Don’t Be A Boss, Be A Pastor

It is not unfair to say corporate culture has infiltrated how Pastors see the church.  In previous blogs I have talked about pastors seeing themselves as CEOs rather than shepherds. Today I want to talk about another symptom of the corporate culture.  Pastor, you are not a boss, you are a Pastor.

Recently I have had the opportunity to interact with and see pastors in their own elements. I have enjoyed watching Average Pastors operate in their own churches. I have also had the opportunity to talk to and visit pastors of larger churches.  But most importantly, I have the opportunity to talk to the staff in both contexts.  My conversations with both have revealed that in larger church contexts, staff pastors are often seen as employees. That is not surprising considering that most staff in larger context are full time and are paid to perform duties.  But this is not the case in the Average Church. Most staff are part time at best.  At my church, I was able to pay a small monthly amount to our staff.  Because I wasn’t paying them, I saw them differently. I saw them as servants, not employees.

Staff pastors are some of the unsung heroes of the Average Church.  They volunteer to serve because they love the church and want to be useful to God’s kingdom. There are little rewards with these jobs.  Since they are not full time they have to give of what is left from working their regular jobs. They don’t have time to sit around and plan ministry like full time staff.  Even if you can pay them some each week, they are still mostly operating as volunteer ministers.

So as an Average Pastor, how you lead your staff is important.  How you see them and what you expect of them matters.  If you have a full time staff, it is natural to see yourself as a boss who has employees.  In this context you have to make judgments about performance, value and production.  You have to make sure your staff justifies their salaries. But even in this context you have to admit that is a hard thing to do when it comes to ministry.  How do you judge value in ministry?  Salvations? Events? Attendance?  Its just not the same as the corporate world.

In the Average Church, that sort of evaluation is simply not appropriate.  These men and women are giving what is extra in their lives to the church. They have limited time, energy and resources to give to that ministry. If you treat them like an employee, you will lose them.  If you treat them as people who are there to do things for you, you will lose them. If you see them as problems to be fixed, you will lose them.  In short, in an Average Church, a Pastor is not a Boss.  He is a partner, a leader and a mentor. But not a boss.

I know that in the early years I fell into this trap with my staff.  I came from a church with a full time staff. I treated my staff as employees who I expected to produce.  I saw myself as a Boss who evaluated their production.  I even gave yearly performance reviews (Are you kidding me? I can’t believe I did that!).  Often saw my staff as employees who were there to do what I want. They ‘worked’ for me and I felt justified in trying to make them do what I wanted.

What a foolish mistake. These people give of themselves, not for me, but for Christ and his church. They are there to serve God, not my agenda.  Once I figured that out, I became their pastor who helped them find their calling rather than a Boss whom they worked for.  I got more joy out of seeing what they wanted to accomplish than seeing them execute what I wanted to accomplish.  That is a Pastor. A Pastor shapes people and helps them become something for God. A Boss only looks over the shoulder of those who work for them to make sure they are doing what they are told.  Don’t be a Boss, be a Pastor.

Your staff are a gift from God. Cherish them. Listen to them. Help them achieve their goals rather than using them to achieve yours.  Build them up by investing in them rather than tearing them down when they don’t measure up.  Be a Pastor, not a Boss.

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Reclaiming the Office of the Pastor: The Parish Priest

Pastor BannerIn a day and age where being a pastor is being equated with an organizational leader, the average pastor still fills traditional roles typically associated with being a pastor.   A few weeks back I received a phone call from a family I know from a previous pastoral position. They informed me that the father had passed and the 17 year old son asked if I could do the funeral.  I was happy to be there for the family.  When I arrived at the house, they introduced me by saying, “This is our pastor.” It was an honor to be called that but it wasn’t exactly true.  See, I hadn’t been officially their pastor in nearly a decade.  Yet, when they needed someone, they called me.  This family saw me as a their pastor whether they were members of our church or not.

In the past few weeks I have done a funeral and a wedding. In both cases, members of the family commented, “It is so nice to have someone do the service that knows the people they are doing the service for.”  I have wondered about their comments.  It can only be that Pastors today are so removed from their congregations that they don’t perform those functions anymore.  A pastor in a large church may have a staff pastor who does the weddings or funerals because the pastor is too busy.  This is one of the factors that has contributed to the Pastor-as-CEO phenomenon.  Pastors just do not perform historic pastoral functions anymore and the church members know it.

