Do Job Titles Matter?

The Priest Mario Ortiz Martinez 2008

Quick answer:  Yes.

We professional ministers call ourselves Priests, Pastors, Preachers, and the ever popular Teaching Elders.   I also have friends who are called Conveners, Abbesses, and Vicars.  It’s possible that all these folks do essentially the same work.  So why different job titles?

Sometimes new worshiping communities choose a unique title for the leader because  traditional names carry baggage that turn people off.  And sometimes we are trying to be playful.

I know churches that seek out fun names to give the mundane some zip.  Coffee Hour Hosts become Ministers of Baked Goods.  Youth Leaders become Basic Trainers.

In denominational middle judicatories (I can almost see your eyes glaze over now) the leader used to be called General Presbyter or Executive Presbyter.  Today they might be called Congregational Consultants or Ministry Coordinators or Missional Presbyters or Pastor to Pastors.  Does this matter?  Possibly.

Sometimes we change job titles to clarify duties and vision.  Sometimes we do it to convey that things are fresh and new (whether they are or not.)

Today garbage collectors are called Recycling Operatives and school cafeteria workers are called Nourishment Consultants.  But I believe what we are called professionally makes a difference.  Sometimes it identifies our duties.  Sometimes it makes us feel important.  Sometimes it reflects a paradigm shift (hello Missional Consultant.)  Or a job title can have little bearing on what we really do.

In these days, it seems best to use job titles that are easily understandable for the least churchiest among us.  Most people don’t know what a “Commissioned Ruling Elder” is.  And as cool as it might sound “Kinetic Connector” is confusing for everybody.

I was once in a coffee shop wearing a collar after a morning funeral and someone approached me and said, “Are you like a priest?”  “Yes,” I said, “I am like a priest.” And that was enough for him to join me for a chat.  Clear and easy.

Image source.

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One response to “Do Job Titles Matter?

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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