Something must be lost in the translation. In the book, What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing, by Emma Percy, she describes “Good Enough Mothering” and uses it as a metaphor for “Good Enough Parish Priests” (Percy 2014, 38). Being good enough is not a compliment, and in today’s culture of leadership excellence, it can actually be considered an insult. In fact, AT&T has a series of commercials that came to mind when reading about “Good Enough ministry”, called “Just Ok”. In this series of commercials, the viewer is convinced that being “just ok” is really very bad. In one instance, a doctor comes in the room after a patient asks a nurse how she likes working for the doctor in question, and she states he is “ok”. Confused, the patient and his wife want to know the reason for her response of “just ok”. Shortly thereafter, the doctor walks in and announces that he just got reinstated. At the end of the commercial, the announcer says, “Just ok is not ok”.
Percy’s idea of “Good Enough” is not settling for mediocrity, but acknowledging the internal conflict that comes from caring for and about people in all of the complexities of their competing needs (Percy 2014, 42). Knowing that the parish priest is not perfect allows the minister to focus on developing virtues rather than just following rules (Percy 2014, 42). Percy explains that by virtues she is describing the development of practical wisdom (Percy 2014, 42) which is gained by the process of trial and error of helping the members of the parish grow.
As a Children and Youth minister, this concept is very evident in the faith development of children. The need to nurture children is more obvious since they display their dissatisfaction with problems in the ministry openly. It seems given Percy’s metaphor of mothering as ministering, that more women that are mothers or have a mothering spirit would be a natural fit for ministry and in particular, ministry to children.
Youth workers often focus on getting the lesson perfect, making sure children memorize Scripture, and say their parts perfectly, missing this idea of mothering and being good enough. Percy’s metaphor emphasizes the need to develop relationships with our charges or those we care for. Perhaps the mothering idea of being “Good Enough” should be adopted in our rules-based ministry practices here in the United States, which tends to be performance-based instead of relationship based as demonstrated by a loving mother. Most would agree that our own “Good Enough” mothers were the most excellent mothers anyway, no matter how imperfect they may have actually been.
Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing. London: SPCK, 2014.