Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Language of Ministry


I'm concerned about a colleague who is missing ques from his congregation.

He's got a vision of where the church should go and a plan for getting there.

Too bad the congregation cannot hear his vision. It's bad for the colleague who finds the congregation frustrating and confusing. He is critical of them and not happy. The congregation sees him as friendly one day and aloof the next day.

If he speaks to me about the situation, I suggest he pivot to another direction to share the vision. Push less and listen more, I suggest to him.

When I hear complaints about his ministry from his congregation, I remind them that he needs to hear from them about the issues. Talk to him, I suggest. He wants to do well in your church as much as you want the church to do well.

I think I know what is going on. The pastor wants to prove something. Maybe he wants to prove his competency or brilliance as a leader. He came with a mission. But did he listen to understand the congregation's understanding of mission? Does he know the language of this congregation or has he been busy teaching them his ideas?

Balance. Discernment. Listening. Trust. We need all of these gifts in ministry.

I can speak to this issue because years ago, I went to a family type church run by one family who called me only because no one else would go there as pastor. I saw the church as a great white field ready for harvest. I saw the growth potential and the mission possibilities. I saw a new heaven and a new earth.

Great for me! No one else wanted growth. Growth meant accommodating people outside the accepted "family" of the congregation. No one wanted mission. Mission would mean giving to others when the congregation's needs were greater than anyone else according to them.

I became frustrated. They became hateful. It was a PAR-TAY of bad communication.

I did not listen to them. They did not listen to me. I had too much energy for a maintenance congregation. They had too much unease with my gender to accept me. I was not blue collar in their eyes. It was a mess.

My colleague is in a similar situation without the class issues. He has cultural dis-connect with them as a non-Southerner. He doesn't listen. They can't hear him.

This is on my mind,

St.Casserole Photo from I Can Haz A Cheeseburger/lol cats

9 comments:

Joan Calvin said...

William Willimon writes a blog in his role as Bishop. http://willimon.blogspot.com/

His most recent calls churches that remain in their dysfunction disobedient. He calls for tough measures. I thought about giving it to my session and decided not to. They, too, are disobedient in that they do not want newcomers. But Willimon's views were, to me anyway, refreshing. He calls for intervention. Of course, bishops can do that. Without strong presbytery leadership (respected by churches and congregations), I don't think there is enough support for pastors who are called to transformation.

You are right about listening and building trust. But it was good for me to hear another side.

cheesehead said...

I am extremely lucky. I have friends both far and near who listen to my complaints, my fears, my hopes, and my visions.

The future of the Church still rests in God's hands, but having people listen is important.

Singing Owl said...

Ah, poor pastor. And poor them. If this goes south he will blame them, and they will blame him, most likely. I hope learning can happen.

mid-life rookie said...

It always helps to remember that no matter what the functionality or disfunctionality of a congregation, God was already there before we got there. When we go in with preconceived plans and notions, we sometimes forget to check and see what God has in mind.

Songbird said...

Joan Calvin makes a good point, if you serve in a denomination that looks up and out for guidance or authority. But the situation you describe sounds more like what we get in the UCC, where the local church is SO autonomous that no one can tell anyone anything. I'm sorry for your colleague and sorry that he can't hear what you are saying. Sometimes ministry is about taking the long view.

Jennifer said...

Sounds like you're being a good neighbor and colleague and a thoughtful listener.

1-4 Grace said...

It is so sad when both parties don't really get it and also means the system of finding pastors does nto always work as it is suppossed to.
Prayers for those concerned before wounds go deeper and damage goes too extensive to repair and mend.

Sue said...

I'm sad for both the pastor and the congregation. They both need to listen, listen, listen...

Deb said...

tough stuff...
What's ironic to me is all of the "mission and vision" blarkety-blark that I get in my classes, when most of us will end up in a small church for first call...

Opening doors and hearts is a hard task. For life, for churches, and, for me...
d