January 23, 2017

Church Growth: Pastoral Care

pastoral_care

One thing I have noticed about people who promote church growth ideology, and the pastors who who “lead” churches by its principles:

They really don’t like pastoral care.

And yet, they still want to be called pastors.

Take the eight-point list on why churches don’t grow by Carey Nieuwhof that we referenced yesterday. The first and last entries are both specifically directed at pastors who make pastoral care a priority. He says churches won’t grow because:

  • the pastor is the primary caregiver, and
  • the pastor suffers from a desire to please everybody.

This is his portrait of a pastor who makes pastoral care a priority. Such a minister thinks he has to do it all, and he thinks that way because his main concern is pleasing people, not leading them. Listen to his words:

When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding, funeral and make regular house calls, he or she becomes incapable of doing other things. That model just doesn’t scale. If you’re good at it, you’ll grow the church to 200 people and then disappoint people when you can’t get to every event any more. Or you’ll just burn out. It creates false expectations and so many people get hurt in the process.

. . . Many pastors I know are people-pleasers by nature. Go see a counselor. Get on your knees. Do whatever you need to do to get over the fear of disappointing people. Courageous leadership is like courageous parenting. Don’t do what your kids want you to do; do what you believe is best for them in the end. Eventually, many of them will thank you. And the rest? Honestly, they’ll probably go to another church that isn’t reaching many people either.

While he may have a valid point or two hiding in there (stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason), Nieuwhof’s words represent a typical disdainful attitude toward pastoral care. You get the idea that, to “leaders” who see it as their mission to “grow” churches, pastoral care is a necessary evil, one that shouldn’t tie up the “leader’s” time and energy. You’re too important for that. Pass it on to someone else. Organize it away. You are the visionary, the builder, the preacher (“vision-caster”). You can’t afford to take time with the sheep. You are a rancher, not a shepherd. You’ve got to set yourself up high, away from the mud and the shit and the bleating, where you can keep an eye on the big picture and direct your underlings to do the real work of ministry.

In case this isn’t explicit enough in Carey Nieuwhof’s list, he has followed up with an entire article called “How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches,” where he writes, “The pastoral care model of church leadership simply doesn’t scale.”

But it’s not enough for him to simply recognize a potential organizational barrier that might be handled in a number of different ways. He has to make clear his distaste for pastoral care:

Many pastors I know are people-pleasers by nature. Wanting to not disappoint people fuels conflict within leaders: people want you to care for them, and you hate to disappoint them.

In some respect, pastoral care establishes classic co-dependency. The congregation relies on the pastor for all of its care needs, and the pastor relies on the congregation to provide their sense of worth and fulfilment: the pastor needs to be needed.

As a hospice chaplain, I work with many who are Roman Catholic. We have about 130 parishes and missions in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, with a Catholic population of nearly 225,000. That’s an average of about 1700 people per parish, though of course some are very small and others quite large. I work with a handful of those parishes on the south and east sides of the city, along with a few downtown and others in suburban areas. Many are thriving, well attended, with schools and a variety of ministries and outreach projects.

Here’s my point: As a chaplain I have never — not once — been unable to get hold of a priest from one of those parishes when I’ve had a pastoral care need. And I have never — not once — had a priest fail to respond and make a personal visit to the home or hospital or nursing home, usually the same day or night, but always within 24 hours or when the family needed him.

A robust embrace of pastoral care by the pastor has not hampered these Catholic parishes or kept them from growing and furthering their mission. Indeed, those churches would never stand for the kind of neglect I see in evangelical churches all the time. The priests I know have a profound commitment to caring for the people in their parishes based on a theology of pastoral ministry that has stood the test of time.

And here is an important point: the Catholic church has found ways of organizing the life and ministries of the community with that in the center, not as a peripheral extra or necessary evil. Nor do the priests do it all. There are pastoral care ministers, deacons, eucharistic ministers that take communion each week to the homebound, care groups, and so on. The priests lead by giving faithful pastoral care, and they also equip others for caring ministry.

On the other hand, I have a number of comments about Carey Nieuwhof and his approach.

  • His “theology” of pastoral ministry is not theologically or biblically rooted at all but based on corporate organizational wisdom.
  • Even though organizational wisdom can be a valuable tool for churches, it must remain subservient to theology and not overtake it, otherwise a “church” is no longer a church and its leaders are no longer “pastors.”
  • I agree with him that is right and necessary to think in terms of building strong organizations and lasting institutions. Indeed, I think we often fail to appreciate the importance of this. But the evangelical model of having the “Senior Pastor” or “Executive Pastor” be the leader (i.e. CEO) and at the same time be viewed as an actual working “pastor” is untenable.

