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New ministry provides balm for pastors in transition

(April 14, 2002)

Glasgow, Mont.— A year and a half ago, Alan R. Pine experienced that awkward moment that many pastors endure. He had been associate pastor at a Wyoming church that finally completed a lengthy search for a senior pastor. With the senior pastor hired, Pine knew someone else would take his position and he and his family needed to move out of the parsonage.

Ready to help: Alan and Lori Pine oversee the Elijah’s Brook facilities in Montana.

Every day in the United States, an estimated 200 pastors of various denominations leave their congregations. Many transfer to other churches. But some step down without their next pastorate in place.

Some pastors in transition are finding their way to Elijah’s Brook, in St. Marie, Mont. It is a quiet retreat center where clergy can get alone with God and receive guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Pine, 49, director of Elijah’s Brook, says the center is a refuge of sorts. "This is a place where a pastor can wait and think and re-evaluate the call of God on his life," Pine says. "Over the years I’ve seen a lot of former pastors selling furniture or involved in carpentry. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I always wonder if they missed a link where they could have stayed in full-time ministry somehow."

There are retreats, conferences and seminars for pastors needing a break, but few extended-stay facilities, he says. There are excellent short-term programs such as Emerge Ministries in Akron, Ohio, for pastors to obtain in-house support and counseling, but ministers usually don’t stay beyond the treatment period.

Elijah’s Brook — named after the biblical site where the prophet was fed by ravens in the wilderness (1 Kings 17:4) — is for a variety of ministers: the one who has stayed too long at a church and grown stagnant; the burned out pastor; the minister who has been unexpectedly released from his or her duties; even the one who has experienced a failure of some kind and is seeking help.

The ministry is the brainchild of David Rogenes, in his 10th year as pastor of Glasgow Assembly of God. Glasgow, a town of 3,250, is 15 miles south of St. Marie, the site of an Air Force base closed in the 1970s. Hundreds of modern, well-built, inexpensive condominiums are available for purchase. Elijah’s Brook only has to pay around $200 a month (including utilities) for a three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot condo. Elijah’s Brook plans to purchase condos for up to 15 pastors, who can also bring their spouse and children. Living in the furnished facilities is free. The pastor only pays for phone calls and food. So far, Glasgow A/G, which has a Sunday morning attendance of 110, has provided the funding.

A goal of the Elijah’s Brook ministry is to raise sufficient funding to pay the out-of-work pastor $1,200 a month to help one of the half dozen Bible-believing churches in Glasgow with everything from door-to-door evangelism to children’s ministry. "They will work for Elijah’s Brook, but their boss will be, for instance, the Baptist pastor in town," says Rogenes, 46. "He can put them to work any way he sees fit for them to serve the community. That way they don’t lose their ministry focus."

Meanwhile, Pine will meet with them weekly for direction. Rogenes, who has a master’s degree in counseling, will do his share of guidance. With three-month renewal intervals, a qualifying resident can stay for up to a year.

"The ministry of so many pastors has stopped in these situations," Pine says. "In order to keep going they go into secular work and [stay] there. We want to keep them in full-time ministry."

— John W. Kennedy

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