I have stayed up the last two evenings reading Peter Steinke's book Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach. Since the Senior Pastor retired last week, I'm temporarily holding down the fort until the arrival of a savior, um, interim pastor in a few weeks. I know when a congregation is in transition as ours is, there is a potential for a lot of anxiety, so I thought it might be good if, as much as possible, I try to be part of the solution more than a part of the problem.
To that end, I'm really concentrating on the basics of ministry: worship, preaching, pastoral care. I haven't really had that much time to think about it, as there were two funerals last week, there is a funeral tomorrow, and I have a funeral again on Wednesday. Next week begins two weeks of all-day Vacation Bible School as well. During the second week, I have some program responsibilities as the daily "storyteller".
Peter Steinke's mantra is to learn to be a "non-anxious presence" in your congregation. I'm really wanting to look at our congregation and not just see the individuals, but look at the systems and how people inter-relate.
The chapter I'm thinking most about right now, tonight, though is this: the picture of the congregation and pastor who have a kind of a romantic, "in love" relationship. Steinke says that this is not a healthy situation, because the congregation and pastor aren't looking at each other realistically (maybe also they are not differentiated from one another), so they can evaluate effectiveness.
He also made me think about the aspect of the church as a business from a different perspective. He said that sometimes churches encourage a kind of fuzzy thinking that allows evil or manipulative people get a foothold, because the systems of accountability are not as stringent as they might be in a business. While I can see his point, I do also think that evil or manipulative people have been able to get into businesses as well as churches.
My own congregation is at a cross-roads. These can be exciting times. We are in a changing, diverse community, which means that we are going to be on a high learning curve for awhile, as we learn how to reach out faithfully, welcome others and proclaim the gospel to and with others. But, when we start to realize that "the way we have always done things" doesn't quite work any more, that can be very threatening as well.