Friday, March 8, 2013

If wishers were horses, beggars would ride. . .

When the old Sears Christmas catalog came in the mail, this little bit of homespun wisdom would find its way into the ears of my brother and me.  If wishers were horses, beggars would ride...  So, it is with some fear and trepidation I pass this on from Terry Mattingly... but it is too good to pass up.

Clergy wish their parishioners would remember that:

* Offerings are not tips exchanged for entertaining sermons, “nor are you paying for services rendered. Your stewardship, bringing your tithes and offerings to the community in which you worship, is a spiritual practice that comes right out of scripture. … Failure to give appropriately is a spiritual problem.”

* Clergy struggle to work 60 hours or less each week. Even on Sundays, he noted, they’ve “been ‘on,’ like rock concert ‘on,’ all morning. I’m smiling and being social, but I’m actually fried. … You know that important thing you needed to tell me as you shook my hand and headed off to brunch? I forgot it, along with the important things eight other people told me. Sorry, I didn’t mean to, but you better write it down, send it in an email, or leave me a message for when I get back in the office.”

* Truth be told, clergy care more about “the regulars. I know I’m not supposed to, but I do. You know, the ones who show up in the pouring rain, there for every fundraiser and Bible study. When a perfect stranger shows up demanding the rites of the church and treating me like I’m an unfortunate prop in their personal movie, it’s a problem. … I’m having serious theological qualms about this, I’m just not telling you.”

* Clergy work for a bishop, a vestry [council, voters] or another source of authority, but they ultimately must be able to confess that, “I work for God.” Yes, it’s hard to please everyone, but an honest preacher also must be able to say, “If I stop challenging you, you’ll know that I am either exhausted or scared. Neither is good for you or the church you love.”

More than anything else, pastors seek simply to be compensated fairly, to have their families cared for even more than themselves (especially when disputes arise), to have folks who will warn them if they work too much, to have folks who will make sure they get their full vacation, to be given the opportunity of a face to face meeting when conflicts or hurts develop, and to be respected for who they are and what they do (not as demigods or as indentured servants).

Too often pastors fail to speak up for themselves.  I know that I have failed miserably in simply telling the people of my parish what I do.  Most of them have only the vaguest of ideas what I do outside of Sunday morning.  I sometimes tell the story of one of our members who grew up Baptist.  Her mother, still a Baptist, came with her to church one Sunday.  She found it incredible that I worked full time and did not have a job outside of my pastoral responsibilities.  "What on earth does he do all week?" she asked her daughter (now a Lutheran).  "Oh," she replied, "I don't know but I know he is real busy."  Perhaps if we gave our people a regular glimpse of an average week, they might have a greater appreciation for the office as well as its current occupant.

I have found most folks are kindly.  If they are not, it is often out of ignorance and not out of spitefulness.  They want to love their pastors and they want their pastors to love them.  There are a few alligators out there but most of our folks don't come even close to that characterization.  They are good people, often so consumed with the struggles of their own lives they do not think of what it is like to walk in the shoes of a pastor.  That is not their fault.  I don't fault them for that.  But perhaps I could help them discover a better sense of who a pastor is and what he does.  Maybe most of us pastors could improve on this aspect of our life together.  In the end it would be better for us all...


Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters wrote:

* Offerings are not tips exchanged for entertaining sermons, “nor are you paying for services rendered.

HA! LCMS churches that have adopted the Willow Creek and Saddleback models of church marketing should not be surprised. A significant number of LCMS pastors have conditioned us laymen to think that way.

Janis Williams said...

I cannot comment on this without becoming over emotional. It is absolutely correct.