Friday, May 6, 2011

SETs and Calls and Stuff

The Pastor's SET (Self-Evaluation Tool) is supposed to be a way that Pastors describe their theology and practice and uses both short and longer answers to questions as well as other typical tools to define themselves.  There are those who would figure that I am about the most rigid Pastor in Synod when it comes to worship "style" and yet the two congregations I have served were no where near Lutheran practice and identity when I came there.  In one the Synod assigned me as candidate and I stayed nearly 13 years.  In the other, I arrived nearly 19 years ago and am still here.  Both congregations moved from a more non-specific worship "style" (one with a non-Lutheran Gospel song book in the pews instead of a Lutheran hymnal) to a rich and vibrant liturgical service and both were restored to the hymnal of our Synod (first TLH, then LW, then LSB).  Both moved from a twice a month or so Sacrament to a weekly Eucharist.  I chant, wear full eucharistic vestments, introduced the chalice, purchased an organ, etc. -- in both places.  In both places the congregations grew in numbers (more than doubling, or, in the later case tripling in size).  We expanded both buildings, started preschools, began food pantries, and made a name in the community where before we were rather invisible.  In both congregations support for missions (particularly Synod and District) went from zero to close to 10% of our income.  Both congregations were slowly introduced to Lutheran identity in worship but both have become fully identified with it.  The first congregation has resisted many attempts to move them from this liturgical expression of their confessional Lutheran identity.

Do I get many calls?  No.  Most of the calls I have gotten can be traced to someone who knows me or knew me.  Did the answers to the SET help or hurt in this?  I do not have a clue.  I do know that I have a reputation as an outspoken advocate of liturgical worship and confessional Lutheran identity and practice.  In fact, one brother suggested that my blogging might have pretty well killed any prospects for another call (as if there were any for a man less than a decade to the customary retirement age).  So I know that there are tradeoffs.  I am not rigid but am perceived to be.  I did not force a congregation to go anywhere or do anything.  I told them up front who I was, what I believed, and that if I accepted the call, this is the direction I would be leading.  I asked them what they thought of it.  Most did not have a clue what to think.  But I have been there for their crises, stood at their bedsides, knelt with them in prayer, baptized and confirmed their children, married family members, buried their loved ones, listened to them pour out their hearts, heard their confessions, and tried for work for their good (and not my own personal preference) along the way and they have learned to trust me -- even though my vision of Lutheranism was foreign to theirs and to their past experience.  Both congregations and, even I, flourished during our time together.

What is most damaging is when any Pastor has a clear personal agenda, imposes personal preference, and demands things before earning the trust of his people.  I have seen damage done by confessional guys who come in with a me or the highway sort of attitude and I have seen the same damage done by those who come from the very opposite perspective but expressing the same attitude.  In general, people want to trust and love their shepherds and, unless their past experience or their Pastor gives them reason why they should not, they will generally follow them anywhere (as long as they believe that their Pastor is working for their good).  Unfortunately, some DPs and some people reading SETs and some people listening to rumor do not ever give some Pastors a chance.


Anonymous said...


Pastor Jim Wagner said...

Pastor Peters -
I could have written what you wrote almost word for word. Having served this parish for almost 25 years, we have moved to full eucharistic services (LBW), vestments and (I pray) a confessional Lutheran identity.

I also think that a longer tenure than the normal 4-6 years is essential in building the kind of trust that is needed to lead a congregation beyond generic Protestantism - whether liberal or conservative.

Keep writing. Your blog is a lifeline to many of us out here in the American Protestant wilderness.

Anonymous said...

The most productive pastorates are
those of at least 10 to 15 years.
Frequent changes of pastors in a
parish are counter-productive. There
is no opportunity to build any type
of momentum in the areas of spiritual
and physical growth.

The Lord blesses the work of faithful
pastors who have a servant's heart
in their ministry. I came to a
mission congregation and stayed 35
years and the Lord blessed us in
every way possible.

Anonymous said...

Short pastorates of 3 to 5 years can
be a symptom of insecurity. So the
solution becomes church-hopping and
the pastor has one year of experience
repeated over and over again. He
simply recycles the same sermons from
parish to parish. Unfortunately the
DP's watch these pastors hop from
district to district and the parishes
are the losers in this game.

Anonymous said...

The Pastor's SET can be misused and
abused. The solution is to not fill
it out and let the Holy Spirit
direct your ministry. The church
worked just fine before the CEO
type of interviews based on the SET.
Interviews which are conducted on
the calling parish's turf in face
to face exchanges tend to be a
selling job on the part of both the
host parish and the potential new
pastor Prayer and God's Will are
usually absent from this process.