Saturday, January 13, 2007

Moments of grace

So often we use the term "grace" to mean a state of pleasure or peace or abundance or any number of other desirable attributes. But sometimes "grace" means a clear view of what my Jungian analyst, years ago, used to call the "as-isness" of a particular situation. And such a view is always useful, even liberating, but not always pleasant. I had a moment of grace in a staff meeting a week or so ago at church. One of the senior staff said, "If you are a staff member at this church and you are actually DOING ministry you are not doing your job correctly." I saw, clearly and at a depth I have not previously reached, that this IS the pastoral model and staffing model at the church. And this model is "not me." The church operates on what my spiritual director describes as a "large-church" model where staff's role is solely the management and some of the training of volunteer staff who actually interact with the members of the congregation to provide direct service. So, I now know: I am not a large church pastor, not even a large church staff member. I need--and am trained--to provide direct service.

The public discourse regarding pastoral models has become quite polarized, and it is common to find, in books detailing one model, real "pathologization" of those who function in other models. Thus, in a required reading from my supervisor, the notion that pastors who choose to spend a lot of time in direct interaction do so out of the "desire to be liked," and those who are able essentially to become managers are more emotionally complete. One could wish the discourse could simply be framed in an understanding that different people have different gifts and all are useful in different contexts.

Unless, of course, one believes in one's heart, as some of these writers clearly do, that small churches are dying churches, and that the church as a whole needs to reconsider its mission in ways that lead naturally into growth, and thus to pastors whose gifts are motivational and managerial in nature. And many people do believe that.


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