Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Flatlining and Faith: Pastoring on the Journey

Written by: on May 29, 2019

How do you comfort someone who’s grasping onto the hand that she’s held for forty-seven years? How do you form words that ease the pain and bring some sense of peace? How do you fill the deafening silence with hope when one’s last breath makes the world stand still?

The Rev Dr. Emma Percy, Chaplain and Welfare Dean at Trinity College[1] and author of What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing, challenges her readers to delve into the shadows of ministry and find one’s purpose in the midst of one’s chaos. According to Percy, “Ministry is a complex collective collaboration in which clergy have limited power properly to assess, to compel or dismiss those who make up the community for which they have charge.”[2] In short, ministry does not provide an excuse for dictatorialism, but an opportunity for collaboration. However, in order to create structures that function on their feet, ministers must allow the winds to bellow and the seas to roar to test their congregation’s footing.

Percy suggests that mothering is intrinsically tied to a clergy’s ability to nurture, protect, and lead. She observes that the church requires a balance of comfort as well as challenge in order to create interdependent congregants who function from a healthy stance. Which is why when men and women within the church are, “…faced with things that are overwhelming in their personal life or in the wider world they want to be metaphysically held: held by the ritual of the church, the reassurances of the clergy, the underpinning of who they are, by love, care, and prayer.”[3] However, Percy goes onto reveal:

Alongside this sense of being securely held, the church is a place where they should be encouraged to grow up in faith. They need to have a diet that allows for variety within the familiar, that stretches the palate, helping people think deeply about their discipleship. They need to be encouraged for their faith and to play their part in bearing witness to it. Churches should be communities with people coming in and changing things by their presence.[4]

Compassion is not simply creating hubs of sustenance but creating opportunities for substance. Therefore, in order to create change, one must understand the needs and nuances of one’s congregation. Percy reveals, “It takes time and effort to respond to real people in this way, to attend properly to the long-term relationships and the fleeting encounters so that people feel recognized, heard and cherished.”[5] Compassion takes time. It takes moments of silence, moments of waiting, and moments of learning. It takes moments of authentic understanding and conversation. However, these interactions require intentionality. Percy goes on to explain:

These conversations should provide opportunities to talk undefensively about the realities of ministry in ways that can encourage the sharing of good practice, the compassionate critique of mistakes and the wisdom that can come from a different person’s insight into a continuing situation.[6]

One of the greatest contradictions that we have within the Westernized church is the multifaceted viewpoint of Pro-life. Marches are formed, bills are written, and sonograms are plastered in Times Square. However, after labor and delivery, we seem to forget that the person before us has a purpose and an individualized point of view. Pro-life is more than pro-birth. It’s understanding that every tear, laugh, and trial belongs to the messiness that lay hidden within the masses of Sunday morning.

Yesterday, I was face-to-face with a person – a grieving friend who needed a hand to hold and an echoing heartbeat within the room that fell silent. She wasn’t on my list of to-dos or written within the script confines of my leadership description. She was an interruption of opportunity that called me to serve.

The Rev Dr. Emma Percy suggests, “The ministry flows out of the whole community and so much of what is done goes unremarked because it feels normal.”[7] Being a pastor is much more than a profession. It is living within the strata of leaning in, bending down, serving outward and leading onward. It is found in the inconvenience of delving deep into the cracks and crevices of culture and seeing Jesus on the face of strangers. Percy challenges us to understand the dynamics of ministry, but she also challenges us to understand the beauty of lateral leadership.

Leadership is not tied to one’s ability to micromanage their flock or keep their congregants within the same liner direction. It is tied to one’s ability to “manage the resources of the parish in such a way that people can do many things for themselves.”[8] It is the spiritual formation of providing an atmosphere that enables one to seek God and serve others.



[1]“Rev Canon Dr. Emma Percy: Welfare Dean and Chaplain,” www.trinity.ox.ac.uk, accessed May 29, 2019, https://www.trinity.ox.ac.uk/people/profiles/emma-percy-2/.

[2]Rev Dr. Emma Percy, What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing(London, England: SPCK Publishing, 2017), 20.

[3]Ibid., 30.

[4]Ibid., 31.

[5]Ibid., 51.

[6]Ibid., 59.

[7]Ibid., 165.

[8]Ibid., 141.

About the Author

Colleen Batchelder

I speak at conferences, churches, companies and colleges on intergenerational communication, marketing, branding your vision and living authentically in a ‘filtered’ world. My talks are customized to venue needs and audience interests. My passion is to speak with organizations and bridge the intergenerational gap. I consult with companies, individuals, churches and nonprofit organizations and help them create teams that function from a place of communication that bridges the generational gap. I’m also the Founder and President of LOUD Summit – a young adult organization that presents workshops, seminars and summits that encourage, empower and equip millennials to live out their destiny and walk in their purpose. When I’m not studying for my DMin in Leadership and Global Perspectives at Portland Seminary, you can find me enjoying a nice Chai Latte, exploring NYC or traveling to a new and exotic destination.

