Today’s pastor faces a challenging task—to lead a community of uniquely individual believers.
Imagine if you will a list of characteristics that every pastor leader needs. What might you include on that list?
- Dynamic communicator
- Extraverted enough to be a “people person”
- Introverted enough to be “task oriented”
- Effective fundraiser
- Inspiring team leader
- Vision caster
You could go on and on.
Here’s one that doesn’t often show up on the checklist. Vulnerability.
Imagine two lists: One contains the qualities that a pastor should have, and another includes the attributes that most pastors would say they wouldn’t want to have.
There’s only one term I can think of that might top both lists: vulnerability.
One solution is for every pastor and pastoral staff to invite discerning members to form a “kitchen cabinet,” an advisory group, to meet with the pastor and staff once a quarter to give feedback about what is being overemphasized and what is being neglected in terms of the church’s ethos. And the people selected must not all be “yes people”—people the pastor and staff can count on to tell them what they want to hear.
In my experience, however, this is very rare. What I have observed, both as a church staff member, interim pastor, board member, and just ordinary “pew sitter,” is that pastors (including pastoral staff) do not appreciate criticism—however gentle, appropriate and constructive it may be.
In fact, what I have observed is that, often, anyone who criticizes, however appropriately, gently and constructively, is automatically and immediately labeled a trouble-maker by the pastor and staff and marginalized.
Generally speaking, pastors and church staffs only want support and encouragement for whatever they decide to do.
Of course, this is not unique to church contexts; leaders of organizations, in general, want unquestioning support from those under them—including customers! It’s human nature.
However, the Bible, which we Christians claim to follow, is filled with examples of the opposite—of people of little or no particular status correcting spiritual leaders. Think of Nathan and David, Jeremiah and the prophets and political leaders of Judah, Paul and Peter at Antioch, etc.
Every church staff needs to think about finding the balance between the horizontal and the vertical dimensions of Christian spirituality, worship and discipleship and beware of falling into a rut of promoting only or even mostly one dimension.
Perhaps the only way to accomplish that in most churches is to have such a diverse group of constructive critics as I suggest above to advise the pastor and staff on a regular basis.
Who speaks truth into your life? Are you willing to receive it with humility?