One of the most common reasons for pastoral leadership mistakes is blindness to the significance of church size. Size has an enormous impact on how a church functions. There is a â€œsize cultureâ€ that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do.
We tend to think of the chief differences between churches mainly in denominational or theological terms, but that underestimates the impact of size on how a church operates. The difference between how churches of 100 and 1,000 function may be much greater than the difference between a Presbyterian and a Baptist church of the same size. The staff person who goes from a church of 400 to a church of 2,000 is in many ways making a far greater change than if he or she moved from one denomination to another.
A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The difference in communication, community formation, and decision-making processes are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders.
What do you think?
How much ‘confidential’ church information do you share with you spouse?
You know… board meeting stuff… who says what… who you’re counseling and what the issues are.
Do you share stuff like that with your wife or not?
It seems that most of the time, there are two different types of people… those that share everything, and those that share nothing.
I’m one of the ‘I share almost everything’ types of guys. My wife is my confidant. She encourages me, and she talks me off the cliff at times.
But I couldn’t keep a sane head if I couldn’t confide in her.
Others I know are the opposite, and tell their wives next to nothing.
Megan Hill writes on this subject in a guest post at ChristianPost.com. She writes:
And that expectation gets imposed on the church.
But pastors and their wives often don’t see it like that. The reality is, the church is something altogether different than a doctor’s office. And your relationship with your pastor is not your relationship with a therapist.
The church is a body. An organic being in which each part is affected by the other.
And this is why pastors and their wives share with one another.
The problems and sins and needs that people bring to their pastor are not isolated letters to a remote advice columnist. (Nor are they unusual or inherently interesting, as some might suppose. We’ve all dealt with the same things. The root of murder is anger, says Jesus, and of adultery, lust.) Instead, the issues people have are part of their whole, eternal self. And their self is part of the body. And that body is the responsibility of the pastor, its under-shepherd.
Pastoring is a long-term commitment to a comprehensive relationship. A pastor tells his wife because what happens to the church happens to him. And what happens to him, happens to her. (That’s the way marriage works.)
Here’s the thing I wish people knew: when your pastor tells his wife something about you, it’s not really about you.
This is what I heard from the pastors’ wives I interviewed:
“If [my husband] is sad, I’ll notice. So he tells me.”
“If I could give any advice to a pastor, I would say keep sharing your heart with your wife. She loves you and is there for you. She does not need all the details, but she needs your heart and your vulnerability.”
“[My husband] is very open with his life. He tells me everything pertaining to his ministry. He tells me details of counseling sessions and personal information of those he ministers to and with. He processes through talking and he feels connected to me when he can share his life with me.”
“I need to be a listening ear. We have had situations where [my husband] felt betrayed in the church. . . I am glad he shared those things with me. It was hard to hear, but I am called to bear his burdens as he is mine.”
For pastors and their wives, it’s not about the secret information. It’s about the fact that having certain secrets can burden an individual and damage a marriage.
What do you think? How much do YOU share with your wife (spouse)? Are there things that you don’t tell her… EVER?
Do you think there are issues of confidentiality that are ever breached during a husband/wife discussion?
Leave a comment…
Elizabeth Esther writes:
I don’t trust pastors. I want to trust them â€“ but I’ve experienced so much church-related devastation that I doubt if I can ever again believe the best about their motives, preaching or how they conduct their lives.
My trust is utterly broken.
Still, the last thing I want to do is pass that disillusionment on to my children. I don’t want to cheat them of having a solid faith identity simply because Mommy can barely sit through a sermon without having a panic attack.
I know of families who drop their kids at church while they go have coffee or run errands. I can’t do that. Because while I believe that authentic faith is more about inner transformation and relationship than it is about how frequently you attend church when I did take a break from church, it just wasn’t ideal for my children. They missed me. They begged me to come back.
Going to church is something we’ve always done together as a family. Not only is it part of our faith practice, it’s also inextricably woven into our family identity. We go to church and then we go to lunch as a family. This is what we do.
