together well, with this intensity? We thought we would. Would we be complementary as well?

From SunCoast’s perspective, would people try to “divide and conquer,” or try to pit us against each other? Would they not see us as equal because I was the global Moderator of MCC? Would people be intimidated by my prior position, and be reluctant to warm up to me as pastor?

Suncoast Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church of Venice, Florida is realizing many benefits of hiring two experienced ministers in a job sharing arrangement.

STAN: What are the advantages of Suncoast calling both you and Vickie into this role?

NANCY: I tend to be a longer term thinker, and have more experience in preaching and pastoring, including in larger churches. Vickie is a meticulous planner, loves designing worship and events. She loves working with teams, is a systems person.

We model team ministry, where it is not one person who has all the answers, or all the power, ideas or gifts. And I think we are a good reality check for each other. Both of us are devoted to what we do, and give our best. So far, no one has seriously attempted to triangulate with us.

I feel like Vickie has stepped up her preaching, and that has been very rich for us.

STAN: How have things worked out in the first few months of this co-pastoring position?

NANCY: Good so far – we are both there at Sundays, at board meetings, and one day a week we are both in the office, then each of us is there another day. . . we take turns with social and special events, occasionally both going. We are working slowly towards dividing up the work, and it seems pretty easy.
I do like preaching regularly, but not every week.

Our attendance has increased from 58 the last quarter, to averaging in the low 90’s since we got there – We are ready to break through this plateau. And financial giving has also improved.

The hardest thing was seeing how much neglect there had been, and dealing with some difficult building deferred maintenance issues right off the bat. Also, they have not dealt with a lot of losses and grief over the last several years, especially the death of their former pastor.

STAN: Anything else you would like to share?

NANCY: Vickie and I communicate well, we knew each other well before we started. We are really happy to both have a meaningful, pastoral position, and the ability to have time off every week to pursue other things. We also worked out the process, ahead of time, with the board, about what would happen if one of us resigned, or could not continue, so that it would be clear to everyone what would happen next. Finally we had to negotiate financially; it was a step up for them, as their fulltime salary was not really adequate for both of us. But, we were able to do that, and come to a satisfactory agreement.

STAN: Thank you Nancy! There are so many excellent points and tips that have come through in this interview that I decided to write part 2 – Five Tips and Best Practices for Engaging Senior Talent Through Job Sharing.

“Getting Up” from Considering and Attempting Suicide

10 years after attempting suicide, Lacie Childers is a newly pinned Registered Nurse and the happy mother of active 4-year-old Ian.

I thank Betsy Rhodes, the North Carolina Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (link) for suggesting this topic and providing Lacie’s story.

I continue my monthly blog series based on US Figure Skating’s popular “Get Up” campaign which shares the message that life, like the ice, is hard, and we can certainly fall on it. But the more times we get up and persevere, the stronger we become. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, my May installment focuses on the very serious issue of suicide.

There is such a stigma around suicide; that somehow people who contemplate ending their lives are seriously beyond repair and that this is something to be very deeply ashamed about and not discussed. However, continuing on the theme of “Getting Up;” with the appropriate assistance and resources, those who consider or attempt suicide can “Get Up” from this low to move on to healthy, productive, fulfilling lives.

Let me share one story from 25-year-old Lacie Childers from Forest City, NC. Lacie had struggled with mood disorder with frequent chronic thoughts of suicide since puberty. Then at the age of 15, things came to head in one day: someone made fun of her from having a speech impediment, she heard that her boyfriend was seeing someone else, and she failed a test. Fortunately, her suicide attempt that day was not successful.

It would have been be very easy for Lacie to just give up on life and continue falling into despair, but instead she “got up” from her situation to move ahead into a promising future. She recently graduated from nursing school and is a newly pinned RN, is the mother of a very active 4-year-old and is the Walk Chair for the Rutherford County “Out of Darkness” Walk.

Here are several helpful points that Lacie shares with others who may be having these same struggles:

• Lacie realizes that having a support team and a safety plan are her most critical tools. Her support team is aware of her stressors and triggers, and when they may be needed to help Lacie take precautions to keep her safe.

• That self-care is very important in “getting up” and that includes complying with medication and therapy regimens.

• That people do indeed have options when it comes to their care and that they can be their own strong advocates. For example, if you do not like your doctor or therapist, you can find a different one. Or you can reach out to a peer support specialist if you don’t feel you are getting the assistance you need.

• Having this mental illness in no way means that Lacie is inferior or incompetent, or that she cannot have an exciting fruitful career and life ahead. In fact, her own experience may even better prepare Lacie to provide the best nursing care for her future patients.

Thank you, Lacie, for “Getting Up” and sharing this inspiration!

And I would like to close this blog with four actions that my own church denomination (Metropolitan Community Churches) encourages during Mental Health Awareness Month:
1. Learn more about the facts of mental ill health and related issues.
2. Challenge our own and other’s negative attitudes and stigma.
3. Talk and reduce isolation.
4. Become more aware of local sources of help and support.

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Link to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for more info and resources.

Link to my skating blog page which contains links to my first four “get up” blogs.