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The damage of congregations ‘firing’ pastors

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I am about to share a rather provocative blog piece. I share it because I think it is important for all congregations to know this reality of the other side of a difficult parting with a pastor. Ministers don’t readily talk about the pain of this if they have experienced it (I have), partly because it just sounds like complaining and sour grapes after the fact. In sharing this, I am not directly accusing Nobleford CRC of doing this or being a “clergy killer” (language used in the linked article), but I also cannot pretend that what is described in the article has nothing to do with what transpired here. It is simply something I believe you should know.

A pastor serves a congregation. Congregations are filled with people who each have their own list of things they expect a pastor to be like and a pastor to do. Those will not be the same for any two people. That means a LOT of expectations are placed on that one pastor. Yet we all agree that the Pastor’s main “boss” is God. Few would object to that, I think. Problem is, if there are 300 people in the congregation they tend to act like 200 bosses (because maybe 100 don’t care too much either way) of the pastor. They do that because they forget the principled statement we all agree to, and/or they believe they themselves are speaking ‘for’ God. When that process goes sideways, goes off the rails, we get the trainwrecks and pain the article speaks of. Being let go from a church is very very personal and very very public, in a way that does not apply to any other job, career or calling I can think of. It involves a person’s spiritual, emotional, psychological, personal self, really all of the person, and so is a shock and hardship at all levels. The article speaks of various aspects of this.

The start of a solution is for church leaders, especially Elders – as support and accountability for the pastor – to learn to ‘see’ how people try to inappropriately make themselves ‘the boss’ of the pastor (Elders sometimes do it too) in a way that displaces what God is calling the Pastor to do. Having seen how this works, they can then help work counter to that sin. Those who are heavily invested in having power over what the Pastor does as a leader have very very subtle and sneaky and nasty ways of disrupting things, so it is not easy to spot.

Anyway, here is the article: http://wp.me/P3etrg-fY

 

Church size matters to the kind of pastor you need

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It is dangerous for any pastor or any congregation to think one size fits all when it comes to churches. There are of course many factors that affect ‘fit’ between a pastor and congregation, but today I want to explore just one with you, namely how the size of the congregation makes a huge difference in what skills a pastor needs to have.

Here is the page for this week: http://wp.me/P3etrg-fK

Life Together

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Life Together

I didn’t get around to creating a new post of my own this week, but did come across this one today by another CRC pastor that has relevance, so I am sharing it. You can see the whole post by clicking on the title above. But here are the best bits:

The Church is the community that births, nurtures and mentors believers towards mature, active faith. She is the womb of faith, mother of believers, Body of Jesus. She is living, organic – not some institution.

What’s Church all about?

  • We provide safe space for people beat up by life… or others.
  • We provide coaching and mentoring and teaching to counter the often deceptively harmful influences of the world, and to guide people in living authentic Jesus-following lives, growing in their relationship with him.
  • We foster relationships that encourage and support.
  • Together we serve in ways that as individuals we simply couldn’t accomplish.
  • And…..we WORSHIP.

We take time each week to stop whatever it is we’re doing and we deliberately focus our time and energy and passion on the Triune God that made us, rescued us, and now dwells within us… Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We worship, we live.
We share…..
Life together.

And so I’m wondering a little about…

Do we focus here on relationships instead of rules?
How about people before policy?
How about mentoring before membership?
How about hospitality before hierarchy?

Nothing New under the Sun

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As if to prove the truth of the observation of the author of Eccesiastes, at our last Transition Team meeting a document surfaced that was a report Rev Mel Poole gave to this Classis back in 2005 and 2006.

We briefly looked at it in the meeting and all took home copies. I believe it is helpful for all to be reading this. Even if only to have you understand that this Transition process is not about Classis punishing a church or about Pastor Pete being difficult, it is about addressing common factors that are well known to cause problems within congregations, and between congregations and pastors. In fact, if I was King for a day, I’d want all incoming members of council to memorize this material!

When the Transition Team report comes out, you will do well to look back at these pages. In a way it is both astonishing and comforting to realize that some of our struggles here are ‘normal’ dysfunctions. My hope is, again, that this recognition increases the desire to get healthier.

In this first page, he shares a bit of his history and background (click on the underlined text. That should open it. If you want to open it in a separate window, click on it with the right button and select “open in new tab”) and also some commonly encountered problem areas. They come down to two words: clarity of expectatons and accountability processes. Of the 9 he mentions, I have only begun to address small bits of ones I have found relevant for Nobleford, talking some about accountability and having clear mandates. I have done most work addressing “curtailing inappropriate critics and controllers” in educating council (Elders mainly) somewhat in how these manipulations work and the anxieties they are driven by. It will be up to you collectively to be determined to keep working at these.

In this page, he describes how the church is a system (a living body) and how all parts have a responsibility to help keep it healthy. You will see how the same two things recur again and again: job clarity and healthy feedback.

Next are two pages that seem to be taken from a larger report.

Page 1

Page 2

May you be edified and directed by what this experienced CRC ‘helping’ pastor notes.

Two of the interesting things I’ve read recently

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I have lately been taking up interest in some developments at the denominational level. I am working on a significant blog post related to the denominational picture more than to Nobleford, but it is not fully ready. I’m  not sure it every will be, actually.

Instead, for now, I’ll share a few things by others which I have read recently and which are pretty close to my own views. Transition Team members are especially likely to appreciate the applicability of the second one.

This first one you can skip the first four paragraphs about a particular dispute, and begin reading at the heading “What to make of little progress.” I do agree with him that the self-awareness he writes about is a big part of transformation.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/may-web-only/real-transformation-happens-when.html?start=3

This one is by a consultant who has worked with many many churches. He says the single common factor in churches that are dying is their inward focus. Here is his list of warning signs:

Warning Symptoms

  • There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.
  • Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.
  • Numbers of members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, and lay leaders in the church.
  • Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with anger and resistance.
  • The past becomes the hero.
  • Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.
  • Pastors and other leaders in the church become discouraged and withdraw from effective leadership.
  • If the churches are a part of a denomination or similar affiliation, meetings of those denominations mirror the churches in lost focus and divisiveness.

http://thomrainer.com/2014/05/31/common-factor-declining-churches/?fb_action_ids=10152407711820129&fb_action_types=og.likes

Happily, not all apply here! But the ones that do will likely sting a little. More hopefully, the prod will be seen as an opportunity to work more on transformation in the congregation!