How to Get Run Out of Town in 6 Easy Steps

10763_simpsons_angry_mobI’m a big fan of Bill Tenny-Brittian and the good people at Effective Church.  But I wonder how realistic this article is – as we are newly called in the 21st Century Church to spend most/much of our time reaching out beyond the hallowed walls of Church World.

On the one hand:  what would happen if you/your pastor . . .

  • Attended only one meeting per month?
  • Spent almost no time preparing the Sunday bulletin?
  • Kept no office hours except by appointment?
  • Delegated all pastoral calls to church members?
  • Trained and deployed church members to do hospital visits?
  • Spent less than two hours on sermon preparation/week (for churches with less than 150 members) and no more than five hours/week for larger congregations?

Yep, you/your pastor might be run out of town.

But on the other hand:  Ephesians 4 (the only Biblical job description for “pastor” meaning the person who shepherds a church) makes it clear that we are supposed to equip God’s saints for ministry and not do it all ourselves.  If we are not preparing others to make lead, care, visit, and even preach then we are not doing our jobs.

And yet, these are fighting words.  20th Century Pastors were all about meetings, bulletin prep, office hours, pastoral calling, hospital visitation, and – God-knows – sermon preparation.  This is What We Do.  People pay us to be the professional Christians, right?

Not in a 21st Century Church.  Not in a thriving congregation.  Not in a spiritual community with a deep sense of satisfaction and energy.

If we pastors devote less time to a 20th Century job description, we will be freed up to connect with people who are not already in our church community.  We will be freed up to be connectional, missional, and focused on our community in hopes of figuring out its greatest needs.

Many/most pastors today are:

  • still fulfilling those dated job descriptions
  • seminary-trained only to do 20th Century ministry
  • unprepared to be community leaders
  • untrained in change management

Believe me, people will want to run you out of town.  If  you propose Terry Brittian’s ideas for clergy time management and suggest the kind of changes he’s talking about, they will not be thrilled.

They have (often woefully) believed that change is about tweeting and singing U2 in worship. But the change that will create growth is actually about following Jesus in a new way, taking seriously our own baptism vows, and discerning our own calling.  Much more difficult.

I remember Easum and/or Bandy saying years ago that a pastor should never ever do hospital visits.   She/he should train parishioners to do them.  Honestly, I get this to a point. But I also know that Clinical Pastoral Education is the real thing and there’s a reason why we require it of seminarians.  I, myself have experienced spiritual mayhem when an unskilled person visited me in the hospital and made things worse.

So, I’m saying that Tenny-Brittian has some good points, but pastors have got to spend A Lot Of Time equipping their people to excel in ministry.  It doesn’t necessarily take a seminary degree to be a trained minister.  But it takes massive dedication, along with the spiritual gifts required to make the ministry about God.

And if we try to make changes without success, they will run us out of town.

Your thoughts?  Anybody ready to choose only one meeting/month?

Image from The Simpsons.

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13 responses to “How to Get Run Out of Town in 6 Easy Steps

  1. This is a fascinating/conversation evoking list… I wonder about hospital visits as spiritual transformation and not “just” hand holding…. I find that the hospital is a place where people ask some of their biggest questions, and where evangelism happens (in the true, best sense of that word) in significant ways to the unchurched who might be sister, brother, child, or friend of the patient or caregiver of the patient.

  2. Jan,
    I am working with Bill and his wife Kris (also a clergyperson), so I am well familiar with these proposals (and others that are equally alarming for those of us trained for the modern church). You are right–these are challenging and scary proposals. While it is true that trained pastors can sometimes provide pastoral care that others cannot (and can make a mess of), pastors can also make a mess of a situation. An MDiv does not necessarily make one a better or more sensitive pastoral visitor, and like the rest of world, we just have bad days sometimes. Training is a big plus, but that is why Bill doesn’t simply say “Stop!”, but “Stop AND equip others AND nurture them along AND hold them accountable.” Yes, it’s a lot of work, but I don’t see our current arrangement working very well–I know of no church that would do a little better if only its pastor would visit/attend meetings/etc. a bit more.

    As to meetings: while meetings can be a great way for church members to connect and for the pastor to have contact with parishioners, most meetings in my experience have little impact beyond that. And while connecting and contact are good things to happen, they are not the church’s calling.

    And what Bill is also getting at is that every time we stay in old patterns, we reinforce for parishioners that this is the way church is supposed to work.

    I also appreciate your point about being run out of town. That is a real risk and can and will have real life consequences for pastors who mess around in this arena. But if we don’t, I fear we begin to become like the parishioners who want the church to stay the same until they die.

    Transformation is a hard and difficult business. It means dying–literally dying–to self. I’ve never seen incremental transformation. You can get ready incrementally, you can prepare all you want, helping others understand what it at stake with as much sensitivity as you can muster is essential, but in the end I believe we must leap–out into the wild, scary unknown, trusting that God leaps with us and will enable us to land on the other side.

  3. Thanks Rev. Jan!

    You mentioned many pastors today are unprepared to be community leaders and untrained in change management. Do you have some suggestions as to how to grow in those areas?

    Thanks and Blessings!

  4. I love this post and have been considering a shift when it comes to meetings. We are establishing some new initiatives and it will simply not be possible for me or other staff to staff all of them.

    I agree with the article and the comment above that equipping people is a critical piece. I think equally critical is the communication around the issue. If we don’t tell the congregation that we’re equipping people to do these things, then all they will notice is that we are NOT doing them. Sending a layperson to the hospital instead of a pastor is fine (especially if it’s me. I suck at it.), but if the patient doesn’t understand why the pastor isn’t there, then we haven’t done our work in making that shift.

    I also think where we (pastors) have sometimes misstepped is communicating what the desired outcome looks like. “I don’t visit,” or “I don’t do meetings.” Neither one would inspire me very much. We need to tell people what we are doing instead and how that is impacting lives. I’m not talking about punching a clock and accounting for each minute. I am talking about sharing a story in worship about an experience we had while networking in the community. It’s an easy way to invite the congregation into the journey of changing the culture.

    When everything shut down in the ATL last winter, we stayed open and sheltered stranded travelers. Only about 8 of us were here, but we have told those stories so much that the entire congregation feels like they were part of that mission. We need to do the same when we are spending more time outside in the community than we are in the office.

  5. I think this is a compelling proposal. But why should pastors of small churches spend less time on their sermons? Do small churches not deserve good sermons as much as larger churches?

  6. Reblogged this on katyandtheword and commented:
    Thoughts of the changing pastoral role

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  9. Fascinating conversation. We have care teams as most churches do to assist with visitation, but still, we find most people ASK to be visited by the pastor, also. WE are a funny people, arn’t we?

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