When I took a break from church, it was a major departure from our established family tradition. It was like letting disillusionment win. I’ve since started going back to church with my family. It’s my way of saying yes. Yes, there are traumatic divisions within our faith, but if we can’t find a way to work through this, who will?
Yes, I am hurt and broken, but I still want to find the good and yes, I still believe the good exists. Of course, peaceful Sundays will never be easy for me. But maybe that’s the whole point of faith: It’s not all about me. My faith and the faith of my children won’t grow in isolation. We need each other.
Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Going to church with my family is how I remind myself: We belong to each other. Elizabeth Esther, a mother of five, writes a weekly OC Moms column about faith and motherhood.
(Via The OC Register)
How sad. But this story is repeated thousands and thousands of times be people that have felt burned by the church.
How would you respond to Elizabeth?
Here’s an interesting commentary… what do you think? Great idea, or horrible one?
Many church staff in congregations perform several ministry functions even though they are not officially a “pastor”. Special attention to church staff (youth directors, associate ministers, musicians, office assistants, interns, educators, etc…) and their work wellness. Appreciating their work is not enough (a raise wouldn’t hurt). Pastors and church leadership need give more time off in a world where church staff have to do “more with less”. Micromanaging, low pay, unreasonable expectations, many evening commitments, and poorly managed church conflict all lead to staff burnout. Giving the standard “two weeks” vacation is another sure-fire way to burnout staff.
Years ago, Google allowed their employees to spend up to 20% of their work time on side projects. What if churches let church staff blog, create, dream, build, write, or encourage creativity through side projects? Allowing church staff to express themselves through under utilized skills or talents may help a church find a new ministry. In addition, it allows the church staff to explore and create – something that is innate within humanity. Suppressing creativity only leads to frustration. Churches would be well advised to use a Google-like project to guard against burnout.
What do YOU think?
How do you help reduce burnout on your staff?
As a pastor, do you ever feel stereotyped? Mark D. Roberts shares nine different pastoral stereotypes that he’s identified over the years:
Perhaps the most obvious stereotype by which we are measured is the ideal pastor, the omniscient, omnipresent, omniloving clergyperson who lives only in fiction and in nostalgia. I am thinking, for example, of Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford Years Series. He is the sort of compassionate, always-present pastor that everyone wants to have, and that never can be found outside of Karon’s magical Mitford.
Many people think of churches as hospitals and pastors as doctors. Thus, they expect you to help them get better when they’re not feeling well spiritually. They may even be willing to “pay” for your services by chipping in financially. But they have no expectation that your job involves helping them to get into the “healing business” as lay ministers of Christ. The want expertise, delivered effectively, with an immediate result, but no ongoing obligation or relationship.
In today’s hyper-therapeutic culture, many people expect pastors to be therapists, albeit a less-expensive version. They want to tell you their troubles so that you can dig into their psyches and help them feel or function better. Many seminaries and denominations seem to have bought into this model, to an extent, by imbuing pastoral training with a substantial chunk of therapeutic learning experiences. For example, in my denomination, pastoral trainees are required to complete Clinical Pastoral Education, usually as hospital chaplains. They are not required to complete an internship in a business so as to learn how to be effective leaders or managers of the church.
You can read the other six here via Nine Stereotypes for Pastors
Have you ever been stereotyped as a pastor? Tell us about it in the comments section:
Christopher Keating is a PCUSA pastor who wrote this piece for a St. Louis newspaper. He writes about the most common things people tell him as a pastor. Take a look at the list and see if this rings true in your ministry:
I’m wondering… for those of you who have been in the ministry 10+ years… are these the questions people are asking now the most?
And how does this differ from the questions people were asking most 10 or 20 years ago?
What’s your insight?
“You’re a high-risk candidate for career burnout, warns the Mayo Clinic, if you are in a helping profession; identify so strongly with your work that you lack a reasonable balance between your work life and personal life; and try to be everything to everyone. Hmm … sounds a like lot pastoring.”
Pastor Keith Anderson shoots straight.
