A Pastoral Primer (Continued): Opinion, of course

   Churches are dying, some of self-inflicted wounds. The collateral damage in ruined lives of ministers and their families pushes the casualty rate to obscene levels.

   The end result is the continued attrition of persons willing to go into the pastorate of a local parish/congregation/call it what you want. We might start to get ready to do something because it takes us (in the Free Church) so long to start to get ready to do something we know must happen but would rather would not happen, so maybe we can just hold on until we die and then someone else can do the funeral.

   I pause now for a breath.

   No, it is not a laughing matter. On the other hand, you have to laugh to keep from crying.

   What to do?

   We might have to find ways to keep our older pastors longer. When I mention this, it is with the understanding I am about the average age of pastors nation-wide, perhaps a little on the youngish side, and I am just nearly 55. No, it is not old, but it sure ain't young. There are three things you can see from space; the Great Wall of China, the Panama Canal and the bald spot on the back of my head.

   I have this over-sized head, anyway. If I get any balder, I am going to look like a thumb.

   Ok, back now to the serious work, now that you have had a Monday laugh at my expense.

   Admit it, though. You enjoyed it. Come on. You did.

   How can we help our older guys/girls hang around longer? There are going to need some recharging time more regularly than when they were 35. If your pastor will not take a day off every week, you will need to make him/her do so. In fact, like some of the medical exams that come our way as required as we age (rubber glove, K-Y jelly, you do the math), time away from the pressures of the job is simply a life-saver.

   A sixty year old, after working for two to three weeks at about seven days a week, from 7-12 hours per day, needs more than a day off. He/she may need an IV. He/she does not need a day off followed by three people asking him where he was on a given evening, since they finally decided to show up for something and did not happen to see him/her.

   So, he/she needs a guilt free two days per week to study, loaf, kick back and just generally recharge. To get up and spill your guys in front of a crowd of any size three times a week is an absolute killer. Every major organ undergoes stress, you get to watch the whole human drama in microcosm and you know way too much to be comfortable. It is like running a marathon; aerobic, draining, oxygen debt pounding work. Try it 125 times a year, with an immediate critique afterward.

  The speaker needs two days per week, three weeks per year off, just as far off as he/she can stand and a break in every day. He/she will still work an average of 55 to 60 hours per week for about 48 weeks of the year.

   More later. Let the calumny begin. 

8 thoughts on “A Pastoral Primer (Continued): Opinion, of course”

  1. I pause for a breath…because I’m out of breath! How do you do that?? (make one sentence last for four paragraphs!)
    This is funny…I laughed after I breathed. Do more of the humor.

  2. Rick,
    Thanks for addressing this issue. It resonates (perhaps too loudly) with any of us who have been in ministry for a while.
    Problem is – it’s the ministers who are reading your blog, not the lay people. Do you have a book in process?

  3. Rck, I’m 74, and I do nothing but long term Intentional Interims with troubled churches. With each and every church I have a covenant agreement, and in that agreement I have negotiated a week off every three months. Now, if I could only take them off, things would indeed be better. But, it seems that there is always something that requires my being there, preventing the time away I so artfully negotiated. When I train search committees at the churches I serve, I suggest they develop a covenant agreement with their new pastor which includes specific time away provisions, as well as many other things. I find these covenants very helpful in deflecting criticism. The church approves the covenant and that pretty well settles it, at least in my tiny brain. I recommend covenant agreements.

  4. Most pastors do a poor job of limiting themselves as well. This makes for a tricky situation. The congregation that knows no bounds. Second, the minister, who (often by personality) is self-motivated, and likes to work a lot.
    Like many vocations, the ministry can be hard or easy. It often depends on the intentionality of the minister. The self-motivated need contracts (i.e. Ken Coffee’s suggestion) that force the minister to leave the parish. For example, my church arranges for me to spend four out of town prayer retreats per year. Each of these retreats start on Tuesday and end on Thursday. It one is smart the weekend following such retreats is filled by the children’s choir, or a guest preacher.
    I have rarely seen a successful pastor who truly needed the congregation to motivate him or her. Most of the time, you will notice they are self-motivated. Something to think about for all of us . . .
    p.s. I just had another thought. This is a rant, perhaps . . . where is it written in Scripture that the Senior Pastor must the the one to visit each and every member each and every time they are admitted to the hospital? Most churches would be better served if their deacons and Sunday School outreach leaders became the primary hospital visitor.
    I know this is a particularly sticky issue with many churches, however it is rare to have a particularly deep theological discussion with a member before a cataract surgery.
    Now, I know you don’t have to have a deep theological discussion for a visit to be worthwhile, however I think many times hospital visits are more about “being seen” than any real substantive ministry.
    Ministers would be well served to take a cue from the Apostles. Gather men and women to wait on tables, so we can bring the Bread of Life to the weekend gatherings. Otherwise, we are probably all a little less nourished than we would be otherwise.
    Sorry for the long post.

  5. TRied to answer Roy and Michael’s comments. Keep getting a bounce back when I try to answer privately, making me think gmail is messed up today for some reason.
    Rob, by the way, Roy is one of my deacons and friends here and one of the best guys ever.
    Michael is a pastor in Ohio who gave a kidney (one of his own) to a church member. Think about it.
    Roy, watch out for that thumb. He cometh like a thief in the night.

  6. MR, also had a lot of typos in his post, but couldn’t figure out how to edit them out once it posted. Sorry group!

  7. We have a pastor friend who was wooed away by a church in a town full of retirees.
    Retired preachers in his church fill the pulpit once a month.
    They love to preach, he gets a breather — and a weekend away if he wants it.

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