Blog Archives

What Pastors Don’t Like About Pastoring

Thom Rainer lists a Top 10 of things ministers don’t like about the ministry. It’s only an informal list, not based on a serious, properly researched survey. Ministers will have different perceptions. For example, I love doing weddings (#9 on Rainer’s list) and I also consider it a great privilege to conduct the funerals of non-Christians (#2), because there is a gospel opportunity to show the love and compassion of Christ. But budgets (#10) and business meetings (#1) – oh yes, I’m there every inch of the way.

What do you think of the list? What would you add to it, or remove from it?

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A Pastor’s True Vocation …

… is to be a fashion consultant. Welcome to the wild and wacky world of Pastor Ed Young Junior‘s Pastor Fashion. Oh yes. The man who brought you the book Sexperiment now tells you all you want to know about skinny jeans and testosterone. Is there a connection?

I just missed these classes at theological college. I took the trivial stuff like biblical studies, doctrine, church history, pastoral theology and missiology. Eugene Peterson, you got it so wrong.

Meanwhile, Erwin McManus launches a fashion range, but he seems to be doing it for more arty reasons. Apparently, he says,

This is an incarnation into the world of art, story, and creativity.

At least if you read the whole of this interview with him, one of his motivations is job creation.

“Can I Speak The Truth In Love, Brother?”

Brady Boyd on ‘Five Conversation Starters Every Pastor Dreads‘.

Do any of these strike you? Do you have any other – ahem – ‘favourites’?

Organise Your Church On Purpose And Giftedness

So says Rick Warren. OK, you’d expect Warren to use the word ‘purpose’, but the thrust of the article is the benefits of structuring a church around people’s gifts, rather than in trying to fit them into a predetermined structure. Makes sense to me. But it means there are some powerful institutional forces we need to resist in our denominations.

Seven Things Pastors Should Never Say

What do you think of this list? Would you add anything or change anything?

Hope For ‘Failing’ Pastors

All sorts of jobs have particular pressures today. My work as a minister certainly has. There is all sorts of pressure against whatever might be regarded as failure:

* In the light of numerical church decline, many churches are looking for a hero to ride over the horizon and come to their rescue. I have seen Methodist profiles where circuits explicitly seek a minister ‘with a proven record of church growth’.

* In a culture where we are increasingly regarded as employees in principle, even if not (yet?) legally – appraisals and reviews, ‘letters of understanding’ about new appointments – people think they can have their say, and if they don’t think ministers are meeting their expectations – whether they are reasonable or not – they turn the screw.

* It is seen in other professions. Politicians think they can harvest extra votes by more quickly dismissing ‘failing’ teachers.

* Alongside the above reasons, there are cases where a minister has behaved in a manner unbecoming of their calling, and the church authorities have glossed it over.

* The opposite has happened: a congregation has been allowed to get away with bullying its minister, and the church hierarchy has been more interested in preserving a fictional facade of niceness that a wounded minister limps off elsewhere, or maybe is lost to the ministry.

* As implied in the last point, there is a culture of ‘pretend’, if not of outright dishonesty, that pervades too many churches, which makes it difficult for people, ministers especially, to be open and vulnerable about their fears.

In the light of all this and more, an American pastor called J R Briggs organised a conference last year called the Epic Fail Pastors’ Conference, and he’s doing the same again this year. It’s in the USA, so my expenses won’t quite stretch, so I won’t be there (although apparently last year one delegate flew from Australia). They are deliberately not meeting in a flash convention centre in a fashionable city. They aren’t announcing any big names. Much of the schedule is taken up with ‘time together’.

I nearly typed that I wished them a ‘successful’ conference, but that would open up an interesting conversation about what truly constitutes success. But I do wish all the participants healing, hope and peace.

Employment Rights And Ministers

The Methodist Church has lost an appeal against a minister who claims she was unfairly constructively dismissed. To be more precise, Haley Preston is pursuing a case along these lines against the church, and in past times the church could claim that it was not her employer, but that ministers are employed by God. Now the Appeal Court has upheld the ruling of an Employment Appeal Tribunal that Mrs Preston was in fact employed by the church, a position which gives her access to redress under employment legislation. Before now, ministers who were dismissed have had no such redress in law. The full judgment is here. The official Methodist response reads as follows:

Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain said: “The Methodist Church is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgement that Haley Preston’s (formerly Moore) case is a matter for an employment tribunal. We are treating this matter with great seriousness as something which would affect all of our ministers and the culture of our Church. “The church values all of its ministers, and it is clear to us that relationship cannot easily be reduced to a simple contract of employment. The call to Methodist ministry cannot be treated as just another job – it is based on a lifetime calling, expressed through a covenant relationship with the Church. “We want to ensure that we treat everyone fairly and properly and all of our ministers have rights of redress under existing Church procedures. We are committed to caring for all who serve the Church, whether lay or ordained, paid or volunteer.”

