The recent news that the SISD superintendent of schools is on the short list of a large school district in Wisconsin inspired me to express a long-standing concern about vocation. Some years ago in a conversation with a superintendent of my acquaintance, he shared with me his (and the apparent concept of many professionals) that he was obliged to always “move up” in his profession. As in, if an offer from a larger or more prestigious district came to him, it was his duty as a professional to move up, his present position notwithstanding.

I embrace an idealized, Lutheran Christian concept of vocation, serving others over self. So we talk admiringly of servant leaders. But that term rings hollow when self is put ahead of those one is serving. There is a joke among clergy: Papa gets a better call, he’s praying while Mama is already packing. She, or in today’s church, maybe he, knows, they are moving up. Clergy, like other professionals sometimes are as guilty of this misreading of vocation as are others.

I have a long-time friend who served a small inner city congregation in Tacoma for 40 years. He had several opportunities to “move up”, but stayed. He found so much joy and was so richly blessed personally and “professionally” that he is a living testimony to the sometimes’ wisdom of “staying put.”

Of course there are honorable ways to “move up.” Perhaps God’s call to a pastor or any professional may amount to a good move for all concerned. Unfortunately, however, with school superintendents in Texas, what I describe my acquaintance advocating seems to be all too common, often resulting in short tenures. And short tenures of superintendents cause interruptions and confusion. Teachers grow weary of “new programs” brought by a new leader when the previous leader’s new program has hardly had a chance to succeed.

And then there is the plague of misconduct that results in not only short tenures, but also being forced to pay a “professional” to go away. That’s another whole issue that we know all too well.

Whatever the SISD’s fate may be as the folks in Madison deliberate, I hope that the welfare and stability of SISD gets more than my friend’s “professional” treatment.

Luther Oelke is a retired Lutheran pastor living in Seguin.

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