Leverage Points: The SPRC / PPRC
The Staff-Parish Relations Committee is a pivotal thing in the life of a United Methodist pastor. PPRCs / SPRCs can be a source of real support to a pastor. Or things can go off the rails at that point. The committee can be a stress reliever or a stress producer.
That's one of the first things I learned talking to pastors when the Clergy Health Initiative began. It seems to me that the SPRC can function as an advocate for pastors, for the demanding nature of parish ministry and the need for clergy self-care. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be the blunt instrument by which in the congregation tries to impose a narrow agenda, or to maximize clergy's time spent in the office, in the pulpit, in visitation and the other visible forms of ministry work.
One idea that always gets an "Amen" when we mention it to our clergy, is for CHI to intervene with SPRCs, to develop a training resource, a tool for avoiding conflict. So Ed Moore and I are preparing to develop such a tool.
Last week I logged in to a SPRC Training webinar held by the General Board of Discipleship. In addition to quoting the relevant paragraph in the Book of Discipline, the presenter, Betsey Heavner, also cited Paul's Letter to the Philippians. So the GBOD tries to communicate not just the nuts and bolts of the SPRC's job, but the spirit that (ideally) animates the work, a spirit of love and of putting God first.
I came away from the presentation with a renewed appreciation for the commitment of lay leaders who serve on SPRCs. It's a challenging, complex job, and one that looks different at every church. This made for a challenge for Betsey Heavner to design and deliver an online training: she packed a lot of information into about 40 minutes.
The webinar stressed that in SPRC, the R is for Relations, and we shouldn't forget that. One interesting idea is for committee members to think of multiplying the relationships and avenues of communication among members and staff, rather than minimizing or funneling the communications.
The GBOD webinar and related resources are supposed to be accessible on their website at some point; I will try to pass a link along when it is available. In the meantime, here's a PowerPoint file created for SPRC training. (I'm not exactly sure of its origin, but the Virginia and Alaska Conferences have both used variations of it.)
What do YOU think? How should CHI mediate between the appointed pastor, the irresistible force, and the local congregation, the immovable object? Ed and I are scheduled to meet with a group of SPRC members in a few weeks. But we would welcome all pastors' input. Leave it here in Comments, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
John James, M.A.
Research Analyst, Clergy Health Initiative