I’m a big fan of Bill Tenny-Brittian and the good people at Effective Church. But I wonder how realistic this article is – as we are newly called in the 21st Century Church to spend most/much of our time reaching out beyond the hallowed walls of Church World.
On the one hand: what would happen if you/your pastor . . .
- Attended only one meeting per month?
- Spent almost no time preparing the Sunday bulletin?
- Kept no office hours except by appointment?
- Delegated all pastoral calls to church members?
- Trained and deployed church members to do hospital visits?
- Spent less than two hours on sermon preparation/week (for churches with less than 150 members) and no more than five hours/week for larger congregations?
Yep, you/your pastor might be run out of town.
But on the other hand: Ephesians 4 (the only Biblical job description for “pastor” meaning the person who shepherds a church) makes it clear that we are supposed to equip God’s saints for ministry and not do it all ourselves. If we are not preparing others to make lead, care, visit, and even preach then we are not doing our jobs.
And yet, these are fighting words. 20th Century Pastors were all about meetings, bulletin prep, office hours, pastoral calling, hospital visitation, and – God-knows – sermon preparation. This is What We Do. People pay us to be the professional Christians, right?
Not in a 21st Century Church. Not in a thriving congregation. Not in a spiritual community with a deep sense of satisfaction and energy.
If we pastors devote less time to a 20th Century job description, we will be freed up to connect with people who are not already in our church community. We will be freed up to be connectional, missional, and focused on our community in hopes of figuring out its greatest needs.
Many/most pastors today are:
- still fulfilling those dated job descriptions
- seminary-trained only to do 20th Century ministry
- unprepared to be community leaders
- untrained in change management
Believe me, people will want to run you out of town. If you propose Terry Brittian’s ideas for clergy time management and suggest the kind of changes he’s talking about, they will not be thrilled.
They have (often woefully) believed that change is about tweeting and singing U2 in worship. But the change that will create growth is actually about following Jesus in a new way, taking seriously our own baptism vows, and discerning our own calling. Much more difficult.
I remember Easum and/or Bandy saying years ago that a pastor should never ever do hospital visits. She/he should train parishioners to do them. Honestly, I get this to a point. But I also know that Clinical Pastoral Education is the real thing and there’s a reason why we require it of seminarians. I, myself have experienced spiritual mayhem when an unskilled person visited me in the hospital and made things worse.
So, I’m saying that Tenny-Brittian has some good points, but pastors have got to spend A Lot Of Time equipping their people to excel in ministry. It doesn’t necessarily take a seminary degree to be a trained minister. But it takes massive dedication, along with the spiritual gifts required to make the ministry about God.
And if we try to make changes without success, they will run us out of town.
Your thoughts? Anybody ready to choose only one meeting/month?
Image from The Simpsons.