I have come to appreciate the difference by my work in healthcare over the past 10-11 years. There is management (the business side) and there are clinicians (the patient-care side). I am a clinician and that is where my priorities lie. I value those who keep our business sustainable (however much I might grumble at their decisions) because without the context they provide, I cannot do my job. But my job is not theirs, and they don’t try to tell me how to do mine. I’m not “the face” of the organization — I don’t address the entire network to tell them what we’re doing and my face is not on the commercials we use to reach out to the community. We work in partnership. The CEO and leaders and administrators try to make sure we have a sound and growing company that is following our vision and values. My job is to live out that vision and those values on street level: to meet face to face with patients and care for them along with others who do the same with different specialities.

Pastors are not and were not meant to be executives or “leaders” in the business sense. Those in the church who do have such gifts of administration should be valued and churches should organize themselves so they can help build sound organizations and lasting institutions. But they are not “pastors.” They are not “in ministry” in the same way as the one who gives you word and sacrament, who visits you at home and in the hospital, and who helps you mark the major events of your life with sacramental blessing.

People who call themselves pastors and yet disdain pastoral care or think it should be passed on to others as the primary caregivers are not pastors in any true sense of the word. Being a pastor means being a person who provides pastoral care.

Pastoral care is not a problem. Pastoral care lies at the heart of what the church is all about.

When I’m dying, please call a priest.

Comments

  1. Pastoral care was a big plus for smaller churches over the megas to me. I’m glad that if I need it I am pretty certain I’ll be able to receive it. The preacher at the megachurch I went to was a good guy, but the scaling problem defeats his ability to provide much pastoral care.

    A question (or few): Do the church growth folks have a concept of having a “calling”? What if one was called to pastor at a small rural church? Would that person feel like he was not a good pastor?

    • Do the church growth folks have a concept of having a “calling”? What if one was called to pastor at a small rural church? Would that person feel like he was not a good pastor?

      From my limited experience, “calling” is not something that gets much attention in church growth theology (apart from the leader’s personal assurance that he’s doing what God wants him to do). And megachurches almost by definition are suburban and urban phenomena – rural churches and areas aren’t on their radar.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        As I tried to emphasize yesterday – the megas who are mega-like [those which adopt the church-growth ideology] represent a different set of cultural norms [autonomy and self-sufficiency vs. community]. That is a very American – and wealthy – frame. There is a very real underlying cultural disagreement.

        But “calling”… that is a notion which needs to be rejected **everywhere**. People should work with the skills and passions they have – recognizing the value of the skills and passions they do not have. Anointing someone with the divine shakra of being Called is about nothing other than ego inflation; nothing, nothing what-so-ever.

        > rural churches and areas aren’t on their radar.

        This is sort of by definition; the bodies and the capital don’t exist in rural places to create them.

        • Adam, I would disagree. I believe it is very possible to have a vocation, a calling, and not have it be about ego. It can come from true concern and compassion.

          • What’s the Biblical defense for “a calling”? I know the NT talks about the Spirit giving gifts and equipping, but not sure about calling, besides some OT references that don’t apply.

          • We’re nested too deep here, so for StuartB…

            I mean a calling or vocation in the same sense as it is used in the secular world. I don’t think that a calling in the christian context is any different. It is a deeply held passion or commitment. Besides, I can’t tell the difference between a “spirit prompting” and my own internal processing. So I don’t think that there is any need for a biblical defense here.

        • I think I sit with Wayne on this one.

          I believe we all have a calling or a vocation. I have a friend who is called to be a teacher and shares his gift, another who encourages as a priest, yet another as a biomedical physicist.
          I am called to do information technology.

          Yes, and some of us are called to be pastors

        • Anointing someone with the divine shakra of being Called is about nothing other than ego inflation; nothing, nothing what-so-ever.

          A freaking MEN

        • I know the NT talks about the Spirit giving gifts and equipping, but not sure about calling, besides some OT references that don’t apply.

          Stuart I think you think you are nearly there, each of us are given gifts, and the combination is unique. We are part of a body – as Paul hints at in Corinthians. We each have a vocation or calling and we get to discover that.
          I think that it is a pity in some circles that people use it for self-exaltation in violation of Corinthians 12 which says our gifts are God given.

