By George Bullard
Beyond the ability to be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, what else do congregations want from their next senior or solo pastor?
At the request of a ministry friend I looked at the profile of a congregation where he hopes to be considered as senior pastor. When reading congregational profiles it is important to understand the meaning behind the content. Or, at least the assumed meaning ought to call for some powerful questions to be asked by the pastoral candidate during the interview process.
And the Profile Reveals . . .
The profile reveals a stagnant congregation in a racial, ethnic, socioeconomic transitional community in a large city. It has a very nice looking well-kept building—at least from the outside—in a community not near as nice looking. In its profile its priority presentation of which it is most proud is its building.
It is primarily an ex-neighborhood church where people drive in. There is a socioeconomic gap between the church and the community context. The profile screams of a paternalistic attitude of the congregational leaders towards their geographical context.
It has around a 100 people in average worship attendance and at least a dozen committees. (This number of committees ought to be an early warning sign of potentially controlling management.) It has solid finances as many members are either in the peak earning years of their life, or the peak discretionary income years where they are giving more money to church.
The membership is declining although the attendance is holding steady. The internal demographics speak to a congregation of primarily empty nesters and senior adults. There are some children and youth in attendance.
The profile plainly states that the lay leaders handle all the programs and management functions (So keep your hands off pastor!). This can be a good thing if lay leaders have an empowering stance for programs and management around a spiritual and strategic journey for the congregation. This can be a bad thing if lay leaders have a sense of entitlement around what they do, and are not open to transition and change.
It wants the new pastor to oversee relational leadership for all the groups in the congregation from birth to death. This is a euphemism for saying the pastor is present at all events, but you will not find a single lay leader who is also present for all events.
It seems to have a way of functioning that would keep a full-time pastor coming and going all times of the week. Even though it has become a smaller membership congregation it still wants to function like it is much larger. Therefore, the baggage of the past is heavy.
They want the next pastor to be in charge of bringing in new members to help the congregation grow. The translation of this request is that the lay leaders are saying they do not do evangelism and new member recruitment. That is what we hire a pastor to do. We will work on assimilating—to a point—those new people as long as they do not want to significantly change us.
They do ministries to the community context and not with. Their missional engagement is what I call a push approach meaning they are pushing the things they want to do to the community rather than missional engagement with or among the community context.
The Bottom Line Is . . .
The bottom line is a congregation driven by management practices and navigated by programmatic commitments. They have no obvious emphasis on spiritual formation for adults that would focus around deepening Christ-centered relationships with God, one another, and the community context in which they serve.
Its name is “Legion” for there are many congregations like this in many cities and towns across North America. My word is–”Let’s renegotiation your expectations of your next pastor, and what you need to be doing as lay leaders to activate spiritual formation and missional engagement.”
Will my ministry friend agree to become the pastor of this congregation if called? Yes, for two reasons. He is at a hinge point in his current ministry and he needs a new challenge. Second, he has his eyes open and may just do them some good.
Would you go to this congregation as pastor? Are you this congregation and you need to rethink what you are asking from the next pastor?
This article first appeared in an earlier form as a blog post on the ABP News Blog at http://www.abpnews.com/blog/leadership/they-want-their-next-pastor-to-do-what-2013-10-25/#.UnJgMBCik7c