Wednesday, August 10, 2011



'Betty', an Anglican priest, came to talk about her life as a 'parish minister'. The significant feature of her childhood were the rages of her father. She was so afraid of strong people - especially 'alpha-type' males - that she'd developed into a highly-efficient 'people-pleaser'. She avoided conflict in dozens of ways, but it was all catching up with her. Some thoughtful parishioners wondered why she rarely asked anyone to do anything - and why she felt aggrieved when her 'delegation' of something didn't work out. 'It's easier if I do it myself,' was her pastoral motto.

So we talked about two broad issues: (1) how she could learn to out-grow the fear of rejection; and (2) what kind of mentoring she could experience so that she could see how effective pastors operated.

Smart leaders know it's best to learn from others' mistakes before you make your own! They watch how 'successful' people do it! Pastors of healthy churches tend to be conference-goers. Not just any conference, but they choose those which will increase their pastoral skills - particularly in the areas of integrity, innovation and intelligence. And they have well-oiled networks: smart pastors know who/what to ask, and are not afraid to ask. They are life-long learners.

And they need others' help. They are not 'lone rangers'! Bill Hybels wrote: 'I've spent lots of time in a Christian counsellor's office. I still am in contact with two Christian counsellors. And whenever I think, 'Man, there's some stuff coming out of me that has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, and I don't understand it', I call these counsellors. I say, "I don't understand why I said what I said, why I did what I did. I know it's junk. Would you help me?" Effective leaders must get a handle on their "junk!"'

I would recommend that we include in pastors' ordination vows pledges to submit to Spiritual Direction (to keep us honest in our life with God) and Supervision (ditto with people). Ideally, everyone should also have a mentor (to encourage skill development) and belong to a peer group (for encouragement). And here's an important statement from Tony Campolo: 'Do you have a support group to which you are accountable? If not, let me say this as directly as I know how: without such a small support group, you are not likely to spiritually survive.' Pastors should be encouraged by their denominations to submit to constructive 'performance appraisals' and churches to undergo 'audits'. That is, we will all take the notion of accountability seriously. (See Paul Beasley-Murray's A Call to Excellence).

John Mallison, Australia's expert on Christian mentoring, and I once put a list together of the various aspects of these important relationships. How many of these do you have/lack?

God helps us through others:

1. Father, especially in the area of self-esteem

2. Mother, nurturing

3. Spiritual Director, 'discernment of spirits'

4. Prayer partner, prayerful support

5. Mate/spouse/siblings, intimacy, 'sharing'

6. Friend, support in life's trials and recreation

7. Mentor, skill-development

8. Supervisor, accountability

9. Counsellor, behaviour

10. Encourager, emotional strength for the journey

11. Role-model, life-skills

12. Small Group, mutual prayer, brain-storming, reality-checking

13. Ministry Team, vocational support

14. Coach, specific skill-development

15. Sponsor, opening opportunities for ministry

16. Teacher/Master, development of understandings

17. Consultant, advice from someone with a wider perspective

18. Bishop/Board, authority

19. Pastor, soul-nourishment

20. Faith community, a sense of belonging

A pastor-friend read the first draft of this document and emailed me: 'I've been in ministry now for almost 25 years. The key from me has been 1. Finding God for myself when all else has failed. 2. Being intentional about my development, spiritual formation, character formation, ministry formation and strategic formation. 3. Being in relationship with other leaders who want to finish well.'


Rowland Croucher

July 2002
A Pastoral Survival Guide [4] -

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