          But hey, its a circus out there.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > We each have a vocation or calling and we get to discover that.

            No, we discover nothing. We recognize our strengths and weaknesses, we mediate those through education and training, and we select an applicable vocation. And, of course, the employer assists us in that selection.

            Calling is the unnecessary spiritualization of the process of division-of-labor.

            From a previous comment – “we all have a calling or a vocation.”. See the “or”. So there are the Called and the [merely] vocational. The notion of Calling *always* creates an “or”, that is its only purpose. What does it add to understanding? How does it aid in relationships? How does it aid in achieving goals? It does none of those things, it only divides into the Called and the Not-Called; those with divine favor, and those without such favor [who obviously should listen to the favored ones].

            I can discuss with someone how they may not be a good candidate for a particular role. It is impossible to have any conversations with someone once they anoint themselves with the title of The Called.

          • Unfortunate my choice of words. by calling or vocation I mean that the two words carry the same meaning, maybe another way of putting it is calling or in other words a vocation.

            And I do agree with you about those who anoint themselves, but I don’t believe that we should let the abnormal set the standard for definitions, but call them what they are. So I am specifically saying I do not divide the sacred from the secular.

            I serve God first and am called to work in Information technology. My friend terry serves God as a priest, another friend serves God as a physicist.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Which means the notion of Calling means nothing, and you are only retaining the term/concept for cultural value.

            If whatever people do is there Calling then they are Called to do whatever they do. It adds nothing to understanding. It is just more Christian Word Salad.

  2. When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding, funeral and make regular house calls, he or she becomes incapable of doing other things. That model just doesn’t scale. If you’re good at it, you’ll grow the church to 200 people and then disappoint people when you can’t get to every event any more.

    That 150-200 person limit is a pretty well-established sociological phenomenon iirc – the upper limit of how many people that people can keep track of and relate to in a meaningful way. But of course, modernity doesn’t recognize natural limitations, so instead of seeing this as an ideal practical size for a congregation, they see it as a weakness to be structurally overcome.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > modernity doesn’t recognize natural limitations

      I completely disagree. I’ve had conversations about that limit, and the range of people a manager can manage, and the amount of delegation a person can manage, with corporate consultants. These limits are something people are *VERY* aware of.

      And as demonstrated in the article the Catholic parishes do achieve pastoral care on an urban scale.

      The Church Growth movement is *not* using Organization Behavior science, principles and knowledge. They are *using it to*, rhetorically, move something to the margin which they do not view as particularly valuable. They are redefining “Pastor”. It is the silliness of “Senior Pastor” and “Executive Pastor”, because a church which looks very similar to a corporation needs to religionize its titles in order to maintain distinctiveness – they cannot just call someone an Executive, when that is what they are, and that is an entirely honorable role.

      • That Other Jean says:

        Catholic parishes, though, have financial backing beyond their individual congregations. Evangelical congregations of the sort we’re talking about do not. Each congregation supports its own pastor, which makes charismatic preachers and the creation of larger churches highly desirable–popular pastors of mega-churches in wealthy areas live more affluent lives than less-polished speakers who pastor smaller, poorer churches. Under those circumstances, it’s hard for a pastor to be more about church growth than the daily concerns of the people in his congregation. Not incidentally, such churches also have more layers of organization that remove the “Senior Pastor” ever farther from the people who come to his church. I don’t think that this is a problem with a solution under the present Evangelical model.

  3. Well written, Mike. I see the same thing in education, in missions, even in the Peace Corps: during our term overseas, Andy and I heard an American Peace Corps administrator in the capital complain about all the volunteers coming to him for help. “Why can’t they just stay at their sites and let me do my job?” he complained. One wonders what his job was.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””In some respect, pastoral care establishes classic co-dependency. The congregation relies on the pastor for all of its care needs, and the pastor relies on the congregation to provide their sense of worth and fulfilment: the pastor needs to be needed.”””

    Wow. This is a blatant logical fallacy of appeal to the extremes – “The congregation relies on the pastor for ***all*** of its care need” Really, All?

    Either as the pastor or the congregant I would be insulted by this statement; life is not a choice between Manly-Man-American-Self-Sufficiency and Whimpering-CoDependence.

    • It is an insulting statement. He could have used as his extra-biblical proof-text, “God takes care of those who take care of themselves”. I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with any church of which he was pastor. It’s really quite disgusting. He probably thinks Jesus was the Greatest Businessman Ever.

