Clergy Effectiveness not that simple

(As of now, the Judicial Council has ruled that removing the security of appointments was not in allignment with the spirit and rule of law.  This article was written a few weeks after General Conference.)

It has been several weeks now since the global body of our denomination has gathered.  This General Conference will probably go down in history as the conference of surprises and great disappointments. We wrestled, painfully, with the challenge of our diversity.  Some may have secretely wondered, have we bitten off more than we can chew by becoming a truly global church.  All growth leads to challenge and room-making.

Yet, the funding source of the denomination, the United States region, is battling a far more aggressive challenge than its diversity.  It is facing a drastic and frieghtening decline that will cause us to redo just about everything we’ve ever done.  In preparing for this enormous change one question, of many,  is “what role do clergy have in the denominational decline.”  Logically, the suggestion was that clergy must have more accountability in congregational vitality.  Clergy can not be appointed as an act of charity.  My concern, however, is that measuring clergy effectiveness can potentially be challenging for the following reasons.

1. No one who has served in this denomination is unfamiliar with the sense or at the very least the rumor that clergy have at times been appointed punitively.  Whether this is true or not, there is the fear among more than a few clergy that if they don’t function effectively, in one leader’s eyes, they could very well be booted out.

2. Some have seen the concern about the loss of guarantee appointments as a lack of faith, purpose and commitment to the denomination.  Yet, thousands of dollars have been spent t0 recieve an ordination parchment and in many cases an appointment that pays in some cases, almost the least then all those sitting under their voices on Sundays.  Loss of guaranteed appointments then can cause anxiety over potential hardships for clergy who are carrying almost six digits worth of student loan debt.

3. The task to turn around congregational apathy and resistance to techniques and adjustments required for vitality will often have the appearance of ineffectiveness as congregants line up their attacks against what appears to them to be a pastor who is heartless and destructive as she moves the congregation beyond their norms.  The letters, the tumultous meetings, the visible protest by folks leaving the congregation, serving in an environment that is clearly filled with dysfunction, anger and rebellion all have the appearance of pastoral ineffectiveness.  The truth is, many of our congregations are sadly unwilling to take the steps necessary to reach vitality.  Many congregations have a history of discord, abuse to pastors and pastoral families as well as a cold shoulder to visitors and those who might dare step into the infrastructure of the administrative life of the church.  The church can be a battleground that weighs heavily on the psyche, health and durability of the pastor.  Sometimes, in these settings, there will be months with no one joining, a few years without a significant worship attendance increase and a painful journey to any kind of breakthrough that promises new life.  Yet, the pastor’s greatest job might have been to get two warring fractions in the church to at least sit down and talk about their differences and moving to a new day.

4. An appointment that ends up being a poor match can ruin a stellar journey of a clergy person.  Sometimes pastors soar for years and then go to an appointment where they just can’t make a difference.  This does not always mean that the clergy person is ineffective.  There are often zillions of scenarios that give the clergy person a close resemblence of ineffectiveness.  Sometimes, after psychological damage sustained by going through a bad appointment, it is often hard to rediscover a momentum for effective service.

So, then, how do we assess Clergy Effectiveness?  I believe that evaluations have to be one clergy person at a time. Every clergy person has a unique set of goals in terms of effectiveness and development that may not match everyone else’s. That’s what a good system is.  No more the day of sink and swim for pastors.  No more the day of leaving them out there to figure it out for themselves.  The leaders of these remaining churches will need plenty of support, conversation, resourcing and encouragement as they do one of the hardest things perhaps anybody has ever had to do. That is, to lead a congregation through a cultural, global and religious rearranging of what is the norm.

Truthfully, I’m not sure that we, as a denomination will not be morphed into something unlike we’ve ever seen before.  I’m not sure, we’ll be able to remain as we once were.  Since 1968, we’ve been slowing down and running behind a world that is seemingly running away from us.

For these reasons, I feel clergy ineffectivess can be hard to gauge unless you look at the dysfunction that exhists within congregations.

With all of the anxious filled scenarious around us, I somehow have hope that God is not through with us yet and that God has been known to defy statistical forecasts.  May we never be enslaved to forecasts rather enslaved to the One who sends us, regardless of what “might” be.


~ by bkevinsmalls on September 13, 2012.

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