What does it mean to be a pastoral leader?
I’m sure you all have experience with people in your ministry who are the complainers, the ones that always bring problems to you. Dealing with people like that can certainly be a drain on our time and energy as leaders in ministry. I sometimes wonder what Jesus did in those situations.
I mentioned in another blog post that anyone can spot a problem, but it takes a leader to come up with solutions. However, sometimes the problem-spotters are not leaders in your ministry. They are parishioners whose teenager attends your youth ministry program, or that wonderful elderly lady that always sits in the front row at mass. When they bring multiple problems to me on a regular basis, it can get annoying. Yet, as church leaders, we are called to be pastoral leaders.
Pastoral is one of those terms that I get confused with. I like the word and I think it is powerful, and I do believe that we need to be pastoral. But what does being pastoral actually mean? Let’s define it together.
Here’s a list of what being pastoral is not:
- Giving in to every desire or wish a parishioner has.
- Making sure every human being on earth likes me. This is unrealistic and very tiring.
- Sacrificing my own balance and health for the sake of the people I serve. I cannot serve others if I don’t take care of myself.
Here is a list of what being pastoral is:
- Treating every person with dignity, as made in the image of God.
- Listening more than speaking. That means listening with an empathetic ear.
- Not jumping to conclusions or judgments (I need to work on this one!)
- Giving people the benefit of the doubt. Usually, people have the best interest of the church or ministry in mind when they give feedback.
It’s not easy for me to be pastoral. I’m an action-oriented guy who likes to quickly move forward and move on to the next project. Numerous times, I’ve gotten impatient trying to be pastoral (happened to me just a few days ago). Being pastoral requires that I slow down at times to work closely with people. However, every time I focus on truly being pastoral, it bears great fruit in my ministry. I often gain influence with that person and am able to pursue the ministry with greater help and support, which raises the level of potential for me and my ministry. I’m not trying to sound self-serving by being pastoral. But it’s been said that we can’t help others without helping ourselves in the end. I believe that to be true.
How would you define pastoral? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.