    • Sounds complementarian, really.

  5. One or maybe two priests for a congregation of 1700 in today’s priest shortage it might be one for the whole congregation of 1700. One priest can distribute Holy Unction and Eucharist to a crowd of that size. When the ticket to paradise is bound in the Sacraments you are guaranteed many adherents and financial donors

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Care-givers [Pastors in the terms on this post] in Catholicism are not necessarily priests.

      And enrollment in Catholic seminaries began trending up in 2012, so more of those will be coming out of the pipeline soon.

  6. So the poster wants basically to be a bishop of his own little personal empire diocese?

    I wonder if just playing SimCity every now and again would get him the same thrill (I know it does for me…).

  7. This post represents a drum I will beat as GOD gives me breath, as long as I live. Keep at it Chap Mike.

    One of my best friends does nearly all the pastoral care at his church, because no one else wants it. In many ways, they run from it. This is sad, but my friend is glad to have an employment “niche” at 65. It still wears on him that the leaders do not want to do this kind of work, but see themselves as needed elsewhere. My friends “mantra” is : relationship, relationship, relationship. I hope he is around to do my funeral.

  8. Of the complaints about megachurches, I think this is the one that holds the most weight (sorry, but many of the other arguments just come across as personal preference complaints and painting with a broad brush).

    But if a speaker is gifted, and people are drawn to hear him or her, and the congregation grows to such a large size that he is unable to “pastor” everyone, It is not that they can’t or don’t do it at all, it is just limited.

    Is the problem the leader, or is the problem the emphasis put on other things such as the quality of the sermon?

    • Good point. I didn’t fully unravel it but this is a primary theological difference in understanding the pastor’s role. Preaching is important not because it is feeding the flock that one cares for throughout the week, but because the “vision-caster” needs to keep the vision and values of the mission in front of the troops.

      • I think you are partially right, but I don’t necessarily agree it is an across-the-board either/or issue in regards to feeding v. mission. I have seen many emphasize both.

        But as I mentioned yesterday, the mission aspect may be due to the missiology v. ecclesiology issue.

        And if missiology is considered prime in a given church, does that then dictate the time allotment of the leaders, thus impact pastor care (much like the sermon)?

        • I just don’t think you can “feed” a bunch of people on Sunday that you don’t know Mon-Sat. You can impart information and give motivational talks or rally people to a cause, but you can’t “pastor” a faceless crowd. Now if a church is large, no one pastor will be able to know everyone, but in that case each pastor will be involved in pastoral care and will be involved with some on a personal basis. Then you can share the preaching and teaching and still maintain a vital connection to the congregation.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      The problem is the emphasis, for sure. But the emphasis comes from somewhere – possibly the leader. It is hard to separate such things. The leader discussed in this post is REALLY clear what he thinks the emphasis should be.

      I disagree this is about “personal preference”, it is fair to say it is about ” cultural values “. It is honest, and makes life easier, to admit we are not one culture.

      Broad Brush is a fair criticism. This leader represents a particular type of mega-church; it is the white suburban middle-class non-denom Evangelical church. I do wish it had specific name. Variety of mega-churches exist. There are cultural value, not preferrence, differences between those types of megas as well as between the megas and the non-megas.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Broad Brush is a fair criticism. This leader represents a particular type of mega-church; it is the white suburban middle-class non-denom Evangelical church. I do wish it had specific name.

        The Soccer Mom Mega with Pastor Donald Trump?

    • Makes you wonder how Spurgeon managed.

  9. Christiane says:

    ‘When I’m dying, please call a priest.’

    AMEN!

    when I in Catholic school, the nuns told us that, if we got hit by a bus in front of the Greek Orthodox Church down the street, their priest could come out and give us ‘last rites’ . . . after that, I always felt safer near the Greek Orthodox Church . . .

    a lot of Christian people don’t know from ‘last rites’, but it is actually biblical to have ministers come and pray for the sick and the dying, yes

    a rather ‘dramatic’ (sorry) example of the last rites is here and the drama is a bit graphic:

    ‘Let the fire of the Holy Spirit descend
    that this being may be awakened in the world beyond the life of this Earth
    and infused with the power of the Holy Spirit.
    Lord Jesus Christ, I ask that You receive this child (name) into Your loving arms,
    that (he/she) may pass in safety from this crisis as YOU have taught us with infinite passion.
    By this sign, you are anointed with the grace of the Atonement of Our Lord Jesus Christ
    and absolved of all past error and free to take your place in the world He has prepared for us.
    In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’
    AMEN

