Friday, August 13, 2010

Lutheran Dogs and Cats

We have all heard about or taken those pet quizzes or read about the correlation between pet personalities and people.  I recall Lyle Schaller (or someone associated with him) using the various kinds of dogs and cats to describe congregational personalities.  If I remember correctly, one size congregation was like the dog whose life revolves around its master and this was the kind of congregation that many Pastors wanted -- one that would seek their approval and jump up and down in excitement when he showed up.

I am thinking today of how the people in the pews can be characterized by the personality attributes of our pets.  We have many in the pews who are like the family dog.  We have one of these critters in our house and he watches us constantly for a dangled hand that could turn into a pat or a scratch and he learns tricks because he wants to please. When he has needs, he tells you and you let him out to do his business.  Then he patiently waits at the door to be let back into the family quarters.  Dogs are great.  They are loyal, protective, dependent, and earnest.  They are generally happy and seek to get along and to do what needs to be done.  They take criticism to heart and one must be careful how you speak it.  They are social and crave social activity.  They are affectionate and crave affection.    I love um!

In our house there are two cats who co-exist in the space we call home.  They are as different from the dog who lives there as are those Lutheran cats who sit in the pews on Sunday morning.  They are independent, appear to be aloof or distant, and they treat much of what goes on as a distraction rather than something important or essential.  They are happiest when they are doing what they want to do and it is hard to get them to fall in line or join the herd.  They are very conscious of their self-interest and their needs are their highest priorities (and, as they expect, your highest priorities, too).  If they do not get what they want, they poop on the rug to let you know you have displeased them. They do not pay much attention to criticism and it does not matter how much you yell.  If you try to criticize them, they will run away and hide.  They are social only on their own terms and need social activity only rarely.  Even when they are with others, they appear to be somewhere else.  They are affectionate on their terms and do not need the attention of others except when they need to get something they want.  I love um, too (but in a different way)!

Unfortunately, we Pastors spend too much time trying to make dogs into cats and cats into dogs.  We complain that about the Lutherans who are too dependent upon us and we complain about the Lutherans who are too independent of us (and the Church).  What we need to do as Pastors is accept them for what they are and work with them that they may become the people God has called them to be.  Frankly, I prefer the cats at night because I don't have to get up and let them out.  During the day I like the attention the dog requires.  It is the same in the parish.  We Pastors appreciate the cats who live their lives somewhat distant from our attention and do not make great demands upon the Church but at other times, when we feel under-appreciated, we love the dogs who want to make sure we know we are wanted, needed, and loved.

Now some will inevitably say that Pastors can be described in the very same way.  True enough.  There are Pastors who are loyal and affectionate and those who appear to be aloof and act very independently.  Maybe this explains some of the strife in our Synod?  Cats and dogs fighting again...  Oh, well, save this direction for another post...

Now do not take offense about the labels cat or dog (Americans are very attached to them!) and I am not trying to focus specifically on them but on us Pastors and how we relate to the different personalities and people in the pews.  It does not do us much good to try to turn them into each other.  In the end, the Church needs them both... the key, perhaps, is trying to get both of them to focus on how best they can live out their Christian faith and life within the parameters of their different personalities (except where those personalities need and must change because of the faith).

It is the boomers as a group which has wanted to shaped the Church and the faith (cat like) but some studies suggest that those who follow them are a bit more loyal and more willing to be shaped by the Church and the faith.  Ah, the pendulum swings...  In either case, Pastors would do well to complain less and about the weaknesses and foibles of the folks in the pews and deal with them where they are at with the the only means of real change, the means of grace (the Word and Sacraments)... And perhaps the first Pastor who needs to hear these words is me... but maybe not the last...

1 comment:

Sue said...

Interesting analogy, and I get what you're saying. I happen to have a small plaque on my wall that says "Dogs have owners, cats have staff". Not sure how that fits into your premise, though. I happen to be "staff" to 2 beloved cats (indoor only, so I never have to let them in or out, thought Tiger has figured out to open the sliding screen on the patio door.