Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Pastor Expectations: Episode V (What does a pastor look like?)

"Why, you don't look like a pastor!" I'm not sure how to take that. I think it's meant as a compliment, which means what? That pastors are supposed to conform to a certain look?

Perhaps if I looked a little more like this guy, I'd be all set. They would believe I'm a pastor then, wouldn't they? One of my colleagues (I'll call him PD because that's what I always call him) wears a clerical collar when he's out and about and always wears a robe when he's preaching - that way, he "looks like a pastor."

Another friend likens the pastor's wear a robe to a judge - nobody questions a judge who wears a robe in the courtroom, so why would anyone question a pastor wearing a robe in church? I think this is why I don't wear a robe, however. I don't want to be seen as a "judge" or as set apart from the congregation. Believe me, I'm set apart enough just by not being from here and by having the title "Pastor" - I don't need to do more by what I wear. In fact, I find that I am much more approachable than people seem to expect of their pastor.

Usually, it seems that people expect the pastor to be (or at least look) older than I am (or look). Our conference has a dearth of clergy under age 35 (and as of my birthday, I am no longer one of those pastors).

I'm not sure how to respond to the "you don't look old enough to be a pastor" comments. The responses that come to mind aren't usually very appropriate. And then there was the time when I was visiting with a family who had just lost a loved one, and one of the female family members said something along the lines of "you're too good looking to be a pastor." Yikes.

But to be honest, I think the perception is generally true. At least in the UMC, pastors are older than I am, and many, many of them aren't nearly in the same kind of shape as I am in. W-A-Y too many pastors tell bad jokes about putting an addition on 'the temple' or I'm in shape - round is a shape and so forth. If you've ever attended our Annual Conference gathering, there are several categories of minorities. There are racial minorities, there are the non-gray-haired minorities, and there are the skinny minorities. It's pretty obvious why our health care costs are skyrocketing.

I understand what causes many pastors to be out of shape - it's hard to set aside time to eat healthy and to exercise. We spend so much time sitting and driving, and we have a lot of duties to perform (and still preach an invigorating, original sermon each Sunday), so what gets cut? Often exercise. And we're stressed out most of the time, which isn't good on our physique either. And to top it all off, many of us don't have anyone keeping us accountable. But just because those reasons are there doesn't make us have to fall victim to them again and again.


the Sister said...

Too young to be a pastor? They should meet our new pastors, Pastor Wade and Pastor Heather, married couple who just finished seminary -- and who entered seminary straight out of college, unlike a lot of Lutheran seminarians these days who are going at it as a second career. Pastor Wade has to wear his collar to get people to believe he's older than, say, 12.

jason said...

you're too cute to be a pastor? i guess the same will go for me when i get to that stage.
i always enjoyed your presence with the youth. you connected better because you were closer to our age. but as you grow, so do responsibilities.
keep doing that thing you do, cause you do it so well

Mary Beth said...

I visited a parishioner in the hospital on a Saturday morning. I was on the way to go sailing with some friends and I was dressed accordingly. It's bad enough that I'm in my early 30's and look even younger than that, but add casual clothing and I thought I'd never get past the front desk to see the parishioner. (It was before visiting hours started). She wanted some ID showing that I was a pastor. Finally she let me in but it looked iffy there for a minute.

I've had lots of people my age tell me "If my pastor looked like you, I'd actually go to church." "Look like" meaning "look young," not "look attractive." I know the UMC is doing a lot to try to attract young people, but it just isn't happening. We'd have a lot more young families in the church, I think, if there were more young folks in the pulpit.

And about that being in shape thing...Our Annual Conference is held at a resort in St. Charles, IL. The "MegaCenter" where we have plenary and worship is at one end of the resort while the hotel rooms and restaurants are at the other end. It's probably a ten minute walk from one end to the other. The Conference arranges shuttles to go from one end to the other. Granted, those are necessary for people with mobility issues, but I guarantee it's not just those with mobility issues who are on the shuttles. Our Conference added fun runs and yoga in the mornings...there wasn't much participation. They keep yacking on and on about how our health insurance premiums are so high. They keep encouraging us to use nurse lines rather than going to the doctor. This year at Charge Conference we even signed a covenant between the pastor and PPRC that they were to hold me accountable for taking care of my physical health. But I think that's only scratching the surface.

net said...

Gosh. I don't get that. I just get "If only you would ACT like a male pastor ...".

I think I would settle for cute and young.

John B said...

I once had to shave off my beard before a surgery. A parishioner comment, "You finally look like a pastor." I couldn't help myself & replied, "It's always been one of my goals not to look like a pastor." He never came back to church after that.