Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Friendly fire! (Part 1)

I read Craig’s post on Swerve yesterday and was really motivated to do a series as a result of many of the comments I noted. The post, directed primarily to lead/ senior pastors, was titled The Challenge of Ministry Friendships and basically explored the idea of being able to maintain personal intimate friendships with people that attend your church. Craig highlighted reasons why it was a challenge but also highlighted (in part 2) why it was essential. I would be redundant if the purpose of my post was to discuss Craig’s, especially since you can click on the hyperlinks above and read it for yourselves. The real reason I’m bringing it up is because I want to explore a few ideas surrounding this same concept.

I’ll give you a basic introduction to my musings on the subject and then over the next couple of days we’ll explore the ideas in a little more detail. Let me begin by saying: with all due respect, being an associate pastor is not even remotely similar to being the lead pastor. The expectations, the responsibilities, the challenges and the scrutiny among other things, are significantly magnified in the office of lead pastor. Someone actually stated that, as a lead pastor, he is the only one among his peers whose job is routinely evaluated by friends as well as by people to whom he is not necessarily accountable. That set me thinking: If I was the CEO of a large or medium sized corporation, would it be the responsibility of the people who serve alongside me, to evaluate my performance and provide feedback on a daily basis? Where are the demarcating lines between my role as a pastor (called and anointed for that purpose), and my role as a man, a husband, a father and a friend?

In many of the comments on Craig’s post (part 1) I noticed a distinct, demarcating, generational line between those who thought that pastors must build intimate friendships among the people they lead, and those who felt that a measure of “distance” was essential in order for you to maintain the ability to lead effectively. As we process these ideas let me tell you that I will make myself somewhat vulnerable as I will be talking about a number of personal things very close to home for me. Meanwhile, we'll make this fully participatory, so I'm asking you, what are your opinions about some of the questions I’ve raised above?


Anonymous said...

Am interested to hear your thoughts on this subject. I struggle with similar questions with regards to how close to get to my students. It's obviously not quite the same situation but the line between teacher and friend isn't always easy to draw.

Ms Harkins said...

The expression "must build intimate friendships" is so wrong. Intimate friendships should grow naturally among people that like each other. It is not because you are a leader that you have to be friends with (all) your peers. It wouldnt be natural, it wouldnt be sincere.

As a teacher, I see in my students that they expect me to be a friend... I am there to do my job, if a friendship happens that is positive, if it doesnt no problem.

Hope I didnt sound rude, it is hard to find the right words :-)

Joseph said...

Kamsin, hopefully by the end of the series both you and I will have a much clearer picture of what might be the best way to navigate through these potential leadership pitfalls.

Alison, thanks for your important contribution (which, by the way wasn't rude at all). I guess that from a pastors standpoint, people tend to think that in order for you to earn the right to "speak into their lives" you must be accessible with yours.

Thea said...

This is a toughie...having been on both sides of the coin to varyign degrees there have been times pastors have genuinely pursued relationship with me and those are the few pastors I have grown to trust and respect. My respect for them causes me to very much want to protect their time and other commitments but also leaves an open door and a safe place for godly wisdom and direction as I have walked through life. AT the same time I have had pastors and other leaders who were very exclusive in their relationships in that they would almost become celebrities becuase so many people desired relationship with them but they drew hard lines in the sand making them inaccessible...this, to me, was disheartening and made me respect them less.

I guess the safe place to look is at Jesus' example - he was never inaccessible unless he was away for rest with friends/family or a dedicated time with the Lord (prayer, fasting, etc.) but he didn't have "best friend" relationships with people just to satisfy the masses. He lived in a way that people respected him and sought him out yet felt welcomed by him even in the most meager of circumstances. He took notice of others both great and small and his true friends respected his work as a leader so as not to create an "inner circle" that those who had not yet met Jesus couldn't permeate. I think this is because those he lead with were truly serving along side him.

It seems being a pastor is so much more than being a teacher (this coming from someone who has never been the senior pastor anywhere mind you! :) ) because while you are fulfilling an office, a calling and a job...people are your calling & your job...and people require time...relationship...and heart and often those investments don't seem to pay off when you are the one doing the investing literally sometimes through blood, sweat and tears. That being said I think it's a delicate balance where the line isn't so black and white. When you determine it isn't part of your "job" to befriend those you sheperd it desensitizes you to the humanity of those around you so that you eventually see them as people who need something from you and not those who are members of one body - it also offers a very dangerous pitfall of pride and arrogance thinking that you have something to offer to those who need you (those being the people you are leading).

At the same time - if your purpose is to befriend those you lead to earn the right to speak into their lives, it is nearly impossible to lead them effectively because your energies are 100% tied up in pursuing that "right" and the craziness that comes with human relationships. In my opinion if someone attends your church - they have given you the right...and where things are sensitive, the Holy Spirit has never failed as a guide with wisdom, knowledge and apt timing.

Pfew! Sorry so long...what a great discussion - I'm really interested to see where this goes! I'm sure to learn a lot!