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZND53eM-Ks

  10. I was a member of a large evangelical church for some 20 years. Due to my job I often had the opportunity to interact with some of the pastors and many of the members. We had 13 pastors on staff when my husband died and the business where I worked closed. I was grieving deeply. Not one of the 13 pastors had time to see me. Thankfully a wonderful, caring couple in the church literally took me into their home so I could just rest and weep and begin the long journey of creating a new life. They literally sat up at 3:00 am with me when I couldn’t sleep. Listened, wept with me, he was a physician and explained the grieving process to me and the impact on the body. I was warmly welcomed at their Thanksgiving table. That was about 9 years ago and they still check in with me by phone at least one a month. Interestingly enough we have all left the large church. I was just asked yesterday who in my life best modeled Christ to me. Of course my answer was these precious friends.

    I really appreciate this particular article Chaplain Mike.

    • That Other Jean says:

      I can’t help but think that if you don’t want to be a shepherd, you shouldn’t be trying to keep sheep. I’m very glad that you found such good friends in your church when its pastors let you down.

  11. One other thing I would like to mention. My church, and many churches across the U.S. have Stephen Ministers. This is a wonderful program where congregation members take hours of training in order to be able to walk with a person in the church who is going through a life crisis of any sort and just need someone to talk with. It is a tremendous commitment of time and ongoing training. They meet twice a month once they are actively ministering to someone. They continue to be assigned books to read etc. Amazon carries the Stephen Ministry books. It gives vital meaning to the Biblical priesthood of all believers.

  12. Fr. Isaac (or possibly Obed, but definitely not Fr. Obed) says:

    I hope a little pushback isn’t unwelcome, albeit pushback with a caveat.

    Caveat: I’m by no means a proponent of Church Growth methods or megachurches.

    That said, I think some of the discussion about pastoral care has been comparing apples and oranges when we talk about the way priests do it vs. the way Evangelicals do it. I first saw the article being discussed about a month ago when our rector (Anglican-speak for “head pastor”) sent it to the vestry and us junior clergy for discussion. We’ve been hovering at an ASA of 120-200 for years, and a membership of 300-400. Our take-away on the pastoral care issue is that there is a certain amount of delegation that a rector ought to do with respect to some of this. After all, there’s a reason we have assisting clergy. That doesn’t, however, remove the rector from doing pastoral care; it just spreads the responsibility (and privilege) among those who have been trained and ordained to do it.

    At my previous parish, I felt like I was always sitting on the bench waiting to get put in the game. This was largely because the rector there didn’t want to take advantage of us volunteer clergy, and wanted to do most of the priest duties himself. Well, even though I was a volunteer, I didn’t get ordained so that I could wear a collar on Sunday morning and spend the rest of my life doing my day job!

    At my current parish, in addition to the rector, we have the part-time curate (i.e. “assistant pastor,” me). and two volunteer transitional deacons. This is a relatively new thing at this parish. For many years, the rector had been the only clergyman. Now, all four of us (with the invaluable help of our lay pastoral care team) take on pastoral care duties. In fact, we each seem to have a set of parishioners that we’re regularly dealing with in this regard (I just got back from a hospital visit for a lady whose husband I’d been regularly visiting when he was homebound; they specifically asked me rather than the rector because they’d been dealing with me, and I live close to them).

    We saw this kind of thing what was being recommended in the article rather than the pastor taking a hands-off approach. Perhaps not being in the target church demographic we misunderstood, but the way we took the advise was indeed very helpful.

    Now, as the curate, I’ve come to realize that I’m probably not going to do many funerals, weddings, or baptisms anytime soon. Folks want the rector/pastor for that, generally. But other aspects of pastoral care are part of the reason I was hired. And the rector does as much of that as I do. And if anyone is in extremis, the rector will definitely be on the scene as soon as he can, even if I or one of the deacons is there first.

    CM had said that he never has problems getting ahold of Catholic priests. Awesome. But home many of those priests are the parish pastor and how many of them are the assisting clergy? Granted, things are run in a different way than in much of Evangelicalism (after all, whose heard of a Roman priest being a “vision-casting leader”?), but I don’t expect any single priest/pastor/whatever to cover the pastoral care needs of an entire congregation of several hundred people.

    • I said in the post that the priests don’t do it all.

