A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ten Things I Know Now that I Wish I Knew When I Was a Young Pastor

1. The task of the pastor is not to impart her vision to the congregation, but to help the congregation catch a collective vision of what God desires.

2. Lead by example. Don't preach about servanthood and then treat the pastorate as a prestigious office. Help clean up after the fellowship dinner and park in a space farther away from the church entrance (Unless the pastor is physically impaired. Under no circumstances have a space close to the church designated for the pastor or any other office staff.) Find every way possible to serve in the mundane matters, and you will be fulfilling Jesus' words that the servants are the greatest in the Kingdom.

3. In dealing with a potentially confrontational situation with an individual, always have the discussion face-to-face. Use the telephone only when a direct meeting is impossible-- and, use email as a last resort... and always keep all copies of email exchanges.

4. When communicating it is always important to remember that it is not only what is said that is important, but how it is said. Pastor's should not be tone deaf to the moment, particularly when that moment is rather contentious. Reflect upon the substance of what you need to say, but do not forget to carefully choose the words you will use.

5. Pastors do not always have to give their opinions in meetings. If you have good lay leadership and can trust them, let them work through the issues. When pastors speak too quickly they can end the discussion, and the expression of more good ideas. There is a time for everything, says the wise sage of Ecclesiastes; so we should speak when necessary, but silence is also golden.

6. There is no room for an autocratic pastor in the church. Autocrats do not allow paid church staff and volunteers to utilize their full potential as disciples of Jesus Christ. When people are given a task, get out of their way, and be there only when you are truly needed. How will you know when you are needed? Your volunteers will let you know.

7. Make yourself available to be involved in people's lives, not in an intrusive way, but in a way that you will learn things about your congregation you never knew. Do your best not to turn down the invitations to lunch, or when someone wants to show you around his place of employment. Accept the invitation to be a guest at a community organization of which a parishioner is a member. Listen carefully as she shares her family history. When possible attend family weddings and special celebrations when you are invited. The pastor must be the kind of person who finds people to be interesting.

8. Don't be afraid to ask for commitment from the members. The philosophy of requiring little of church folk in the fear they will be scared away, has been shown to be false when one looks at the decline of mainline Protestantism. Most people want to be part of something exciting; they desire to be involved in a great adventure. There is no adventure that is more exciting than the gospel! Pastors need to avoid the temptation of asking for volunteers, when they should be calling for commitment.

9. Just because a parishioner disagrees with a pastor on something, does not mean that he or she is nonspiritual and lacking in commitment to Christ. Just as parishioners are not always right, so pastors get it wrong as well. The important thing in the midst of disagreement is to work through it in a healthy way and, then at some point make a decision on what must be done. The purpose of disagreement is to come to a better solution, not to keep anything from happening at all.

10. Never be afraid to publicly admit a mistake. Your humanity will shine forth and the respect others have for you will increase. Just make sure your disclosure does not become exposure!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Why is it that we only realize the beauty of humility at a later age? If we could only have that through out our life, it would make the world a better place.