Monday, December 15, 2008

Pastor Expectations

At times, I have felt swamped by the expectations of being a pastor. It seems like everywhere you go, there are different expectations, and everyone you talk to has different expectations.

I have experienced expectations all across the board. I understand from the Book of Discipline that there are certain things expected from ordained clergy. We have certain responsibilities
  • Preach the Word
  • Lead in worship
  • Read and teach the Scriptures
  • Engage the people in study and witness
  • Counsel persons with personal, ethical, or spiritual struggles
  • Perform the ecclesial acts of marriage and burial
  • Visit in the homes of the church/community (esp. the sick, aged, imprisoned, and others in need)
  • Maintain all confidences (as an aside, it's sad that we have to have this included)
  • Administer the sacraments of baptism & the Lord's Supper
  • Encourage the private & congregational use of the other means of grace
  • Be the administrative officer of the local church
  • Be the temporal affairs administrator of the church
  • Participate in denominational and conference programs & training
  • Lead the congregation in racial and ethnic inclusiveness
  • Be a servant leader (like Jesus)
  • Give diligent pastoral leadership in ordering the life of the congregation for discipleship in the world
  • Build the body of Christ as a caring and giving community, extending the ministry of Christ to the world
  • Participate in community, ecumenical, and inter-religious concerns & encourage the people to become so involved

Underlying all of this is the duty to engage and empower others to do so. The problem is that the expectation is often that the pastor does these things, so we don't have to. John Wesley, he of the lay-led class meetings, would spin in his grave to see this. I don't mean to point my finger at "lazy lay people" who just want the pastor to do all the stuff that (as Christians) they're supposed to be doing; much of this has come because churches have had power-hungry control freaks appointed instead of servant leaders. When we as clergy have to control everything in our congregations, we're not living out God's call at all. In fact, the last time I checked, God was the one who is in charge, not you, me or Rev. or Pastor X, Y, or Z.

(when I was appointed as pastor of the NK church and was leaving Stonybrook, people would "congratulate" me, saying, "Oh, you're getting your own church" as if I was getting a dog or a cat. I would always answer with the following: "No, it's God's church. I'm just being appointed as the pastor there.")

The last thing I want is for the church to be "my" church. Granted, I want to stay here for a long time, and I want to be able to see certain things change and grow (for example, I am hoping to help "order the life of the congregation for discipleship in the world"), and certainly some things will bear the stamp of my personality, but it's not about me. It's all about Jesus.

That reminds me of my purpose for writing this: the expectations of the pastor. I have some expectations, and it's sometimes hard to voice. Some of them are solid and healthy, but others are not. Some expectations help me to live a godlier life - like when I am around town and just living life and am tempted toward negative actions or reactions, I think, "I'm the pastor, and how's it going to look if the pastor is... ?"

There are others that aren't so healthy - they center on acting like other pastors and taking their mannerisms instead of being myself. I'm not talking about being unwilling to change or to be transformed - I'm always evolving into the person God wants me to be. Acting like someone else doesn't have anything to do with this. Especially when it comes to preaching. There are some really, really good communicators out there, from whom I have a lot to learn. There are some awesome message-writers who have written messages that I could appropriate ("resource" as one pastor I worked with liked to call preaching someone elses's sermon), and I can learn from them about how to craft a message, but it's important to me to be able to do this while maintaining integrity by being myself, all the while keeping the focus on God and on His purpose.

I think part of the problem of the expectations that people put on pastors is that many of us pastors (or maybe I'm only speaking for myself here) have huge expectations of ourselves.

1 comment:

Rudy said...

As for me... I expect you to be you. Yes, transformation should be the goal of all peoples in God's family. But God is in the business of changing people's character and not so much personality. God, I believe, has clearly placed Brian Vinson here at Millersport UMC. That means every bit of Brian Vinson should show up...and the team that comes with him! Expectations, whether or not they are clearly defined in english, are left to individuals to evaluate. However, we are not judged by those individuals who love to evaluate. We are judged by God alone. You be you. And I'll be me. We be we. He be He. hee, hee, hee!