I once heard a pastor say that the role of Pastor is shifting from the hurts and needs of the congregation to the hurts and needs of community.  This statement resonated with me.  I have a congregation that I pastor. But I also have a community that I pastor as well.  Over the past six years I have been asked to do weddings, funerals, counseling, and visiting dying relatives by people who never set foot in the doors of my church.  Being an average pastor has given me the space to be available to people in our community.

Grantchester-Season2-early-iconThis model of being a pastor is reminisent of the English Parish Priest. This reality is depicted well in a PBS show I watched recently called Grantchester.  In the English church, a church was the center of community and the priest felt responsible for everyone in town, whether they attended or not.  In Granchester, Sydney the Priest, often had individuals come to them for their spiritual needs.   They didn’t show up on Sundays but that didn’t mean they didn’t see the pastor of Parish as their pastor.  The Parish pastor is a traditional pastoral paradigm that came from the idea of a Pastor as a Shepherd. The Shepherd takes care of a flock.  He doesn’t run the farm or the city.  He just looks after the sheep and helps whoever is in need.

This is the a paradigm that works  for many average pastors because pastors of larger congregations cannot logistically be available. As average pastors, we are more available to perform these historical functions for people in our church and our community.  I have been in the room of people who have died. I have performed marriages for people who had no other options. I have counseled  people who would never show up in my church but who trust me enough to bear their soul to me.   There are times I feel like there are more people who I pastor outside the walls of my church than inside.  This is one part of being an average pastor I love.

So next time you wish to have the perks of being a pastor of a larger church, remember that you have a ministry that many of those pastors are no able to have.  As an average pastor, you can pastor your community in a way that many pastors cannot.   It is needed in the body of Christ.  The average pastor throughout history has filled this role. It is what Pastors do. Embrace that calling.

Reclaiming the Office of The Pastor

Pastor Banner

What does a pastor look like to you? What images come to mind?

A few weeks ago I called a local business about an event we were doing.  The lady on the phone took my information down and asked me, “so are you the youth pastor?” I replied, “No ma’am, I am the pastor.”  She was surprised that I was THE pastor because she didn’t expect THE pastor to do such menial tasks as make phone calls.  In her mind, she thought surely I must have a secretary, assistant or another pastor who would be more suited to taking care of trivial issues.  Her response is not uncommon in my experience.  Others have responded to me in similar fashion.  This is the way people see pastors today. They have the image more like that of a CEO of an organization than an approachable person in the community.   But as an average pastor, we don’t always have the luxury of having people who take care of things for us. We have to do the little things to keep our churches going.

My experience on the phone that day, and other experiences like it, have caused me to wonder about how the role of the pastor has become more equated with the CEO than the person who cares for the affairs of the household of God.  The reality is that the phenomenon of the mega church and multi-level staff organizations have turned many pastors into CEOs.  Nearly all the pastor conferences are nothing more than leadership conferences that teach organizational leadership principles. Today’s pastors have people to do pastoral care, make business decisions, manage the staff and do all sorts of jobs that used to be the pastor’s responsibility. One of the fastest growing positions in the church is the Executive Pastor who runs the day to day operations and staff of the church.

The idea of a pastor being a CEO just isn’t the reality of my pastoral experience.  I have to participate in every level of ministry and church life.  Even though I have a staff, they are part time and aren’t always available to me to help with the day to day.  I make my own phone calls, do my own media, sometimes clean the church, run the errands, manage the calendar, preach the sermons, do pastoral care and do many other tasks that people today do not think a Pastor should do.  But, this is the reality for 80% of us that pastor an average church.  That is what average pastors do.pastors-office

I don’t want to be a CEO.  I want to be a pastor.  In the next few blogs I will look at a couple images the Bible gives for the pastor that have nothing to do with being a leader of an organization.  I believe it is time we take back the corporate images of the Pastor and reclaim the biblical model for pastoral ministry found in the images of the shepherd, the levite and the elder.  These images of being a pastor are not celebrated today as they were in years past, but they are still the dominant roles for pastors of average churches like ours.  I will share about each of these images and how they empower the average pastors to embrace our identity and reject the pull toward corporate church models.