Maccas, Mondays & Musings with Pastors

Sitting around with a group of friends this morning on our collective ‘day off’,

Sipping Macca’s coffees and whiling away a few hours together.

We are all pastors and our conversations soon turn to the meetings over the weekend,

What the Lord is saying and doing,

How He moved in our lives and the lives of those in our congregations.

It’s the language of our vocation,

It’s the code of our calling.

It’s a sacred space and one that I have grown to value more and more.

These are the small huddles that set a precedent for future success.

It’s so much about who you do life with and how you are able to share authentically together.

Pastoring is unlike any other profession I know.

Being a second generation pastor, I feel I’ve learnt some stuff.

I’ve seen it from the inside.

I’ve known the beauty and the beast of the job.

That’s why you need to know you are called to it.

You see the underbelly and heartaches of lives that many don’t see on the surface and you have to continue through everyday life,

Somehow trying to share the burden with them whilst keeping your own heart strong.

You don’t expect the level of complexity in terms of conflict, complications, people issues, discouragement and sadness that you encounter when starting out in ministry.

You try to reconcile that you serve a God who promises joy and success and victory and love,

Yet many pastors’ everyday is filled with the very real trials of financial strain, losing ‘sheep’, sorting conflicts and navigating people’s heartaches, constantly looking for solutions.

Add to that the pressure to have your own family the model of perfection and your own marriage a picture of bliss and a Cinderella like fairytale.

It’s a tough gig and that’s why I have the utmost respect for any and every pastor on the planet.

Pastors, even though human, are expected to live like they are superhuman,

And at a level that is more moral, more perfect and more Christ like.

And yes, we strive to because we are driven that way.

We have Jesus, but we are not superstars.

We are in need of the same God that gives grace and that heals and extends mercy as much as anyone in our congregations.

Pastoring is the only vocation where many people measure your success by how big your congregation is.

I personally don’t espouse to this rating, but I know many do.

A year ago, I went from having a congregation of around 50 to taking on a church of nearly 500,

Almost overnight.

I know what it feels like to be the pastor looking at the doorway, wishing more people would come in,

To having to get more chairs out because you have too many people.

The problem with measuring your success on how big your church is,

Is that people can change their minds.

Only 15% of congregations consider themselves core members,

That means the other 85% can pretty much determine where and when they want to spend their Sundays,

And if it’s not with you then it will be with some other church down the road,

Or at the park enjoying a picnic.

But Pastors are expected to be there for everyone when they need someone,

Because that’s their job.

Pillar of faith in the autumn, summer, winter and spring seasons of others’ lives.

I love what Sam Chand says:

‘Pastors are present in the three most critical events of a person’s life: hatch, match and dispatch.’

They celebrate births, mourn deaths and marry people.

They rejoice, grieve, weep with, celebrate with the ones they call their sheep.

But at the drop of a hat,

Their role can change as those they shepherd make decisions to move on.

And that’s ok too.

It’s ok to move churches as people transition into new spaces and new seasons.

‘Pastors are exposed to the dreams and dreads of people at every stage of life.  In the span of an hour, a pastor may receive several glowing reports and as many messages about tragedies. This role in the lives of families is an incredible honour, but it produces tremendous pressure and often excruciating pain.  If they aren’t careful, the cumulative pain can crush the life out of them – figuratively and literally.’

It makes for a high pressure life,

And definitely one streaked with uncertainty.

No wonder 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry,

And that 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.

The average size of an Australian church is 70 people.

What happens when you hit that number and don’t move forward,

Which is a very likely possibility.

What do your measures of success then become?

That’s why you have to be rooted and grounded in who you are in Christ as a determiner of your success.

You get that right, it all changes.

The questions you ask yourself change.

They become more like:

‘Do I measure my worth by the size of my church or by the depth of my relationship with Jesus?’

‘Are the external expectations of people pleasing and numbers growing wearing me down,

Or do I find my security in the harbour of His presence and His finished work?’

‘Can I equally engage and detach with those I am pastoring, or do I feel I am responsible for them 24 hours?’

A healthy inner life of a pastor needs to be able to move in and out of these complexities of leadership,

Knowing when to push in and when to let go,

Knowing when to confront and when to ignore,

Knowing when to preserve and when to sacrifice,

Knowing when a problem needs to be solved or when a tension needs to be managed (my husband’s latest amazing phrase).

