Tuesday, April 6, 2010
On the whole I think it is a good thing when a congregation's lay leadership enters into a discussion of what the Office of Pastor is and what the Ministry of Word and Sacrament is about. I think it can be a positive thing when this discussion revolves around the specific authority and responsibilities of the Pastoral Office -- since this is so prone to distortion or misinformation. I welcome the opportunity to dialog with my lay leadership about what I have been called and installed here to do.
On the other hand, if this is a performance evaluation based upon goals and duties not specifically outlined in this call, I think this can be a prelude to great misunderstanding. The Pastor is not some CEO or COO who runs the corporate show and is accountable to the folks in the pew through their Board of Directors (both people and leaders acting as shareholders in this entity). The Pastor is not some hireling who is employed to boost sales, help promote market brand or market share. When we confuse the business model with the churchly nature of the Pastor's office and calling, we are destined for trouble. This is for sure.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am no advocate of some ivory tower understanding of the Pastor and his office and ministry. I spend a great deal of my time doing things that were never written into my call but were and are certainly part of the Pastoral calling (from seeing to the preparation of bulletins and newsletters to making decisions about the purchase of office supplies and equipment to unclogging a toilet in the preschool to stocking food shelves in the Food Pantry and a host of other things). These things I do for the congregation and because I am here and not because they were duties assigned to me. I would expect that any member or attender would feel this same sense of responsibility and duty to God's House and the work of His kingdom in this place. But don't evaluate me on these (unless my doing of these things keeps me from doing what I am called to do -- Word and Sacrament).
I have little sympathy or affection for those Pastors who remain aloof from their people and the work of the Church (especially when it is messy and thankless). It is by these things that Pastors gain credibility among their people -- the folks learn the character of the man who occupies the Office of Pastor by what he does outside the strictures of that Office. (And this is something that many in church work do not understand. They presume that the Office brings with it respect and authority and that these need not be earned by our labors in the trenches with and on behalf of God's people. The collar does not bring credibility or authority. It is what the man in the collar does -- from the sermon preached on Sunday morning to the hospital call on Thursday afternoon to the service planning on Monday morning to the catechism instruction on Wednesday night AND, yes, to the way you assist in, work with, and encourage those who do the grunt work that must be done.)
I say to Pastors -- "Do this without begrudging these non-called areas of labor." I say to congregations, "Appreciate all that your Pastors do -- including those things that do not belong to his calling or call." But I say to those doing evaluation or performance review, "Look at me as your Pastor, according to my call and the responsibilities of this Office, but not in terms of the other things I do that do not flow from my Office as Pastor or my call to this congregation."
If this evaluation leads to serious conversation about the Office and the duties of this Pastoral Office, then God bless it. If it is merely a business model seeking to review performance goals and objectives and reward success and punish failure, then forget it. If the lay leadership find areas that need improving in the work of a Pastor in fulfillment of His calling, the point is not compensation but how we can work together to assist the Pastor to better fulfill that calling among us. Where this partnership is displayed, there is no threat or challenge to the Pastor or to the Office of the Ministry. But where this performance review seeks to rate a Pastor as if he were an accountable employee, the Office and the man will be degraded and dissatisfaction will grow all around.