Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sort of an Explanation

I'm really glad that my last entry, all of one line, evoked such a great response. I'm thankful for the feedback that people offered. Some got pretty passionate, which is always a good sign.

I attended a workshop a few years back when this quote was uttered. I certainly can't take responsibility for it. I've been pondering it ever since, questioning its truth, wondering how it applies to me.

The context of the quote was a discussion on "medium-sized" churches, or "pastor-sized" churches. For those unfamiliar with this term, a "pastor-sized" church is one where the pastor is the determinant of the congregation's rhythm, the central figure around which the rest of the church rotates. Contrast this with the "family-sized" church, where a few "power families" are the determinant, or a "program-sized" church where a ministry team is the determinant. The "pastor-sized" church is of a certain size (100-150 members or so) that it depends on the pastor for direction, motivation, initiative.

The danger for this pastor-sized church culture is that, in taking on each pastor's personality as it were (his/her strengths and weaknesses, emphases, passions, and yes, programming), is that there is the potential to hit Restart with every pastoral turnover. One pastor may be passionate about getting a senior high ministry off and running; the next may not want to come within 100 feet of anyone under the age of 35. And what happens in the meantime?

A lot of commenters mentioned "equipping the saints," which as I recall was part of this presentation. In fact, I believe that part of the context for the original statement had to do with whether a pastor can get others involved with his/her ministries and emphases; whether s/he is, as one commenter put it, only doing "his/her ministry" or whether s/he has equipped others to minister alongside him/her.

The other side, as several other commenters put it, is that programs (let's set aside the baggage with the term "program" for now) have a shelf life, and particular programs may come from the gifts of a particular pastor. Again, Pastor 1 may start a senior high ministry according to his/her gifts, while Pastor 2 has no business leading such a group.

Along with this, some simply don't want to be equipped. It's "the pastor's job," or everyone is too busy, or there's that special group of people who complain about how bad such-and-such is but strangely won't lift a finger to make things any better either. In some (many) "pastor-sized" churches, people are so used to the pastor taking initiative that they expect it...otherwise, some things might not happen.

This, I think, is the context of what some have identified as an inflammatory statement. I'm in agreement that "failed" is a little strong. It's also probably the crux of why this statement has been rattling in my brain for so long. But to finally read others respond to it, I have more perspective and more to chew on.

So thanks for that. It's not too late to weigh in if you'd like. Maybe with this entry, you even have more to work with.

1 comment:

RJ said...

Some programming always changes when a pastor leaves, yes? And there are lots of reasons. I have served 4 churches in the past 26 years and know that not all of my deepest work survives. And while I used to grieve that fact, now I give thanks for the commitments that continue: an integrated congregation in Cleveland, a wildly eclectic congregation in Tucson (with bold worship and a true commitment to the GLBT community)as well as a network of lay leadership that continues to go deeper. I guess your statement hit a nerve, yes? When we move on, we have to shake the dust off, too.