Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Your Pastor is Not...

This last Sunday, after worship but before I trucked out for an afternoon meeting with our auditor, I gathered with a group of folks from my congregation and did an hour or more of Holy and Hopeful conversation about the future of my church.

The topic:  what are they looking for in the person who will replace me.

It's a peculiar situation to be in for any pastor.  But as I'm convinced that my time of call to this ministry has ended, it's necessary to be doing some of the thinking and prayer and discernment work prior to my departure at the end of October.  And, strangely enough, it feels right...in a way that church hasn't for a while.  Folks were getting it done, and having fun, and bonding together as a community looking hopefully towards their future.  People who don't usually speak up felt empowered to speak, and had their suggestions affirmed.  It was a good, high energy hour.

The framing question for the conversation was: "Our pastor is..." and then folks completed the sentence, and discussed what that meant.   It was useful, both in terms of framing the expectations of the church community as they look hopefully towards the future, but also in terms of surfacing some of the ways those expectations might pose a stumbling block. 

Expectations can stand in tension with one another.  Yearning for a leader who is calm and tolerant and accepting of the character of a community stands in potential tension with the desire for a pastor who is a change agent working to "unblock" a community where it's just spinning in increasingly frustrated circles.    Looking for a pastor who is a competent, experienced manager of people stands in potential tension with the desire for a creative, passionate outpourer of Jesus-enthusiasm.

And expectations that are too high...well.  We know where that leads us.  I reminded the group of this repeatedly, as the list of superlatives and hopes stacked up high. 

But after that conversation, I found myself thinking not about what my successor will be, but what my successor will not be.  And should not be, because if they are, then they're not going to be fulfilling their calling.

For the next few posts, I think I'll explore some of the things that a pastor is not.  What isn't a pastor?

Any thoughts?