I’m not sure if most think like I do—probably not. Ask Courtney and you’ll know that I’m a bit neurotic. In a few weeks we will hit the 10-year mark since graduating from seminary the first time. Ten years. That’s shocking to me. I’m just a few months from ten full years in pastoral ministry. Honestly, that isn’t much time. I have many more years to potentially flame out, but I pray that I don’t (and would ask you to do the same).
So, in celebration of (almost) ten years, I decided to blog on the dumb things that cross my mind while working at a church. Consider it one part humor and one part personal confession. I doubt most people think like I do, but here are a few things that still cross my mind ten years late.
You know how it goes, right? You track down how a decision will likely go and then you realize just where you’ll end up. You’d like to back your way out of it but you know you can’t—people are gonna get annoyed, perhaps even angry. “Crap.”
You do the math—”If X families get annoyed, or a little miffed, what are the consequences?” You wonder if you can stomach it. You wonder what you’ve missed. Then you go, “No, no, no. I can’t live based on how I think people might respond.” But then you go, “Sure I can.” You go back and forth and, in general, cooler heads prevail, but you’re still left with a realization that you can’t please everyone. I, for one, hate it. I’ve never gotten used to it.
Ten years in I realize people come, people go, some love the church, some like the church, some are hurt by the church, some start loving the church again, etc. I wish I could make everyone love it, but I can’t. I’ve had a lot of “Oh crap” moments thus far—and there will be more to go. Buckle up, Genesis. 🙂
What Do They Want?
“Can we meet?” is the pastoral kiss of death—at least that’s what my flesh would tell me. You’re having a great week and then someone asks to meet. They don’t qualify it, you just get a text or an email asking if you’re free. You run through your sermon. Did you say something off? Was that person there Sunday? Maybe you made a bad joke (which, if you’re me, has a 100% chance of happening 52 times a year). No, the sermon was solid—or so you recall. Ok, what other things did you think or say or do in the past week or two that would lead to this?
Shoot. You don’t know what motivated the request.
If you’re like me you might even start to go (as I have done) to friends and be like, “Can you name ANY reason why this person would want to meet?” You’re looking for something—anything—to reduce the ambiguity of the request. You need context for it.
“That’s stupid,” you readers might think. I’m not saying it isn’t stupid. In fact, the whole blog post is about dumb things I think as a pastor. However, here’s what I’ve learned (and if it has helped me, maybe it’ll help you): you just need to be straight up.
“Would love to meet, but can you give me some context to what you want to meet about so that I can be prepared?”
I think that’s a fair question, and it gets me thinking about dumb things less often. When I schedule doctor or dentist visits for the kids, there’s a general sense that I need to see them for a reason. They may still say “What brought you in today?” but they know that if I’m there we’re going to talk about something. Sometimes people just want to meet. Great. Just let me know. That helps me . . . might help you.
I try and do the same things when I meet with folks. “Hey, I’d like to meet about X. You have any time?” I don’t want to leave people guessing. An added benefit (at least for me), I can pray about whatever it is we are discussing. However, I can still default to the “What do they want?” mentality more often than I wish.
They Make Money, I Hope They Stay.
I really don’t think this one that often, but it can sneak in. Want to know a terrible way to lead? Think about how your decisions affect people with money—think about the way your church attracts or (gasp!) doesn’t attract people who can help you pay down your debt, pay your salary, or help you meet the budget.
James 2 (something we are currently memorizing as a family) talks about this type of favoritism. It is 100% ungodly and rather useless in God’s economy. You don’t decide things based on people’s financial status, but I know enough pastors (and, worse, I know myself) well enough to know this is something that crosses our minds.
You know what’s funny? Ten years in and I might feel some of these things and think some of these things more than I did ten years ago. The pull is strong.
However, another area that I’ve grown in over that time: recognizing and enjoying God’s grace. Grace for a fundamentally flawed pastor.