The Nathan Effect

The truth will make you free, (but first it will make you miserable.)David Nathan by Chagall

None of us likes to be told that we need to change something that we do not believe we need to change.  It’s torture, actually, hearing that something we are doing is wrong. The shame can be excruciating.

So . . . imagine that you are a pastor who believes that you are a pretty good preacher only to have your personnel committee tell you that you need to take a preaching class.  Ouch.

Imagine that you consider yourself an approachable person who is easy to talk with, but a person you trust shares privately that – actually – there are quite a few folks who find you “too busy” or “too disinterested” or “too sarcastic” or “too cranky” to come to you for pastoral care.   Ugh.

Imagine that you see yourself as a strong administrator after many years of professional ministry, but your staff shares that they are frustrated at the ineffectiveness of your administrative duties.  Really?

We will not take seriously or believe people we do not trust if/when they bravely share that there is Something we need to alter to improve our skills.  We like to believe that we are good at what we do, that we know what we are doing, and that we are aware of our strengths and our growing edges.  But what if the truth is that we are not as good as we think we are or we could use some coaching or we overestimate our gifts and minimize our weaknesses?  Our congregations suffer – that’s what.

Everybody needs a Nathan – someone whom we trust who can speak the truth to us.  Yes, it hurts.  But we need to hear it.  Our community depends upon it.

Image is David and Nathan by Marc Chagall.

6 responses to “The Nathan Effect

  1. Thank you.


  2. yes, but…and I know you know this. how is it determined that you are not as great a preacher as you thought you were? how is it determined that you are “too”? having just been through a non-church review, I think the church needs to find a better way of evaluating than “you need to change…”


  3. Excellent point KPD. This is indeed tricky, but I think we need to consider if the determination that something needs to change/improve resonates with most of those charged with reviewing the staff member. It can’t be about one (cranky) member who doesn’t like someone’s accent/hair/style/etc. Can you say more about what you liked about your non-church review?


  4. let me ponder …. one thing that came to my mind immediately is that I knew ahead of time what I was being evaluated on


  5. accountability is key – pastors need to be held accountable to a set of pre-determined goals/objectives/whateveryouwanttocallthem and those doing the evaluation need to have guidelines by which to evaluate (yes, I am talking measurable terms in the midst of ethereal ministry!)

    this was an odd evaluation for me because I did not have set objectives for the year. Most of it was based on the goals of the organization. This year my personal objectives are based on the organization’s goals with specifics for my program.

    I’ve always steered away from the words “measurable and objective” when it comes to church based evaluations but I wonder if I might have been missing something. Certainly, I don’t think the goal of “20 new members by x date” is necessarily healthy but what about “spend x number of hours per month at x places outside the church” or “preach x sermons on x topics.”

    does this make sense at all Jan? Just more ramblings.


  6. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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