Categories
Church Leadership

Pastor as Vocation

Confession: I do as much or more pastoral ministry now than I did when I worked in a church.

That is no knock on my friends in full-time vocational ministry.

It is more an affirmation for the myriad of people I know who have stepped out (or been pushed out) of their ministry job.

Leaving vocational ministry in a church for the great unknown is an identity crisis. These friends are left asking themselves, “Am I still a pastor?

I went through the same thing 2 years ago. You are OK. You are still very much a pastor, even if your paycheck doesn’t come from a church.

I’m here to tell you this simple truth: When you are a pastor you are a pastor wherever you go. It’s a calling and not a vocation.

My reality

I opened this by saying that I do as much or more pastoral ministry now than I did while I worked at churches. So what does that look like?

  • Removed of the stigma of “going to talk to my pastor” I give a great amount of pastoral counsel. Instead of people coming to my office for that we meet at coffee shops, my house, and even bars. (Gasp!)
  • I love teaching at youth group. I don’t do it often enough to get into a groove… which keeps it from feeling like a grind.
  • I totally miss filling the pulpit. At the same time I’ve learned that I probably preach too much and act too little. I have a lot more time to do ministry rather than prepare a message.
  • We’ve rediscovered authentic relationships. When you work at a church your life is full of people who claim to be your friends– but it’s a positional thing. When you are a nobody in your congregation you have to develop friendships the old fashioned way. Better yet: When the positional ones come along you don’t feel obligated.
  • I’m ministering to people in my life that are a part of my neighborhood, work life, adult small group, and students in my youth group.
  • Straight talk, no B.S. (Stealing a line from a politician) That’s kind of how it feels. Free from the weirdness of people probing and constantly feeling like I’m answering every question on behalf of the church, I can just let it fly. Want to know what I think or what the Bible says? I don’t need a “church filter” anymore.

Conversely, when I was a vocational pastor I was constantly thinking to myself, “This is it? I rarely spend time with people. All I do is run programs. I want to be with people and do ministry!

Interesting how freedom from the work of running a church has lead me to doing more pastoral ministry, right?

A global perspective for the naysayers

My fellow Americans, live in an ethnocentric culture. And American church culture is even more insular than American culture. Those of us who are in that culture have a very hard time seeing outside of it. So when I say things like “It’s a calling and not a vocation” most people in the church have no frame of reference. So while we’ve tied the concept of “I’m a pastor” with “I get paid to work at a church” we really get messed up when we no longer work for a church.

Two things to chew on…

Within Christianity: Outside of major Westernized countries almost no one who is a pastor does so vocationally. (Bi-vocational is the norm) In fact, the fastest spreading Christianity is spreading is absent of vocational staff and mostly without resources like buildings, Bibles, Bible study materials, etc. I’ve been pointing out the inverse relationship between church growth and church spending for months… but no one is lining up to cut their church budget/staff to see their church grow.

Other religions: Outside of the Christian church most religions are run by either volunteers or people who have taken vows of poverty, sustained only by the meager donations of people in their care. The Latter-day Saints are an excellent example of this. Very few people get paid within the Mormon church and yet it is one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Categories
Christian Living

Best of 2008

Note: I’m on vacation this week. My family has a rule for daddy– It’s not a vacation if daddy brings a computer. Each day this week I’m highlighting my favorite post from the adammclane.com archives. These are oldies but goodies.

“Who Are You Anyway?”

Confession #1: I’ve gotten wrapped up in being called a leader. I fall into the mistake of thinking people want to know what I think. Instead, a true leader defers to the ultimate source of wisdom, thinking, and counsel. The most appropriate thing I can do as a leader is point someone to ultimate truth found in the Bible. And I recognize that sometimes I do that and sometimes I depend on my own talent, experiences, and personal preferences. I used to be so good at saying, “This is what the Bible says: _______. And this is what I would do if I were in your position: ______________.” It seems that the more people want to recognize me as a “leader” the more I want to emphasize the latter instead of the former. The result is that I’m not always the best leader I can be. Ironic, eh?

