Clergy as Concierge: Is "At Your Service" The Best Response?

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It takes both the pastor and the congregation to create the unrealistic expectations of 24/7 availability that leave clergy stressed and congregants co-dependent.

Faith & Leadership had an article last week by the Rev. Nelson Granade on the pastor as congregational concierge. It's a wonderful reflection, notable in its insight that it takes both the pastor and the congregation to create the sometimes unrealistic expectations of 24/7 availability that leave clergy stressed, exhausted, and resentful, and their congregants co-dependent.

3bp.blogspotHere at the Clergy Health Initiative, we've witnessed the effects of that way of thinking. With the help of the North Carolina United Methodist pastors who took our 2008 survey and participated in our focus groups, the Clergy Health Initiative developed an ecological understanding of the forces that influence pastors' health. As our research director Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell pointed out in an earlier Faith & Leadership article:

Pastors work within a complex web of relationships -- peer, family, congregation, and denomination among them -- with sometimes-conflicting demands that have repercussions for pastors’ vocation and health. In that web, new research shows, the influence of congregations and the denominational polity is so strong that pastors’ efforts to be healthy are likely to be enhanced -- or thwarted -- by the institutions in which they serve. 

Rather than just whining about impossible demands, or giving in to them, Granade proposes a way to re-think the pastoral role. How much of your role centers on your service to your congregation? Could some of that responsibility be transitioned into service alongside your congregation, empowering the ministries of others? Would guarding the gifts of your time and energy enhance your effectiveness?

As you move into the season of "ordinary time" and the slowing down of church life that summer brings, perhaps this is a good time to think about new ways of being.

Yours in health,

Robin Swift, MPH
Health Programs Director
Clergy Health Initiative

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