If I had a dollar for every time I have had the conversation “what does our ministry staff even do all day?”…I would have at least $65. Ok, that is not as much as I thought when I first started that sentence, but you get the point. Very few of these conversations have been with congregants; the great majority have been with executive church leaders.
I understand the stewardship question and have noticed my growing tension with it over the years.
My response is typically that if we believe a pastor is not carrying a full load or working hard, there is a different kind of issue going on – an ethical or character issue. But if we are hiring good, godly leaders in to positions we approved to then spend inordinate amounts of senior leadership time wondering if they are doing enough, then perhaps that has more to do with our leadership than the staff’s capacity? How clear have we been on expectations? And are we trying to account for 100% of a pastor’s time when it just is not possible or wise?
I have this intuitive sense that most have a strong work ethic and the pastoral staff’s hearts and days are full. Many have told me as much. But I also know that is not concrete enough for some of the leaders I have served with. What Clergy Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing has aided me tremendously going forward with these kinds of conversations because of one word:
Percy provides language and imagery for my intuition. Mothering is a difficult thing to quantify. It is a brilliant insight and my personal life season confirms it. How do I measure the outcomes of my time spent mothering?
Do some staff need to improve productivity? Yes. Are job descriptions helpful in order to justify positions and hold people accountable? Yes. Should staff be given complete autonomy to direct their working hours? Probably not. Have there been times when the person in question was not pulling their appropriate weight and needed to be removed through due process? Yes.
But my premise is that the great majority of ministry leaders in fast-paced organizations are motivated to work hard and please their many stakeholders. All need development and training but they are motivated. To question that is to ultimately and unknowingly demotivate them.
In a large church setting filled with good and necessary measurements, could we make room for spiritual mothering? Could we agree that there will be a part of a pastor’s role that we may not be able to account for? That may very well be the part that produces the most fruit that will last as Percy shares:
Yet central to ministry is the building up of the relationships, the quality of incidental encounters, the time spent in praying for people, the care given in walking with people through difficult circumstances and the witness that all of this is connected to the love of God known through Jesus Christ. Such things are hard to quantify, and often the outcomes of such encounters are not obvious in the short term, and may never be recognized this side of heaven.
In my context, what if we loaded pastoral plates to about 80% full with tasks, responsibilities and services we can account for? And what if we left 20% of their time open for all the real, but hard to quantify, responsibilities of pastoring as Percy describes above? This would require a great deal of trust and would also engender it.
I am grateful to Dr. Swenson’s work in Margin for this thought. He asserts that scheduling ourselves to 100% will inevitably push us into overload. Life will happen (have we heard that before in this program?) and unexpected crisis will occur and it is best to reserve space accordingly, like we would with our personal finances. Swenson believes that going the second mile with others and true service to others occurs in the margin.
All of the work I have done over the years to have teams track their time and report on outputs have had mixed results. We all wish for less ambiguity in leadership. To Percy’s and Dr. Clark’s point, measuring is important but traditional organizational measures will never be able to tell the full ministry story. And our attempts to account for 100% of ministry staff hours may have unwelcomed outcomes. Suspicion can breed an unease and overly competitive workplace. We know that culture “seeps” – what is privately discussed repeatedly at the highest levels works its way through the culture. It just does.
I appreciate Percy’s humility in acknowledging that the mothering language and imagery will not work for everyone.It has been greatly beneficial to me. And I think it could unshackle some time and energy of senior leadership teams if adopted.
Emma Percy, What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks like Nothing(London: SPCK, 2014), 20.
Richard A. Swenson, Margin: How to Create the Emotional, Physical, Financial & Time Reserves You Need(Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992).
Emma Percy, What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks like Nothing(London: SPCK, 2014), 159.