Confession #2: I get wrapped up in being called a pastor. I’ve never been comfortable with that title. But as the year’s have gone by I’ve gotten much less diligent in blushing it off when people call me “Pastor Adam.” I don’t know if it’s that I’ve gotten comfortable with what God has done and others recognize that in me or if I just like being called a pastor? Now, it’s true. That is what/who I am. And I am not ashamed of the title. I am not ashamed of my position. And I am not ashamed of my church. It’s not about shame. I recognize that its a sign of respect for my position yet I’ve always been uncomfortable with being labeled any title. Since I entered full-time ministry I’ve always self-reflected and laughed at God’s slapping me… ME… with the title of pastor. Sure… since I was little… even before I was a Christian… I always knew I’d be in ministry. But I also know who I am. I am biblically qualified to be a pastor and yet I know who I am.

  • Above reproach? As far as I know
  • A one woman man? Heck yes!
  • Temperate? I do my very best to not lose it
  • Self-controlled? To the best of my knowledge
  • Respectable? You tell me
  • Hospitable? Check
  • Able to teach? Check
  • Not given to drunkenness? Been good on that one since early teens
  • Not violent but gentle? By the grace of God
  • Not quarrelsome? Not my thing
  • Not a lover of money? How could I be?
  • Manage his family well? Could always do better
  • Not a recent convert? Check
  • Good reputation? Let me know, OK?

Confession #3: I want to get more wrapped up in my identity as a daddy and husband than as “Pastor Adam.” Closing in on 6 years of working in churches full time and I know well why some denominations don’t let their pastors marry. The demands on the position are over-the-top hard to balance with a family. People think nothing of about calling me late at night or early in the morning to talk to me or ask me to do something. And I’m always tempted to work every day and most nights for youth group, small groups, meetings, and other stuff that lands on my schedule. I really don’t think this is biblical and I should be more disciplined about saying “Can we talk or do this tomorrow?” In the past 6 years we’ve had countless family meals interrupted, countless dates disrupted, dozens of movies put on pause, play time put on pause for other people so many times my kids hate it when I take a call, times with daddy missed for this and that. Spending quality time with other people’s kids while missing the same with my own. Honestly, I hardly ever noticed. But my wife and kids did. It’s tough being married with kids and being married with kids to a church. Only recently have I been doing some studying in the New Testament and I realized… “Wait a minute! These guys weren’t nearly as available as I am and God still thought they rocked as pastors and leaders.”

Read the rest

This is one of those blogs posts that has stuck with me. For the last two years I’ve been unwinding myself from being “Pastor Adam” to going back to being “just Adam.

I’m thankful for my new life and friendships. And I’m thankful that most of those people know me as Adam and not Pastor Adam. I still don’t know/think that I’m done with being on church staff… but I do know that if there is a next time, I won’t let people call me Pastor Adam. You can have a title with your job. But you can’t ever allow yourself to be that title more than you are yourself.

Categories
Church Leadership

Lessons from the bench

For the last two years I’ve been riding the pine at church. This time has taught me a lot about what it means to be in church leadership.

From age 16 until 31 I had always aspired to be an up front leader at church. I like being visible. I love speaking, teaching, and preaching. I truly enjoy the grind of regularly doing those things as my vocation.

Over the past two years I’ve gone from being the person everyone on our church campus knew to being a relative nobody. In athletic terms, I went from being a starter to being a player who sits the bench.

And just like in athletics, when you put a starter on the bench, the Coach always does it so the starter can learn.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned from riding the bench at church:

  1. Every attendee gets something different out of a Sunday morning, you can’t control the takeaway or topic one bit. I can’t believe I ever thought I could control that.
  2. The more a church offers the less people are involved in their community. Growing a church by doing less doesn’t make logical sense, but its 100% true.
  3. Never assume people know what a term is or who an author/speaker is that you reference. People in church leadership live in a different world, with different heroes, than the rest of the congregation.
  4. Visibly valuing people is really important. This manifests itself in a lot of different ways. But it demonstrates the church leaderships character in what they put up front.
  5. People in the pews care way more about the staff and their families than I ever imagined. It’s not creepy, it’s not some American idol worship, it’s actually quite sweet.

If you’ve gone from church staff to church attendee, what are some things you’ve learned through that process that could help people in church leadership?