I've been thinking about this a lot lately, as our congregation will soon be in a discernment process regarding who will be our next pastor. We will prayerfully listen to the Holy Spirit and to members of the congregation regarding our mission and direction, and think about what kind of leader we need in order to fulfill the mission that God has given us. In our tradition, we interview pastors and then extend a call to a particular candidate, who will either say, "Yes," or "No."
To me, it sounds a little like the process we use to choose a life partner, except possibly for the part where each vows "till death do us part."
I realize that some denominations do not get a say in who their pastor will be. In that case, consider it kind of like an "arranged marriage", where older and wiser parties choose a partner for you, based on each of your strengths and needs. In that case, your parents, er, I mean your bishop tells you that you will "learn to love each other."
So, at the beginning, after all that prayer and all that discernment, and all that study (i.e. dating) and interviewing, the congregation is sure that they have chosen the Right Pastor. Some people may even be so bold as to say that they have chosen the Perfect Pastor. The Minister as well, is sure that s/he has said "yes" to the Right Church, the Church where s/he is supposed to be.
And then, somewhere along the line....just like in marriage....reality sets in.
Which is not to say that everything goes wrong, but just that, some things go wrong. Your partner leaves the cap off the toothpaste, or doesn't make ice cubes, or holds the wrong position about homosexuality, or turns out to have an off-putting sense of humor. You absolutely got a pastor who is a brilliant teacher and preacher, but not someone who can remember everyone's name. Or, your congregation is passionately committed to working for justice, but not to having enough money to pay the heat bills in the winter ( for example).
Then, the question is, can you adjust?
So, you didn't get a perfect pastor, and you didn't get a perfect congregation. But the key to success is to be able to adjust to the reality of the flawed, but gifted people you really are. As you work together, you will discover stumbling blocks and things you didn't know about one another. You will discover that you were both putting on your best face to impress each other in those Early Days.
But here's the catch. As you make adjustments based on Real Life, you will also discover (and this is absolutely guaranteed) gifts you didn't know you had. Given the opportunity, and given the faith that this person, this congregation, with all of their faults, is still the Right One for You, you'll not only fall down on the job sometimes: you'll also rise to the occasion, you discover new things about one another, new ways you can serve God together.
Just like in marriage, the key to a successful pastor/parish relationship is the ability to make adjustments. Oh, and faithfulness. Faithfulness is important too.