Caring For Pastors-Part I
The Essential Work of Ministerial Directors
"Clarifying Role in Ministry"
by Ivan Williams
Understanding the complex role of contemporary pastors gives insight into the necessity for spiritual connection, emotional care, and physical awareness. This is essential and important to life balance in the professional journey of Adventist pastors. Lloyd Rediger sees role as all encompassing or engulfing. In fact, he sees the pastors role as the only profession whereby their professional, personal, and religious faith are all wrapped up in a single package.
In other words, there is no escaping who we are and what we do except through anonymity. People in other vocations can at least escape into their religious faith when the pressure is on. But pastors must face the pressure with their work and faith wrapped altogether. Their call to ministry will always precede their response in declaration to the call.
H. B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman, in their book Your Pastor Is an Endangered Species, describes this dilemma in everyday church life as the persistent struggle for pastors to find a meaningful existence amidst greater demands, low credibility, suspicious followers,and needy members. Adventist pastors are often tugged between the hierarchical organizations (conference) desire, their private personal convictions, unrealistic congregational expectations, community endeavors, and family needs.
Unrealistic expectations can be detrimental to pastors. Helping them with the sorting and clarifying these expectations will give them staying power. Unrealistic expectations generally cause diametrically opposing viewpoints that tend to create potentially fragile and volatile relationships between a minister and a congregation. The expectations between pastor and congregation vary. Essentially the problem revolves around what is expected of a pastor from the congregation, and what is expected of a congregation from a pastor. The pastor may be moving in the opposite direction of the congregation. They may have one idea, and the pastor another, and the conference authorities may have still another. The conflict over expectations centers around two needs.
On the one hand, Adventist pastors are in charge of themselves and desire to live out their own identities in ministry. On the other hand, pastors need some tangible evidence of progress, of movement, of success, regardless of how it is measured. And furthermore, pastors called by God into the ministry, should be responsible to God. Yet, pastors must also answer the question, does God speak through the congregation and through the denominational hierarchy?
Helping pastors clarify their professional role and helping them sort through unrealistic expectations is the essential work of ministerial directors.
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