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By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

There are some professions that are more a calling than a job: The ministry certainly falls into that category.

It’s easy to see how such an all-encompassing job can consume the bearer’s identity. So what happens when it’s gone?

Bo Lane, a 32-year-old Keizer resident and self-described “busybody” who makes his living in photography, graphics and web design, traveled the pastoral path somewhat by accident. A lifelong involvement in church led to eight years in ministry, five of those full time.

The end of that career led to ExPastors.com, an online community he’s creating with five others who, like him, are no longer tending to flocks.

As Lane grew up, people would tell him from time to time that he should consider ministry.

“There were a lot of people who saw my passion to want to help,” Lane said. “… I would definitely say the encouragement was there and the nudge of individuals who directly influenced me was there as well.”

Eventually his pastor would ask him to take on his church’s youth ministry.

“I just kinda transitioned into that,” Lane said. “I don’t think there was ever a point where I said, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’ I just wanted to be somebody who made a difference. I never had that moment where I said this is exactly what I want to do and I want to pursue it.”

He became connected with an Assembly of God congregation in Iowa, and moved there with his wife to be the youth pastor. Two years after that, he joined another Assembly of God congregation as associate pastor, this time in Santa Rosa.

In Lane’s circumstances, it was a change in leadership that led to his exit: A senior pastor opted not to share his plans to leave until Lane had moved across the country with his wife, who was pregnant with their first child. He and the new senior pastor didn’t see eye-to-eye, and Lane’s son was born 10 weeks premature, making home life trying.

“I didn’t know what I was called to do or supposed to be doing,” Lane said. “It was basically putting out fires and not getting in people’s way. It was a confusing time for myself as an individual and in my position at the church.”

Changes in leadership at a church are often followed by exiting staff, Lane said.

“There’s an underlying rule that if he doesn’t click with the staff, then they’ll make the decision to part ways or he’ll ask them to leave,” Lane said.

And people leave the ministry for the same reasons they exit other careers: Burnout is one. Sometimes a pastor can feel their families are being affected negatively, for a variety of reasons. Poor decision-making is another.

“What stands pastors out from most of the rest is they’re directly involved with the emotional life and aspects of people’s everyday life,” Lane said. “So when you have an individual who is in some respects elevated … and on the side they’re doing some things that aren’t really good, moral things, they feel this immense amount of guilt or shame. They leave instead of getting the help they need, be it having an affair or committing other sins that disconnect them from not only God, but the people they’re working with … People find out, and it crushes them.”

Today Lane can say with confidence he made the best decision for his family.

ExPastors.com is an effort to reach out to a group who he said is underserved.

“In the church we refer to people who don’t go to church as lost people – I hate that term, but it became the coined term for people who don’t have a relationship with God,” Lane said. “We’ve gotten so used to reaching ‘lost’ individuals without realizing people who were involved and invested their whole lives, and no longer wanted to be part of it – they’re lost in a whole other way.

“They’ve been hurt by the church immensely and I don’t think we know how to process those people and get them feeling like they’re restored, not just in their relationship with God, but as an individual.”

Lane never felt his faith tested during his ordeal in California – many pastors leave the church because their own beliefs are strained, he said.

“We don’t hate God or hate the church, we’re just doing things differently,” Lane said. “We want to make sure those who have left the church don’t feel like they have to walk away from God altogether.”