Pastor as Pinball

Pastor as Pinball

May 3, 2018—I remember a day when – as a parish pastor – I chose cover art for a worship bulletin, did Greek word studies for a sermon on the Gospel of Luke, visited a new mom in the hospital, testified as a character witness in a military trial, moderated a session meeting, and talked with a newly retired member about her suicidal thoughts.  I remember feeling like I was in a pinball machine with no time to process these experiences.

[Note: one of the added stresses was that I also couldn’t share with anyone what I had done that day – but self-care is the topic of another post on another day.]

This memorable day came to mind as I read this article by John Dickerson.  He writes about President Obama’s week before Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011:

The events that took place immediately before and after those secret bin Laden meetings included: an education-policy speech; meetings with leaders from Denmark, Brazil, and Panama; meetings to avoid a government shutdown; a fund-raising dinner; a budget speech; a prayer breakfast; immigration-reform meetings; the announcement of a new national-security team; planning for his reelection campaign; and a military intervention in Libya. On April 27, the day before Obama chaired his last National Security Council meeting on the bin Laden raid, his White House released his long-form birth certificate to answer persistent questions about his birthplace raised by the man who would be his successor.

In the two days before the raid itself, Obama flew to Alabama to visit tornado victims and to Florida to visit with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was recuperating from a gunshot wound. On Saturday, April 30, with the operation under way but its outcome uncertain, he attended the White House Correspondents’ dinner, where he had to entertain journalists with a comedy routine. In the joke-writing process, he had removed a quip about bin Laden. His aides were given no hint of why.

Dickerson mentions in this article that the President of the United States is expected to master pastoral skills.

Actual pastors are expected to be emotionally intelligent, theologically impressive, media savvy, administratively gifted life hackers.  Oh, and the pastor must be Christ-centered.  Of course.  And a good preacher.  Other helpful skills include: accounting, mechanical engineering, fundraising, and social work.

What actually happens is that the superbly gifted preacher might have weak bedside manner.  The mission leader might be an ineffective meeting facilitator. The deeply faithful shepherd might be a failed administrator.

Now more than ever, we need what Forbes Magazine calls “unbundling.”

We need leaders – in church and beyond – who know how to share power and break up hierarchies.  We need leaders who understand our limitations and welcome authentic partnerships.  We need leaders who are not threatened by the leadership of others.

No one person can excel in all the areas needed for excellent leadership.  But a good leader assembles a team that not only covers all the bases well but they work together for a common mission.

Pastor as Pinball is not a model for ministry.  We need time to process and pray and stare into space.

Jan Edmiston, PC(USA) GA Co-Moderator with T. Denise Anderson, is the associate executive presbyter for ministry in the Presbytery of Chicago, where she has served since 2011. Prior to that she served congregations in northern Virginia and New York. She completed her MDiv at Andover Newton Theological School and her DMin in Christian Spirituality at CTS in 2001. She has graciously agreed to let us repost some of her blog entries (including guest bloggers) from A Church for Starving Artists.

Original blog post appeared here.

Because most children’s and youth ministers work in the congregational setting as associates, they must understand staff relationships, staff functions, teamwork, personal professional skills, and relational intelligence in dealing with pastors, staff members, and congregational members. The Center for Lifelong Learning presents Thriving as a Church Ministry Staff Associate, an online course, June 4 – July 6, 2018. This five week online course will focus on the role and function of associate staff in the congregational context—ordained or lay, pastoral or program.

One thought on “Pastor as Pinball”

  1. John Stuart says:

    Be thankful you’re not a Church of Scotland parish minister – 5 funerals in one week, 15 hospital visits, 3 school assemblies, several church meetings, several housecalls and counseling sessions, a wedding, baptism, and a communion service…

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