Ministry in an Age of Incivility

Ministry in an Age of Incivility

One insight from participants in our Pastoral Excellence Program is that ministry is hard and getting harder. One particularly troublesome challenge clergy tell us they face is an increase in incivility, not only in the culture, but within the churches they serve.

 

Lloyd Rediger, in his book *Clergy Killers*, provides insights into some possible reasons for this outbreak of incivility:

 

*One*, the church does not lead society anymore, it mirrors it. Thus, with so much violence, abuse, incivility in society, it is to be expected in the church.

 

*Two*, there is a rising predisposition to demand comfort and security. With the church reflecting society, church members will get angry to the point of retribution when their comfort zone is violated. Ironically, this is inimical to spiritual growth in that growth requires challenge rather than coddling.

 

*Three*, church operations has taken on a business model. Rather than mission, the church is now run as a business, posits Rediger. Even though not trained for this, the minister is expected to function as a manager and keep the customers/stockholders happy.

 

Eugene Peterson identified this as “shopkeeper pastors”:

“The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns—how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.” [Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity]

 

*Four*, the role of the minister has lost respect. The minister’s role has become that of people pleaser and congregational chaplain rather than spiritual leader. As comfort has replaced spirituality, the expectations of the minister to provide for the needs of the people are unrealistic (18-29).

 

Yet, despite the difficulties clergy face daily they are a delightful group of people to work with, at least, those who exert agency and are eager to pursue opportunities for thriving in ministry. As a group they are optimistic in the face of their collective challenges, retain confidence in their calling, and are genuinely interested in the welfare of the Church and its members.

 

Finding ministry to be hard and just getting harder? Join other clergy learning how to do ministry better through our Pastoral Excellence Program.


Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.

His books on education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).

Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans and to its teaching and learning blogs.

 

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