A Letter to Pastor Appreciation Month (written in October of 2010)

Happy Pastor’s Appreciation Month!!!

I was appointed to my first charge at 23 years old.  That is about as young adult as you can get.  Now that I am 18 years away from that age I’ve begun to enjoy the perks of being a “seasoned” clergy person.  Actually, I’m kind of in between.  I am young enough to still need advice every now and then and old enough to be highly respected by those joining our ranks.

Yet, as one who was not long ago in your club, I write to remind you how valuable you are to the entire church.  You are inheriting a deonmination that is in decline and is finding itself  more and more set aside and overlooked by society. As a result,  it is now in panic mode as it realizes it is no longer the big kid on the block.  You will soon be, if not already, bum rushed with a demand for reports indicating your numbers, goals and visions to turn this sinking ship around (a metaphor that I have heard being thrown around from time to time to describe our condition).

 

You will leave seminary with loads of ideas, possibilities, innovation and vision only to end up in congregations that will deplete your joy, enthusiasm and energy while bringing new and fresh approaches to congregational and evangelistic dynamics.  You will become surrounded by lay people who are deeply loyal to the way their church has been, rendering you as nothing more than one who maintains the religious fantasies of those who call themselves disciples.

Your path is difficult and hard.  On top of all of this, you have to deal with your own humanity, struggles and trials.  People won’t realize how difficult it is to date, manage limited resources for enormous debt (often incurred by student lonas), navigate marital terrain and raise kids many times they getting the least of your energy and availability.  You will be looked upon by older colleagues, who don’t mean any harm, but who will consider you to be children, just beginning to  learn the ropes in the life of ordination.

Yes, I worry about some of you.  Some of you have already decided that this is not a place for you.  Some of you are deeply sad, bewildered and worried about pleasing congregants, church superiors and family and because pleasing folks are a never ending, never succeeding engagement, you often feel like a failure.  This is why I want to write you.  I want to remind you of the good news and to encourage you to burst out of your closets of fear.  You have the answers to our denominational and ecclesiastical impasse.  You are the presenters of scriptural holiness to a new people who have gathered on a large frontier of faith.  Here we go.

1. You are not called by accident.  You are called to serve for such a time is this.  Serve on purpose and don’t ever desert your vision, ideas and possibilities because of the inability of others to catch on.

2. You have a right to a personal life with personal challenges as does anyone else.  So what you had a fight with a spouse,so  what you don’t have enough money for gas to get to the meetnig across town, so what you went out on a date, so what you had to defend a traffic ticket in court and so what your son got sent to the principal’s office and your daughter was in a scuffle after school.  So what!!  Learn to be human without apology it will make you much healthier along the way!

3. Always love the people to whom you are assigned.  Some of them are cranky and grouchy.  Some of them have had a hard life and a great deal of pain.  For some of them, church is the only place they can throw their weight around.  Look beyond those built up walls and be their pastor.  They may not appreciate you during your current ministry, but upon your departure they will be assured that they had a great pastor!

4. Be wise and smart. Always remember that personal life has to be managed, every day.  Pastoral effectiveness has to be worked upon every day.  If you need a break, or room to regroup, find a way to get it.  You have to listen to you.  Please, don’t every compare yourself to what you think you see in other colleagues.  Do you!

5. Have fun!

6. Start over, when necessary!

7.  Never get too “relevant” that you ignore the primary and  basic functions of the pastoral life which is visiting from house to house, preaching the gospel without hinderance, and serving deligenetly (even when you are worn out).

8.  Don’t worry about not having visible growth measurements.  Sometimes the biggest achievement you’ll make is getting two sides of a church division to gather around a table and reconsider their views.  Pastoral achievement has at its best unspoken achievements that just don’t fit in stat reports.

9.  Remember you are a PREACHER and you must preach the truth at all costs.  Don’t be afraid to offend.  Telling a greedy government, for example to care for the poor will offend many.  Preach it anway.

Lastly, know that you are deeply loved by God even if we can’t always mirror that.  We are all hurting, truth be told.  Somewhere, in our pschye is a lingering pain that we, like the wounded healer, over look day after day.  Know that God sees it and in time you will name it, release it and be free!

10.  Lastly, remember ministry should never be a rat race to titles, prestige and positions.  Whether you become a Bishop, DS, Conference staff person, general church leader, your ordination is your home and your ministry is still one of preaching, sacrament and service!  Executive traits are great but executives alone can never grow a church.  After all, how can they hear without a preacher, and how can they preach unless they’ve been sent…do it up!!!

I love ya’ and am honored to call you brother and sister….

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~ by bkevinsmalls on June 20, 2012.

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