The point of the ‘covenant’ language is that there is a mutual covenant between church and minister. Ministers give up a home to go where the church stations them; in response, the church provides a stipend (a living allowance – not a salary) and a manse. In court the Methodist Church tried to invoke Human Rights law to the effect that religious conscience should have prior claim over employment law. The Appeal Court called this ‘moral poverty’. It appears that the church has added things to the covenant from the world of secular employment, such as appraisal, supervision and holidays, and these are now regarded as evidence by the courts in support of ministers being in a contractual situation, in addition to or instead of a covenantal one.

The covenant is good when it works. However, it can go wrong on either side. A minister can be treated badly by a congregation, circuit or other body; equally, a minister can mistreat a church or individuals. I do not know what happened in Mrs Preston’s case, and even if I did it would be wrong to comment, especially when the legal process has still not finished. Clearly, though, she feels aggrieved. However, it is a tragedy when Christians have to invoke the law in order to deal with each other, something Paul told the Corinthians in his First Epistle to their shame.

At this point I simply want to tease out the pros and cons if ministers do end up being treated as employees. In favour is the fact that it would open us up to clear protection in employment law. It might also make things clearer in cases of incompetent or abusive ministers. Against is the notion that some people would want to tell ministers explicitly what they should be doing, in ways that go against the historic notion that the stipend frees ministers to pray and seek God’s direction for their work. The introduction of the ‘Letter of Understanding’ that circuits give to ministers when an invitation to serve in a new circuit is accepted has pushed in this direction: some circuits start to get quite precise about their expectations of the minister. While accountability is important, it will be hard to be a leader if those we are trying to lead think they can tell us what we should be doing.

Furthermore, should the position be confirmed that we are employees of the church, we shall need to resolve exactly who or which body in the church is our employer. The fears described in the last paragraph could be very real if the employing body was very local. If, on the other hand, it was the Methodist Conference itself, there might be more opportunity for proper safeguards and procedures. It is not that all local lay leaders are dangerous – far from it! – but lack of knowledge, experience and skills could be dangerous.

There is a fascinating (but increasingly complex) discussion of this issue going on at the UK Methodists page on Facebook.

In the wider context, the trade union Unite (which represents such ‘faith workers’ as join it) has been campaigning for a few years now for ministers to be given the same rights as employees. That may not necessarily involve us becoming employees, but being entitled to the same protection. There is a paper explaining their position here.

This is going to run and run, in some form or another. Whatever the final conclusion, it will massively change the relationship between ministers and their congregations. My gut feeling is that it will end with ministers becoming employees in some form or another, because – as has been said on the UK Methodists Facebook page – the courts are increasingly taking the line that ‘if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck then it is a duck.’ It is hard to know what fundamental doctrinal reason we could have for resisting employment status, but if we go that route we shall have to be careful and we shall need to be proactive in developing what that relationship could and should be in line with our convictions.

Ministry Alternatives, According To LinkedIn

Social media fail: If I ever want to quit the ministry (and believe me, I do sometimes), then social networking site for professionals LinkedIn has sent me some suggestions. Last night I had an email from them, entitled ‘Jobs you may be interested in’. So what do you think they would suggest to a minister?

One made some sense: top of the list was the idea that I should become a family therapist in nearby Guildford. There was also the post in digital media – they’ve spotted my interests, but I could never make a career of it.

But others? How about being the number two chef at Jamie Oliver‘s Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall? A mere three hundred mile commute! And didn’t Oliver set up Fifteen to help wild teenagers who had gone off the rails? Yes, a minister would care about that, but it doesn’t describe me.
And to top it, two jobs in telesales. Because if I’d got depressed as a minister, LinkedIn would see it as their social obligation to push me over the edge.

Ministry has never seemed so attractive. Thank you, LinkedIn!

Introverts In Leadership And Ministry

Earlier this year, I chronicled as part of my sabbatical my investigations into ministry and personality type. My current reading is Adam McHugh‘s book Introverts In The Church, which Scot McKnight has picked up on.

Now I find I’m by no means the only Methodist minister interested in this topic. American minister Beth Quick posted an article last week entitled Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders, in which she cited an article from Forbes Magazine entitled Why Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders.

By way of a quick exercise, I thought I would take the five characteristics that the Forbes author and muse briefly on them.

1. Introverts think first and speak later. Well, sometimes a calm, measured approach is welcomed. When life is complex (and it is), careful reflection should be valued. I’m not sure it always is, especially in an always-on, text-sending, 24-hour-news-channel world.