And he responds to pastors who complain that there are too many activities (particularly kids sporting events) being scheduled on Sunday mornings these days:
It’s a common complaint among clergy types, “Sunday morning sports is taking people away from worship!”
This lament and the exasperation that accompanies it goes deeper than just whether a family shows up on a particular Sunday. It is the lament of the loss of the privileged place that the Church—and clergy—once enjoyed in our culture. And in our lament we risk alienating the very young families we seek to engage.
The emergence of Sunday morning sports is just a symbol of a shift that’s happening in our society where the church is no longer accommodated or propped up by our culture.
Clergy lament this. It makes our jobs harder. But, if we are honest, there is something deeper: it is the resentment of the loss a privileged place of not only religious institutions, but Christian institutions, and not just Christian institutions, but Christian people, and the leaders of those people, the professional clergy, us. We are mourning our own diminishing cultural position and privilege. That’s what I hear just under the surface when clergy complain to each other about Sunday morning sports—its the loss of our place, our privilege, our position…
And, frankly, its a not a bad thing for the Church to stand on its own, apart from cultural props. I don’t want the Church to be dependent on the world to say that Church is important. I want us to say that this is important because of Jesus, the persuasiveness of the Gospel, for its own sake, on its own terms, not because my local Recreation Department says so.
Paul Tripp writes:
Let’s be honest, pastors. We are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. At times, we chafe against things that we think are beneath our pay grade. We are not always willing to do the dirty work of the ministry. I know I’m not always ready and willing. We are too oriented to reputation, position, and power. We desire to be recognized and to be prominent. We are not attracted to redemptive servitude. We want our ministries to be clean and comfortable. We tend to think of ourselves as more movers and shakers than servants. This doesn’t happen because you’re getting your identity as an ambassador. No, if you and I think any kingdom work is beneath us, we have become identity amnesiacs. And there is a short step between forgetting your assigned position and inserting yourself into God’s position.
The amazing example and commission of Christ should produce grief that leads to confession. We lose our way. We become more masters than servants. In our heart of hearts we know that we will never become what we have been called to become unless we’re rescued by the same grace we have been commissioned to proclaim and live before others. And we don’t have to fear that our silly, delusional, and unearned pride will cause the Father to turn his back on us. He knows who we are. He knows we don’t measure up. He knows we still fall short of his righteous requirement; that’s why he has given us the gift of his Son. We can run to him and admit to embarrassing self-glory and know he won’t embarrass us or slap us away, because our standing before him is not based on our performance but on the spotless performance of his Son.
So, with me right here, right now make the confession that you need to make. Cry for the help that you need. Your Savior is near, and he is both willing and able.
Brian Croft offers these three things that you really shouldn’t neglect as a pastor… but if you’re like most, you probably are more than you should:
1) Lack of sleep. As wise and discerning as many pastors are, it is amazing the amount of us who think we can function at a high level getting 1-2 hours of sleep less each night than we really need. There can be a sinful pride at work as we share “4-5 hours of sleep and I’m good.” All the while, we are grumpy by 6 pm, we are getting sick on a regular basis, and regularly give our families the leftovers in the evenings. Be honest about how much sleep you really need, then do what you must to get your rest. I need 8 hours a night. There, I’ll own it. How about you?
2) Lack of exercise. This becomes a most noticeable area of neglect when pastors gain a bunch of unnecessary weight. Yet, regular exercise is not solely for weight management. Exercise is one of the best natural relievers of stress that exists. It raises your energy level and is essential for your overall health. It is amazing how crummy anyone will feel (I know I would) if they ate whatever they desired and rarely exercised. Because of the level of stress in the typical pastor’s life, this becomes that much more of an essential aspect of the pastor’s life and harmful when neglected.
3) Lack of spiritual attention to his own’s soul. Pastors spend so much time having to study for that next sermon, or Bible study. There is that devotion you must write for the church newsletter, or an article for some journal. So much of our study and reading time is spent on the tasks of our calling. Obviously, sermon preparation and thinking through a theological implication for this counseling situation is spiritually fruitful and feeds our souls with the word.
Well… how are you doing?
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