I Was Talking About You (and About Myself)

Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” 2 Samuel 12: 7a

In this situation between Nathan and David, it was not good to be “the man.”  David was quick to berate the rich man in Nathan’s parable not realizing that he was that guy.  He just couldn’t recognize it in himself.

I can relate.

Among my professional experiences . . .

  • A parishioner complained about “welfare moms” while he had forgotten that his own mother had been on welfare when he was a child.
  • A tune-challenged choir member expressed frustration with the quality of the voices while nobody had the heart to tell him that his pipes were not what they were forty years ago.
  • A pastor frustrated about the former pastor showing up for both church and social events while being unaware of her own tendencies to contact and spend time with her own former parishioners.
  • A certain boundary training leader (that would be me) getting involved in a conflict in a former church.  Excuse: The Clerk of Session “begged me” to make a phone call.

Nope. No. Never. Ever.  We often don’t see ourselves as guilty of the same infractions we accuse others of.

We pastors  – especially – don’t think we are the ones in violation of healthy boundaries.  We can see it in colleagues, but we don’t see that we are often the men (and women) who need to clean up our acts.

  • But they are my friends.
  • But they are my spouse’s friends.
  • But they are my children’s friends.
  • But I just want to come back and enjoy worship in the pews.
  • But they really want me to officiate at their wedding.
  • But I’ve known the family for 20 years.

It doesn’t matter.  If we genuinely love the congregations we’ve left, we will make a clean break and let the current pastor(s) form friendships and pastoral relationships with them – unless and only if we are first invited by the current pastor.

And this doesn’t mean telling former parishioners, “Sorry, I can’t officiate at the baptism/wedding/funeral unless ___ agrees.”  This is unfair.  It puts the new leader in a no-win situation.  Just say no.  Maybe the current pastor will indeed invite you and if so, great.

Friends are so valuable.  We need them.  And maybe we can be friends again under different circumstances. But as roles change, we need to get out of the way so that the churches we used to serve (and still love) can thrive under new leadership.

3 responses to “I Was Talking About You (and About Myself)

  1. What do you think about requests from members of that former church who have also moved away, like weddings of former youth? I’ve never had that situation on either end, but I’ve wondered what I would do.


  2. The unfortunate “rest of the story” is that if we leave that church and/or move away, then my former pastor can marry us.

    With so many fewer marriages and even fewer weddings in the churches I have served as an interim, this issue may gradually vanish.


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