11 responses to “Flatlining and Faith: Pastoring on the Journey”

  1. Jay Forseth says:


    Great title to your Blog! Well done.

    I found myself contemplating your words, “Pro-life is more than pro-birth.” I have heard you say and write things in the past on this topic, but this time it really sunk in. I appreciated the depth of your discussion.

    Loved your closing paragraph. Keep writing well!

    • Thanks so much, Jay!

      I’m so encouraged that you caught my thoughts and understood my written plea for pro-life. It’s interesting living so close to the city. I’m constantly seeing the crossover between Christian ministry and social reform.

      Many conferences present pastor and leaders who intermingle scripture through the narrative of Black Lives Matter, LGBT discrimination, and food insecurity. Each speaker stems from a variety of political perspectives and denominations, but each of them gathers together to combat social issues that touch every person in their communities.

      What are some ways that you saw Percy’s book address your context?

  2. Great post Colleen! My favorite part of your blog was…”Being a pastor is much more than a profession. It is living within the strata of leaning in, bending down, serving outward and leading onward. It is found in the inconvenience of delving deep into the cracks and crevices of culture and seeing Jesus on the face of strangers.” What wise words, and inspiring us to do life with the people we are ministering to. I also loved how you highlighted the fact that pro-life needs to go beyond pro-birth and be there to support these mothers after they bring that precious life into the world. Great words of wisdom, blessings friend.

    • Thanks so much, Jake!

      Being a pastor is so much more than preaching behind a pulpit – it’s stepping into the presence of people. What’s the temperament where you live with everything happening with abortion bans and abortion laws extended?

      Blessings, friend!

  3. Mike says:

    Excellent introduction and I felt like I was in the hospital room with you. I’ve been there for happiness, sadness, and social justice. In all cases, the ministry of presence was always needed.
    I liked your thoughts on compassion. I think we learn it differently, depending on how God wired us and how we went through the life experiences to learn it. My compassion training came from life experiences in public safety, disasters, EDP and IDP camps, and medivac vocations. I’m so glad your friend had “you” to as her Job. PTL.
    I agree with your managing resources principle. Helping promote opportunities for success is both a skill and a gift and I think you have them both!
    Stand firm,
    Mike w

    • Thanks so much, Mike!

      Very true! “In all cases, the ministry of presence was always needed.” I can’t imagine ministering in your context and having to provide guidance and comfort for a comrade whose friend was killed or having to provide encouragement to someone who was wounded and paralyzed. I wonder if seminaries prepared ministers for the reality of the messiness of ministry if many would choose another career. What was the most difficult moment where you had to be present with someone within your ministry journey?

  4. Dan Kreiss says:


    Yes, ministry, like motherhood, is messy, full of interruptions and unplanned circumstances. You seem particularly suited for ministry and adept at handling interruptions, stressful last minute cancellations and being present with people when you have other things on your list of things to do.

    I think this is what Percy is getting at when she describes ministry as mothering. I think it is a helpful metaphor both for the image is conjures as well as the restoration of some important feminine aspect of faith, ministry and life.

    • Thanks so much, Dan!

      Parenthood, in general, is insane. I have many friends who are struggling to raise young children or raise teenagers and they always look a bit frazzled. Lol Thanks for that support! Yes. It’s been a bit chaotic with the workshop, but so amazing to watch God work everything out.

      I thought it was interesting how Percy’s viewpoints on clergy were focused on compassion, nurturing, teaching, and empathy. I wonder how a pastor who is more thought-focused would interpret and connect with her perspective.

      What ways would you describe pastoring? Are all minsters mothering in practice?

  5. Colleen,

    I, too, loved your last paragraph especially! Somehow in society we have the idea that leadership must have followers that think the same, and line up in lock-step with the leader. You, instead, point to a different sort of leadership, one that is found in the heart of a mother. Their vision? To see their children grow up, find their heart and know themselves, and become all God intended. The practice? It’s all about letting go, not controlling. This movement towards finding one’s voice and unique purpose is how mothers create an environment for maturation in their kids. I can see you mothering through LOUD.

    • Thanks so much, Mark!

      I really appreciate your great words of encouragement and support! It’s interesting to think of mothering as commissioning. It empowers others to lead, not follow. I think one of the greatest detriments of the 21st century is the celebrity-driven conformity that decorates the doorways of many sanctuaries. They provide community and support, just as long as you fit within their brand and don’t question their pursuits. This type of leadership keeps people on the milk of the word because they’re not allowed to grow. What ways do you see mothering occurring within the Catholic church?

  6. Kyle Chalko says:

    Colleen, you’re right on. It takes so much patience and intentionaly and allowance of interuptions to have a good nurturing and mothering presence. That’s so good you were able to be there for your friend.

    Excellent point about pro-life being more than pre-birth, however I wasnt sure what you meant about there being a contradiction?

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