A professor of mine once said that he wanted to shape pastors who last forty years, not pastors who last four years, ten times over. Think about it.
Many pastors are taught a set of activities to implement in a congregation. But once that bag of tricks is exhausted in four years (or so), they pack up their stuff and replay their ministry again in a new context. Four years of ministry, ten times over. What if pastors were not taught to simply do the job of a pastor, but were actually shaped to lead God’s people with a discerning heart over the long run? This is not a patronizing reflection on the work of the pastor (Word and Sacrament is vital), rather a reflection on how pastors can find meaning, purpose, hope, and joy in their ministry. It’s about shaping spiritually formed people who can thrive in their context – not just survivors who are trained to hold-down-the-fort.
Some ideas for shaping leaders in our Synod…
1. What if the Synod sent out a leadership care package once a year encouraging pastors to engage new ministry ideas and their own Spiritual Formation? In it would be a collection of books, magazines, and resources to help each pastor stay connected to the larger conversation. It would also say, “hey, you’re not a lone ranger out there, we’re a Church together!”
2. What if the Lutheran seminaries focused more on the person and character of the pastor, than on the work of the pastor. My dad once said to me, “I would always hire someone with passion over skill”. Our seminaries need to go deeper than mere skills training, it needs to affect change in the heart of the person. Our Church is in need of leaders who shine with the light of Christ. What if our seminaries became places of rich spiritual renewal, hope, and life? Martin Luther once said, “When schools flourish, all flourishes.”
3. What if we invited in leaders from outside Lutheran (or even mainline) circles? Could we learn something from them?
And so I wonder, what if there was deep change in the way we shaped our leadership? Some may fear change, but it’s the slow closure of our Churches that bothers me. Something has to be done differently – that’s what we’re here to figure out.
Further reading: “Deep Change” by Robert E. Quinn; Quinn says that it’s either deep change or slow death.