2. Introverts focus on depth. I like this and I think it’s important. However, some people want ministers who are strong on chit-chat. They think it is a sign the minister is interested in people. It can be, but it can also be about a church that can’t get beyond superficiality.

3. Introverts exude calm. I haven’t often been told this! Although when I worked in an office and someone phoned in with a complaint, I was often the person who dealt with it. Many outwardly calm introverts are paddling furiously beneath the waves. There may be a genuine air of calm about a lot of introverts, but a lot of us have coping strategies, especially when calm is required in a group setting. The article quotes some examples. I rehearse conversations before I have them.

4. Introverts let their fingers do the talking. Yes. I love preaching, but I love writing. Given time, I can order my thoughts better that way.

5. Introverts embrace solitude. Please stop pejoratively calling the introvert a ‘loner’ and the extravert a ‘people-person’. You know the prejudice: serial killers turn out to be loners. When we withdraw from the exhausting task of being with people, we reflect and think.

None of this is meant to demean extravert leaders, but it is designed as a plea for people to widen their vision about the people who can lead and appropriate styles of leadership.

What do you think? What is your experience?

Sabbatical, Day 40: Ministry And Personality Type Survey Explosion, Child Worries

The response to my surveys into ministry and personality type that I announced yesterday has staggered me. At time of writing, I had 42 members of the Facebook group. 60 people had completed the congregational members’ survey. 29 had completed the ministers’ survey.

At the recommendation of David Burton, I have joined Twitter and am using that to publicise the surveys, too. Please ‘follow’ me if you are on Twitter. My username is davefaulkner.

Other news today mainly concerns the children, and especially Rebekah. Today, she had a ‘number bonds‘ test at school. Testing seems to have started quite early, in my opinion. She is still ten days shy of her sixth birthday. For a few weeks now they have also been having spelling tests, and Becky is getting quite agitated about it. Last night she was late getting to sleep, worrying about whether she would pass. She kept getting stuck on the numbers four and six. What number do you put with four to make ten? What number goes with six to make ten?

There have been two saving graces about this. One is that we have been concerned about her concentration when learning. This certainly made her concentrate – but I felt like we had a GCSE student in the house! The other is that … she passed. Now she’s worried about going up the front at assembly next week and being applauded when the Head Teacher gives her the certificate!

What worries we load onto children at a young age. I have been concerned for a long time about the pressure induced on children by the SATS tests required by the Government. I know these are going to be rationalised, but making children take official tests from the age of seven means they have been turned into nothing less than political footballs by cynical, morally evacuated Governments. Worse, parents who have seen the strain on their children have effectively connived with this by looking for the results in evaluating schools. 

And there are other worries, too. A little while ago, my friend Dave Warnock sent me an invitation on Facebook to join the Pink Stinks campaign.Last night, I finally looked at the campaign and joined up. It’s taking the colour pink as symbolic of the sexualisation of young girls, and that’s something I feel very strongly about as the father of a five-year-old. I’ve joked before about her love of Claire’s Accessories, but it must have been around the time she started school that she began to change from tomboy to girly girl. I have no problem with her having a nice appearance, and frankly for all my life she will always be the most beautiful girl in the world. But I don’t want her value to be based on how physically attractive boys think she is in later years, or how attractive or not she perceives herself to be. 

While Pink Stinks seems to come from a secular feminist origin, having the militant atheist Polly Toynbee as a major cheerleader, there is much in the campaign I am pleased to support. One excellent feature of the website is the naming and shaming of sexist products aimed at children. Another is the section of the site that seeks to promote positive female role models. I’d far rather Rebekah had Sally Ride as an aspirational figure than Amy Winehouse or Paris Hilton. I believe my daughter is made in the image of God, and that gives her a dignity like nothing else on earth. I want her to know she is loved unconditionally, and that she has unique gifts which she can use in the service of God’s kingdom. 

I hadn’t thought too much up to now about the propensity of infants’ school girls to love High School Musical or Hannah Montana. Although I recognised them as telling the stories of teenagers, there hadn’t been anything I’d noticed that seemed  overtly immoral. What had bothered me was that they told stories that were not age-appropriate and that that might be emotionally difficult. I could see that might be tricky to handle. Now I think I see them as rather worse than that, because they are promoting a certain image of what is acceptable young womanhood, and much of it is just based on looking good for the boys. 

I have to say Debbie isn’t as worried by this as I am. She thinks the trend towards little girls prettifying themselves is a fad that will disappear and be replaced by another trend. Me, I see sinister commercial forces behind it. What do you think?

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