Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Things I Sometimes Forget – And Need to Know

During Spring Break this year, I will be on a team that will be interviewing men and women undergoing examination for ordination in the United Methodist Church. I used to think that I would enjoy such an honor. I think I am growing to hate the job. Being a pastor is hard enough. But judging and discerning whether someone is qualified to do so? Some days, I feel like grabbing some of these folks, and like the NS-4 robot on “I, Robot” that grabbed Will Smith by the leg, I want to say to these folks, “Run!”

I read the following from Brent Olsen, a layman who serves on the Minnesota Conference Board of Ministry:
I recently spent a few days at a retreat for the Minnesota Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry where about 30 of us—mainly clergy but a few lay folks such as me—interviewed people wanting to be pastors.

It's an awful job. It really is. And I mean that in a couple of ways. The dictionary offers up a couple of definitions of "awful" including "causing fear or dread or terror," but also "inspired by a feeling of fearful wonderment or reverence." I wavered between the two all week.

On one hand, preparing to be an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church is not an easy task. It takes the better part of a decade and no one really enters into it on a whim. When you read their stories and then see their earnest, eager, nervous faces, the inclination is to say, "Sold. Let's get you signed up and fitted for your robe."

On the other hand, you think about every congregation, eager child, puzzled teenager or heartsick parishioner that this person will come in contact with for the next 20 or 30 years. You think about how they will work with their colleagues and the larger church, and you consider whether their particular talents are best suited for the fairly specific job of being a pastor. It's a brutal job to tell someone that, just because every fiber of their being yearns to be a pastor, it doesn't mean they should be one…

Because do you know what I want from my pastor? I want him/her to be a good person. That's it: genuine, caring, and concerned. Hard working and involved. I want a smile when they look at a child and warmth in their tone when they talk to the old guy who smells bad. Those skills are a little harder to nail down in an interview.

That's what makes the board of ordained ministry an awful job, in all senses of the word. Anyone we green-light has a job until they retire, and we're charged to evaluate people based on what we can measure and confirm, instead of on what matters.
- from UMR

So what do you think? What do you want from your pastor? I’d love to know. Call me and let’s talk. I’ll even buy the coffee.


1 comment:

Gary said...

You've probably already read it, but I liked Willimon's quote from Paul Borden:

What is the main thing you look for in selecting new pastors?” Borden responded, “An Orthodox faith, a vivid belief in the Trinity, and of course, a sure faith in the resurrection.”

And those are actually things that can be determined in an interview, though they require dialog that goes deeper than many interviews allow.