Parable of the school board president and the pastor

Andrew Taylor-Troutman shares a lesson he learned from a local school board president.

Photo by xandreaswork on Unsplash

“So that she may not wear me out by continually coming …” (Luke 18:5).

The school board president of my children’s school organized a recruitment effort for certain committees that were underserved — like finance. She set up a tent in front of the school and bought doughnuts. I was one of the caregivers who made a wide arc around her table when walking my kids to the building, but I couldn’t help but return her wide smile.

That afternoon, she was back at the tent. Only this time, she carried the doughnuts down the carpool line. I saw her coming, but it was not as though I could roll up my window!

“Hi!” she smiled. “I know who you are! Pastor of that church down the street, right?”

I nodded, sitting up straighter in my seat.

“Well, I’ve heard such great things about your church! You know, I’d love to come one Sunday and,” she paused dramatically, “bring my children, too!”

This is how I came to be on the finance committee at my children’s school.

Jesus did not tell parables to shame people. Shame has no place in anything that is life-giving. The parable of the widow and the unjust judge, who breaks down and gives in to this woman because of her badgering, was meant to convey “(our) need to pray always and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1). To remain hopeful.

The church down the street, which the board president mentioned, is doing well. And it is also true that we do not suffer from an abundance of volunteers. I think it’s true for most congregations, as well as nonprofits, that people have not come back to participating at the pre-pandemic levels. There are many reasons for this…

But what are we going to do about it? We have hope, and we need to put that hope into practice.

The NRSV’s translation of the widow’s action toward the judge is rather tame — “she may not wear me out.” The Greek verb literally means “strike under the eye.” I am not suggesting that pastors and lay leaders throw haymakers at parishioners to goad them into service. But repeated asks and personal touches do make a difference.

And doughnuts probably don’t hurt either.

What I appreciate the most about a certain board president is that she believes in her organization enough to use her effort and wit to encourage others to participate. And here’s the wildest thing — I’ve been to two committee meetings so far, and I’m looking forward to the next one.