      However I will also say that I usually talk with one of the primary priests, not assistants. They lead by example, not by passing off the pastoral care to others.

      • Fr. Isaac (or possibly Obed, but definitely not Fr. Obed) says:

        And I think that’s a key difference. It’s one thing to share the duties with the other clergy; it’s another to pass it off completely.

        I wonder if some of y’all with more direct connection to Roman Catholic folks in hospitals might know more about this than I, but I know that for a long time, the Sacrament of Unction was relegated to “Last Rites” or “Extreme Unction,” with “extreme” usually limited to life-threatening. Is that still the case? In our (again, Anglican) parish, we figure if it’s serious enough to go to the hospital, or even doctor, it’s serious enough for Unction.

        • The Catholic rite is now called “The Anointing of the Sick,” and is for anyone with a serious illness. There are no limits on how many times it may be given and priests I know encourage people to call for them whenever they face something serious or life-threatening.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            During my cathechism, I remember the priest telling stories about the Anointing of the Sick’s reputation as “Last Rites”. Up to and including the patient who was to be anointed trying to climb out the window when he saw the priest enter.

  13. David Cornwell says:

    “Being a pastor means being a person who provides pastoral care.”

    “Pastoral care is not a problem. Pastoral care lies at the heart of what the church is all about.”

    Thank you for making this clear. And as to preaching: some of the better preaching comes from these pastors. This is true because they are close to the people. They see, hear, touch, feel, and smell the situations and problems of their people and thus the parish they serve. Therefore their preaching may not be dynamic, but it speaks a word from God– the healing word the people need to hear.

    The model for “success” in pastoral ministry is something else now. It’s about growth in numbers and hopefully money. Those who feel called to a pastoral type of service feel devalued from the beginning.

    Oh– I do believe in what has been named “call.” One of the first questions I was asked, when I began considering becoming a pastor was something like this (I was 15 years old): “Explain why you feel called,” or “explain your call.” I do not recall the exact terminology of the question and will not give my answer here because it was/is very personal and I hesitated to explain it to anyone. I refuse to defend the term “call” beyond this. If you do not believe in it, you probably haven’t experienced it. I will say that it is not something to be used as the basis for boasting. A person who stands in the pulpit week after week telling the congregation that he is “called” by God to do such and such, or be such and such, probably is not.

    • I do not have font large enough, or bold enough, for this gem from David:

      Thank you for making this clear. And as to preaching: some of the better preaching comes from these pastors. This is true because they are close to the people. They see, hear, touch, feel, and smell the situations and problems of their people and thus the parish they serve. Therefore their preaching may not be dynamic, but it speaks a word from God– the healing word the people need to hear.

      How can someone, who has made no effort to know me or nearly all my neighbors, or even the staff in many cases, give a sermon that is the ” incarnate” word of GOD ?? I have incarnate in quotes, I know that Jesus is uniquely that, BUT: doesn’t HE want the word to come alive, be made flesh, in those who teach ?? Or else we are all about gathering the right biblical facts, about being “correct”, or “orthodox”. What good, absent the word made flesh, is THAT ?? I do NOT want that “correct” sermon… been there done that.

      I want to smell the sheep from the podium, and see sheep stuff stuck to the boots.

  14. Richard Hershberger says:

    Regarding the model scaling, what are the limitations on the megachurch model? I don’t think anyone really believes the pious fiction about gathering in the unchurched. It is all about poaching from other churches. The limitation on the model is not how many people the pastor can actually interact with: he isn’t expected to interact with the people. Neither is it on how many can fit in the auditorium: you can build a bigger auditorium, or multiple auditoriums. Neither is it how far people are willing to drive: you can spin off satellite campuses (while keeping firm control over their personnel and finances). Hence the megachurch as de facto denomination model. But there is still the limitation on how many people are interested in going to a megachurch. Once they have all left the smaller churches, there are only other megas to raid.

    This is why I am unimpressed by the Church Growth model. It isn’t about growing *the* church. It is about growing *your* church by shuffling people around from other churches. I first encountered this in the 1990s when I was on Council at my Lutheran church. We were given a book to read on Church Growth, with an eye toward implementing the strategies it described. I was appalled. Many of these strategies amounted to under no circumstances giving any hint of Lutheranism (or any other distinctive tradition), instead pushing a generic vague Protestantism. What’s the point? I was going to a Lutheran church because I wanted to go to a Lutheran church. People who preferred a not-Lutheran church had innumerable not-Lutheran churches to choose from: far more than I had Lutheran churches. The idea was to convert my Lutheran church into a de facto not-Lutheran church in hopes of getting a piece of that sweet, sweet not-Lutheran pie. feh.

    • Your comment illustrates part of what I meant when I said that organizational wisdom must remain subservient to theology.

      When it doesn’t the church ceases to be the church, or in your case the Lutheran distinctives of your church get dissolved into mush.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This is why I am unimpressed by the Church Growth model. It isn’t about growing *the* church. It is about growing *your* church by shuffling people around from other churches.

      This is called “Sheep Rustling”.

      We were given a book to read on Church Growth, with an eye toward implementing the strategies it described.

      Written by Donald Trump?

      I was appalled. Many of these strategies amounted to under no circumstances giving any hint of Lutheranism (or any other distinctive tradition), instead pushing a generic vague Protestantism.

      Bait and Switch.

      Just like all the Calvinistas doing stealth takeovers in Baptist churches (chronicled by The Wartburg Watch). Using the exact Salami Tactics of Comrade Stalin.

      Or the Know-Nothings of 19th Century American politics. (along with their street-gang affiliate The Bowery Boys, the direct inspiration for “The Native Americans” in the movie Gangs of New York). They got their name from their secrecy — if a Know-Nothing was asked about their affiliation, he was to answer “I Know Nothing,” i.e. play dumb.

  15. One other aspect of the Catholic church is that the priests are celibate, have no families to care for (usually), and have housekeepers. That goes a long way towards freeing them up to be available for pastoral care. I don’t say this to be disdainful, I have a great affection for the Catholic church. It is just one more factor in the mix.

    I wonder if any pastors of other christian denominations would ever follow this model voluntarily. Definitely doesn’t fit corporate culture.

    • Fr. Isaac (or possibly Obed, but definitely not Fr. Obed) says:

      I was thinking this, too. As a bi-vocational Anglican priest with a wife an infant daughter, I juggle pastoral duties, family duties, and “day job” duties. I’m ashamed to admit that there have been times when I find out one of the flock is in hospital that my gut reaction is “dang, not again… I don’t know if I have time for this.” By the grace of God, that gut reaction is quickly overshadowed by the joy of working in my calling. As I’ve mentioned before, I felt like a benchwarmer at other parishes.

      • Fr. Issac, are you on the Facebook page? I am at an Anglican parish as well and may not mind trading some notes…

        • Fr. Isaac (or possibly Obed, but definitely not Fr. Obed) says:

          Certainly. Just search for Isaac Rehberg. I’m the only one in a collar!

    • I thought of this, and believe me, I know this from experience.

      All I know is that if I have to choose between “running a church” and providing pastoral care I would say the latter is more important.

      Probably why I’m a chaplain today. My priorities don’t match the church growth model of the churches I was in.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Wayne, I appreciate what you are saying, but there is another side to it also. A pastor with family might sometimes be in a better position to understand what the modern family faces, thus be a better conduit for the Word of God. This can be very costly for everyone concerned, and some pastors may be forced to leave because of the complexity of family issues. But if God is allowed to find a path through these, churches, people, and pastors will be better off for it.

      Hope this makes sense.

  16. I am struggling over this almost to the point of tears lately.

    As a new associate pastor, some of the sweetest times in the past 5 months have been in these care situations. I feel alive, I’m able to step aside and not make it about me, and God’s presence is with us in an almost tangible way. It’s amazing. I wouldn’t trade it.

    And yet it could dominate most of my day-to-day if I allowed it to. There are so many needs. So, so, so many. We do have a caregiving team that I oversee, but even the organization of this team and making sure every need gets covered is absolutely taxing and anxiety-inducing on my soul.

    I am not for passing off this responsibility. But now that I’ve seen it up front, I understand the drain, the constant needs, the need for structure and the need not to be the only one.

    But I hate organizational management. HATE it. (I’m also really bad at it in an immature way, so it is a disciplining process for me). I attended a local Catalyst event recently, with Andy Stanley live in person. Our whole church staff went. I took away some good sound bites — it is definitely the event to go to if you want to learn to run an effective organization. But it’s not the place where I’m going to learn to be a pastor. And yet organizational structure is needed. And yet theology needs to lead… and yet… and yet…

    I’m torn, confused, dizzy. I want to be with the people, but I want to help make space for the people who have yet to hear.

