Pastor Journal #1 “Pastoring and Stuff”

Having neglected this poor blog for some time, despite paying renewal fees, I have decided to make use of this space for more pastoral and academic reflection. Pastors always end up with sermonic material/reflections on the cutting room floor that I feel congregants may want to read at their leisure–instead of sitting through a 60 minute sermon. Academically this provides a place for me to process ideas that haven’t quite settled in my brain yet.

I am choosing the word “journal” because “diary” makes me feel like a 12-year-old girl.

These are meant to be short entries, even the academic ones. Sermons and papers require hours of work and meticulous formatting–this is a place to fling stuff out at random with little regard to citations or APA/Turabian/MLA/OCD what have you. I will at least try to keep my spelling accurate, but I can’t rpomise.

As 2016 ends I am challenged by several dynamics in pastoral ministry–it’s a weird time to pastor, for several reasons, not all of which will be mentioned here.

First is the growing generational gap between digital natives and immigrants. A presentation at pastor’s meetings last year from a professor at Fuller Seminary, noted that for every physical generation separating people–it equals four technological generations. Which means in addition to bulletins churches/pastors have to maintain a host of digital platforms, each with their own language to master. You have to be bilingual in analogue and digital.

Second, the continued fascination with Millennials by every church publication exhausts me (and I am a late millennial, depending on who you read). I get worn out reading these articles since they sound so much like the lamentation of lost youth articles that have been in publication for decades. It’s futile trying to make hasty generalizations about generations. Ministry is relationally driven, and we seem to be at a continual impasse with intergenerational ministry with people not taking them time to befriend each other (which includes both older and younger generations making effort). Just make friends, take people to lunch, spend time. It is so weird that this is so hard.

Third, there is an intensifying post-church trend that is difficult to face. People are sporadic with church. This isn’t a millennial thing. People who were involved at church when their kids were little now seem to be on hiatus, as if they “did their time” and can retire from the Body of Christ. Before anyone feels lecturey, I know the “church isn’t a building” and going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, blah blah blah, but relationships and community matter to everyone. Church becomes stressful for a lot of people, it’s not supposed to be, how does this change? The answers to these issues are legion and contextually specific, but many ministers  feel like they expend enormous amounts of energy convincing people of something they aren’t sure they want to do, but has the potential to be so good.  My first sermon series next year is “The Art of Church”…I debated on calling it “Make Church Great Again” 😉

The fourth reality for pastors is the digital parish–we all have them, or should. I know a few colleagues who seem to pride themselves on being digitally illiterate, which is tantamount to a missionary bragging that they refuse to learn the local language. What makes this dynamic weird, is not only the fact that I have “followers” outside of my physical parish, but they span all kinds of beliefs. I have followers who don’t attend church and don’t identify as Christian who “like” and engage on spiritual/Christian posts. Additionally, as followers increase, when a national tragedies happens I now feel pressure to say something pastoral.

When I do the response is overwhelming.

I have stated elsewhere that I often wonder if, should current social media trends continue, “church” will look more like denominationally sponsored digital rabbis with their online followers. It feels like we all have an “independent ministry” now.

There’s more, but that’s enough pondering for now.

Shalom.

Photo credit: Etrusia UK via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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