It’s critical for pastors to have others in their ‘profession’ who they can talk and share candidly with,

Without fearing judgement or criticism,

But who they can exchange stories of good and bad and have a laugh with,

To help each other courageously move forward when they’ve taken another hit,

And to share one another’s victories.

I celebrate pastors.

I am honoured to call them my brothers and sisters.

Especially on Mondays.

 

 

Cate x

 

 

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If you’re not hurting, you’re not leading

I’m reading a great book right now.

Sam Chand’s book Leadership Pain.

The premise behind it is that you’ll only grow as a leader to the threshold of your pain.

Pain is defined as life’s trials.

Betrayal, disappointment, heartache, financial and emotional strain,

Failure, stress, difficulties, change and a whole host more, fall into this category.

Chand argues that leadership,

Particularly as a pastor in a christian context,

Is not only damn hard,

But is something that you can’t succeed in if you don’t know how to increase your pain threshold.

In order to advance in your capacity and growth as a leader,

You need to embrace the reality that pain is there to advance you,

Not impede you.

It’s all about the attitude you adopt toward it.

80% of pastors leave the ministry within five years.

Personally, I don’t know of any minister who hasn’t contemplated at one time or another, of leaving the ministry.

And I know a lot of pastors.

I am one of them.

Pain is a given in life.

We all experience it,

We are all faced with challenges and dark moments,

Whether you’re a pastor or not.

Chand says that when we accept that pain is a part of our lives,

And when we let it instruct, mould and teach us,

We are then better able to mature into the leaders we were meant to be.

So what is so good about pain?

And especially in a culture that says if your life isn’t glossy and perfect,

Then there’s something wrong with you?

Well, pain breeds compassion, tenacity and many other things,

But one thing it fosters so beautifully is resilience.

I know this to be true.

Some of the things I used to struggle with as a leader,

I now let slide like water off a duck’s back.

You become impervious,

Not cold or calloused,

But more resilient when you learn how to endure pain and work it to your end,

Rather than letting it control and own you.

Resilience is:

The ability of a substance to spring back into shape; elasticity, after encountering difficulties.

In Chand’s book, Bob Gass says that there are four primary traits of resilient people.

The first is that they take control of their lives instead of spending energy trying to blame others or waiting for them to bail them out.

They don’t quit even when they want to.

They look at the past and think about how they’ve handled adversity before,

And they look at the present with clear eyes and as problem solvers.

The second thing resilient people do,

Is that they surround themselves with the right people.

They may have grown up in an addicted, abusive, or abandoning family,

But they make choices today to spend time with people who live in truth and have hope for tomorrow.

Thirdly, they allow their pain to spur growth instead of collapsing in self pity.

Even when a life goal is completely blocked by disease or any other cause,

Resilient people find an open door when others only see the one that’s closed.

They creatively invest themselves in a new venture, often one that focuses on helping others who are experiencing pain from similar physical, emotional, or relational heartaches – and they make a difference.

Fourthly, resilient, pain-embracers,

Insist on changing what they can and not worry about the rest.

For resilient people,

Encounters with pain enable them to sift through their responsibilities and priorities.

Suddenly, many things that seemed important are no longer on the top of the to-do list.

But other things,

Such as people they love and a cause they can champion, are now on top.

(See Sam Chand’s Leadership Pain pp 194-195)

We are all human.

Pain is an inevitable part of life.

Any friend you have who tells you otherwise is living in denial or is faking it.

And I’d recommend finding a new friend who you can be real with.

Just a tip 😉

When pain comes,

Realise that it can be a master teacher.

That it can make you or if you let it,

Or if you choose, it can most definitely break you.

Don’t let it win.

Use it to make you an amazing leader,

A leader who others want to emulate.

Someone with courage and tenacity,

Someone who has stuck it out when everything has shouted to give up.

When the light comes after the dark,

And it will,

You will shine even more brightly and with such luminosity,

That people will ask you what your secret is.

And you will simply say,

I have learnt to grow through my pain.

Pain is meant to wake up.  People try to hide their pain.  But they’re wrong.  Pain is something to carry, like a radio.  You feel your strength in the experience of pain.  It’s all in how you carry it.  That’s what matters.  Pain is a feeling.  Your feelings are a part of you.  Your own reality.  If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality.  You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.

Jim Morrison.

 

Cate x