    I love being in full-time ministry. I hate running a church. And yet…

    • Sean, thanks for your honest and personal take on this. I agree with you fully that this is demanding, seemingly inefficient, and never-ending work.

      Evangelicals really need to talk about this, because many, like yourself, want to be pastors but are getting eaten alive trying to meet the needs, while others, like the pastor I reference in today’s article, studiously avoid being involved in it and show by their words and actions that they want no part of it.

      At least since the days I was in Bible college and seminary, this aspect of ministry has been looked down upon in favor of Bible teaching, preaching, and church growth/missional strategies of various kinds. We have whole generations of people in ministry who are well-intentioned but ill-prepared to face the rigors of actual pastoral work.

      • I get the impression that some leaders think that Chaplains are not in the real ministry. Yet my experience is that chaplains are doing more front line ministry than many pastors.

      • I would be interested to know if there are resources you would recommend for average working Joe’s to learn pastoral care skills.

        • If you can find a church with Stephen Ministry training that would be a good investment. Otherwise the best thing is finding a pastor or chaplain you know that you respect in this regard and have him/her apprentice you.

    • Only Jesus did it perfectly. Teaching, caring, leading. He’s the Good Shepherd, the only perfect shepherd.

      Prayers going up for you, Sean. Hang tough. Keep pulsing the Spirit and reading the Gospels to see how Jesus did it. Remember to always take deep breaths and give yourself a break; you’re human.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Sean, if I were calling a pastor to visit me before cancer surgery, or at the deathbed of a loved one, it would be someone like you. No doubt.

      I do not have a good solution for your struggles. However I do recommend reading a book by Eugene H. Peterson called The Pastor: A Memoir. It always comes to mind when when these discussions take place. If you’ve read it already, it’s worth revisiting because of the encouragement it can bring.

      And take care of your body. Eat right. Try to sleep right.

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Pastors are not and were not meant to be executives or “leaders” in the business sense. Those in the church who do have such gifts of administration should be valued and churches should organize themselves so they can help build sound organizations and lasting institutions. But they are not “pastors.”

    They are Donald Trump with a Christianese coat of paint.

  18. Seems to me that pastors are the shepherds and their congregations are a flock of sheep. Sheep require special care. Pastors should only grow their flock IF THEY CAN HANDLE IT. Would a shepherd take on the responsibility of 200 sheep if he only has skills for 100?

    But if a pastor feels like he’s a good shepherd and able to HELP more sheep – sheep who’d be lost and suffering MORE if they remained OUT of a flock – maybe congregational growth is good for the sheep. And even Jesus himself didn’t do it all; he delegated tasks. Maybe growth in a flock is okay if there are plenty of able assistant shepherds.

  19. OldProphet says:

    All these reasons today are the reason that after 30 years, I’ve chucked Evangelicalism. I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years and I can count on two hands that pastors I have known that actually have the gift of pastoring. No sheppards; CEO’s, teachers, accountants, talkers, stock brokers, philosophers, psychiatrists, community organizers, … It’s hard to lay down your life for the sheep when you lose a tax break? There is a church in my region in that the pastor actually is accompanied to church by a bodyguard! Really. LORD, have mercy on us. And its a megachurch!

  20. Crazy Chester says:

    I’m with Chaplain Mike on the importance of pastoral care. One of the reasons I started attending my present church is that I witnessed the pastor in action with my terminally ill father. I knew that he would be the type of pastor I’d want when I’m in dire straits. I don’t think the question of “who you gonna call?” should be a matter of Catholic priest versus Evangelical pastor. I think it has a lot to do with the demographic emphasis of the particular church.

    The newer type churches I’m familiar with seem skewed towards younger folk. With fewer 65+ age people in the congregation, there would be fewer who are chronically ill, infirm, homebound, and dying. There would be less of a need for visits to hospitals, long-term care facilities, senior housing, and residential care homes. There would be fewer funerals and less of a need for bereavement counseling.

    Being part of a church skewed towards the young allows for an emphasis on hip preaching, contemporary music, short-term mission trips, parenting and relationship workshops, and church growth thinking, and perhaps you can get away with less of a pastoral care ministry. But with a small community church you’re more likely to share in the broad spectrum of life experiences, including getting old and all the problems that come with it. With a representative portion of older folk in the congregation, the church has built-in ministry needs, including a need for lots of pastoral care.

  21. I wish we had more pastors doing pastoral care. Maybe then we wouldn’t have Christians quoting Genesis 9:6 as justification for war and violence, as I literally just witnessed at work.