5 Essential Ingredients: What Are They?
The old joke goes something like this, "For six days a pastor is hard to find and the seventh, hard to understand." While that may be funny on the surface, it belies a deep misunderstanding of what pastors do from day to day and week to week. It also reveals a significant lack of understanding of the life, pressures and expectations of someone in ministry.
Recently, I re-read a helpful book on pastoral ministry entitled, Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told us About Surviving and Thriving. (Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie, IVP Books, 2013)
Here is how the book came to be:
This book, based on seven years of research, seeks to answer these questions. Our research focused on gathering pastors and their spouses into peer cohorts, which met repeatedly in multi day retreats called Pastors Summits where we facilitated heartfelt discussions about the challenges of vocational ministry. This book presents the summary and analysis of those discussions in light of our literature research and experiences.
Based upon the discussions, the book identifies 5 areas that are critical for surviving and thriving in Christian ministry. Those five areas are:
- Spiritual Formation: personal growth in grace and maturity.
- Self Care: the pursuit of physical, mental and emotional health.
- Emotional and Cultural Intelligence: Emotional intelligence of oneself as well as others.
- Marriage and Family: spiritual and relational health with their spouse, children and extended family.
- Leadership and Management: sharing congregational leadership, building congregational community, effective administration, conflict utilization and responsible self-management.'
No Sour Grapes, Just Reality
As I pondered these 5 areas, I reflected back on my time in seminary and my days in pastoral ministry. Unfortunately, I can't remember when any of these five areas were emphasized in my preparation for ministry, nor my ongoing equipping while in ministry! While much of what I studied in seminary was essential to my work, so much was never addressed. In addition, there was little or no vision for ongoing development and growth once I found myself in a pastoral role. This was virtually missing at the local, as well as the regional and national level in my denomination.
As I reflected back on my circle of friends who have spent many years in ministry, they confirm that these critical areas are where most of their challenges and heartache lie. It is almost always the areas that caused many to leave.
A Way Forward?
If these findings are accurate, what does this say about our seminary training and ongoing support that is provided for those serving in pastoral ministry? I think the conclusions are obvious. But will we take them seriously? We can't afford not to.
For information about an organization that addresses these very issues, follow this link to the Institute for Pastoral Care.
Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane