I have attached two contrasting commentaries from two leaders in the Presbyterian Church on the challenge of being a pastor and/or friend in the church.
As I read both of these articles I filled up with old, familiar feelings of loneliness and sadness.
I am often criticized for not being tough enough. I have often lost the balance between being tender-hearted and thick-skinned. My heart always wins.
When people leave the church for whatever reason, I am often reminded to not take it personally. But I do. Not because I have lost a friend, but because I have lost a parishioner. As a pastor, I am invested in people’s lives. I care deeply about their faith journey. When I ask people how they are, I really want to know.
So when the pastoral relationship is severed, part of me feels severed. I understand that people shop around for churches with the right music, theology, polity, demographics of young and old, building, location, etc. I understand that the church is not about the pastor, or at least it shouldn’t be. But that does mean that I ever stop being a pastor. I am a pastor as clearly as I am a mother. I can never turn it off. So, even when people leave the church, I do not leave them. I am still invested in them, their lives and their family.
TS Eliot once wrote, “teach us to care and not to care, teach us to sit still.” This is my life lesson.
The bottom line for me in this vocation is that relationships matter. People matter. The well being of any community is based on the quality of relationships in that community.
As a leader, I think I can only convene and give space for relationships to take place. I can only be open to relationships, or as a friend reminded me lately, “bring light to those I love.”
Peter Block says that leadership is about being intentional. I think as pastors we have to get our personal needs out of the way, and be about creating space for people to form relationships that matter. We create the environment of openness and listening, of vision, generosity, and accountability, and we set our personal needs and egos aside. We listen, we love, we ask questions, and we listen again.
That’s not sad. That’s reality for effective leadership.