|Appreciating the pastor as juggler|
|Written by Clark Cowden|
|Monday, 07 October 2013 21:35|
Peter Drucker, the business/management/leadership author, once said that the four hardest jobs in America are to be the president of the United States, the president of a university, the CEO of a hospital, and a pastor. There it is. Pastor. Possibly one of the hardest jobs a person can tackle, and probably with less appreciation than the other three.
When I was growing up, I used to admire people who knew how to juggle. I could juggle one ball (if you can call that juggling). I could juggle two balls for a few seconds. But, when I got to three, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. There is a car insurance commercial on TV that claims its customers have so much confidence that they want to juggle chainsaws. Now, that is scary!
One of the things that makes being a pastor such a hard job is the juggling act that it requires. Pastors have to juggle multiple expectations from different parishioners and many of them are unspoken or assumed.
Here are some examples:
In the 1950s, the model for pastors was to be a preacher and a teacher, and to provide pastoral care by visiting members in their homes. It was simple and straightforward. It wasn’t always easy, but it was simple. It was historical and traditional. Everybody knew what they were getting. Most people didn’t want anything else and there wasn’t pressure to be anything else. Then everything began to change.
In the 1960s, the model shifted to pastor as social activist. The country started to deal with civil rights and Vietnam. People went into the ministry to be social activists. Some churches asked for this and pushed their pastors in this direction.
In the 1970s, the model shifted to pastor as psychotherapist and counselor. Many thought that the way to really help people was to help them get in touch with their feelings, to deal with their repressed issues and guide them toward become health. Some churches wanted their pastors to become counselors.
In the 1980s, the model shifted to pastor as church growth expert. Many churches started to see their membership decline. Fewer visitors were showing up for worship, people were dropping out of church, and young people were losing interest in the institution. Churches hired pastors with the expectation that they could help the church grow.
In the 1990s, the model shifted to pastor as business CEO/fundraising expert. As membership continued to decline, the church needed more money. That’s the pastor’s job, right? We wanted someone to manage the institution. The list of expectations continued to grow.
In the 2000s, the model shifted again, this time to pastor as high tech computer guru and video hipster. People looked around at other churches that were growing and saw praise bands, screens, videos, savvy Internet entrepreneurs, and wondered how come our pastors didn’t know how to do that. Weren’t our pastors being taught these things in seminary?
Some churches expect pastors to do all of the above. This is pastor as Superman or Superwoman. Thus, what we end up with is the pastor as juggler. The pastor ends up trying to keep multiple balls in the air at the same time, hoping that she doesn’t drop one of them, because if she does, someone will say something, and may not forgive her for that. The pastor. One of the four hardest jobs in America. Jack of all trades. Master of none.
In addition to these shifting pastoral models, the culture has gone through a shift as well. We have seen the decline and the end of the Christendom church/culture model. The culture does not support the church and its beliefs and values the way it used to. Sometimes we think that technical changes can solve everything. They can’t. We have to make adaptive changes and culture changes that are long and hard. We are a fast food drive-through society, wanting things to change now, not realizing that the long, slow approach is often necessary. We need to be patient, but we are impatient. Some people believe that our pastor(s)/staff do the work for us, not taking responsibility for being the priesthood of all believers.
Many church members are passive/aggressive and conflict avoidant. They won’t tell their pastors when they are unhappy, but they will expect them to know their concerns anyway. Pastors hear from people who unhappy, but often not from those who are happy.
So, what can you do? You can examine your own expectations for your pastors to see if they are realistic and if there is actually enough time in a day to get them all done. Your session can be clear about what is expected and what is not expected to help prevent the pastor from “burning out.” You can ask your pastor how many nights a week they are out and encourage them to make sure they have enough time at home for their spouses and families. As Presbyterians, we give “lip service” to the priesthood of all believers, but we can live into this more, and realize that church leadership is a team effort, not a solo act. You can verbally express your appreciation to your pastor throughout the year and not assume that others are doing so.
Being a pastor is a tough job. It is one of the four hardest jobs in America. Pastors are jugglers, juggling lots of different unspoken assumptions and expectations at the same time. We live in a world of conditional love. But, if you express unconditional love for your pastor, your pastor will be energized and encouraged to do the very best that s/he can do for your church. A little bit of appreciation goes a long way.
Your pastor is a juggler. Let her know that she doesn’t have to be perfect. Let him know that it’s OK to drop a ball now and then. Your pastor will love you for it.
CLARK COWDEN is executive presbyter for the Presbytery of San Diego.