[Note: I’m a big fan of professional coaches who help sort of work-related shifts and other quirky features of our vocations. This post was shaped by my own coach. So thank you JH.]
Anxiety is high for many of our pastors and many of our churches. We have pastors who are doing their best but what they learned in seminary isn’t working any more. We have congregations who wonder what happened to the full pews of years past.
The truth is that the rules have changed. And – in addition to anxiety – some of us are angry.
As for pastors, we learned in seminary how to exegete and interpret Scripture, how to visit the sick and bury the dead, how to officiate a meaningful wedding or baptism or communion service. We learned how to run a meeting. But now, ministry is less about management and more about leadership, and we don’t know how to lead in this ever-changing culture. We have no idea how to reach out to digital generations. We are blamed by our congregations for the low attendance and diminishing coffers. But we are doing the best we can . . . and if we could Just Hold On until retirement. . . Maybe it’s five years away or maybe it’s ten years away, but we need to keep our jobs. But we are tired.
As for congregations, we are dizzy from global changes. There are fruits we don’t recognize in the produce department of the grocery store, much less characters we don’t recognize on reality television. The world is spinning out of control according to news reports about Ebola and human trafficking and gun violence and chemical warfare. There are videos of beheadings, for Pete’s sake. So, with the world whirling around us, can’t we just sit in familiar pews, singing familiar hymns, praying familiar prayers and hear a comforting sermon? We thought we only had to be Good Church Members. Now we’re told we have to Disciples. What does that even mean? We’ve been in the church all our lives. And now we’re tired.
As JH pointed out, some of us react to these rule changes with anger – which is connected to grief. It’s simply where we are.
So, here’s my quandary: what do we do with both our tired pastors and tired congregations? They are good people for whom the rules have changed.
I have my thoughts, but would also appreciate yours:
- Let’s respect and love those who have served faithfully, working with them according to their generational proclivities.
- Let’s ask questions that point to our future: How can we retire well? What legacy do we want to leave for our church? What do we want for our congregation ten years from now?
- What are we willing to give up for the sake of the Gospel?
- What are we afraid of giving up?
- Where is the joy in our ministry right now (whether we are the pastor or the congregation)?
Yes, the rules have changed. And – honestly – I for one am not sorry about this. This is a great time to be The Church and a great time to serve The Church. But we need to learn some new ecclesiastical, cultural, and spiritual rules. It’s going to be okay.