There’s a great article in the newest issue of The Presbyterian Outlook by Victoria White (which you’ll have to subscribe to here if you want to read it) about the fact that we clergy people will disappoint someone this week. It’s not something I ever heard about in seminary, but the truth is that:
- Church Members will – sooner or later – be disappointed by their congregations.
- Pastors will definitely disappoint their parishioners (and probably their own families.)
Good leaders will both embrace this reality and talk about this reality in the hopes of creating healthy boundaries.
- A couple I loved requested a spring wedding date and I happily agreed to officiate, overlooking the fact that our TBC’s birthday was also that weekend. My compromise involved officiating at the wedding but not attending the reception. I disappointed both the couple with whom I was very close and TBC who had hoped to celebrate all weekend with the family.
- A parishoner left multiple voice mails in my church office asking me to get back to her even though my outgoing message stated that I would not be in the office that week, so please contact another staff member with emergencies. She was furious that I was not returning her calls and she was not willing to talk with anyone else on staff. What she didn’t know was that I was in court with another parishioner from 8 to 5 brutal hours every day that week and telling her that I was in court with a parishioner was too much information to share and none of her business. I disappointed her that week and she never let me forget it.
- As one of two Co-Moderators of the PCUSA right now, Denise and I receive multiple invitations for the same dates – often because many of the Mid-Councils meet on the same Tuesdays and Saturdays. We cannot humanly accept every invitation even though we are told that we will disappoint people if neither or us can attend their anniversary/special event.
Disappointment is part of professional ministry just as it’s a part of any relationship. As Victoria White notes in the Outlook article:
“The church needs to be in conversation with me about my schedule just as much as my family does. I have found that many times churches are flabbergasted when they find out how often the minister chooses the church over their family.”
This is a recipe for resentment, my friends. It’s healthier to talk about what’s needed to nurture strong family and social relationships and what’s needed to nurture strong work relationships. Balance and boundaries make for a happy ministry together.
And if you hear someone in church grouse about how ____ is never available, I hope you’ll remind that person that even pastors have to prioritize their time. We cannot possibly be available to everyone. (The pastor/leader is not God.)
Image source is unknown but this sculpture is everywhere in the public realm.