Experiencing Growth

Shifting, adapting, sacrifice, resurrection: Those are the words that come to mind when I think about what is necessary to become a new kind of St. Clare’s. One thing is certain: We are on the road to doing just that. Some of you may not know that one of my mentors is the Reverend Dr. Ed White, a Senior Consultant for congregational development and one of the best read people I know on the subject. As we experience growth (Not only am I certain that we will, to date, we’ve added 13 new pledges to the congregation) Dr. White warns that the role of the Rector changes as the congregation grows and changes. I find this particularly helpful as change can be unsettling. What are those changes? What are the new priorities? He says the following about the primary function of a Rector in a sizeable congregation:

1. Provide high quality preaching and leadership in worship.
2. Lead the congregation to become clear about its mission, vision and values.
3. Lead the vestry to become a community of spiritual leaders who can partner with the priest in leading the congregation. Leadership is meant to be a partnership between clergy and lay leaders.
4. Lead the staff to become a cohesive team with high motivation, high trust and high creativity.
5. Function as chief motivator by affirming the validity and value of the ministry of both staff and congregation.

These five functions will probably require 80-90% of the Rector’s time in order to be done well. Add the pastoral response to emergencies and funerals and weddings, and you have pretty well used up the pastor’s time. Because of these priorities the Rector normally has very limited time available for routine pastoral care of individuals.

Most routine pastoral care must be provided by either others on the staff, or by laity who are motivated, gifted and trained. Otherwise the five priorities above will suffer. So what’s the point here? Just this: A large (or even growing) congregation is not simply a small congregation that got bigger. It is a different kind of community and the role of the pastor changes. You cannot run Wal-Mart the way you would run a “mom and pop store.” Like it or not, what St. Clare’s will eventually be is more like Wal-Mart than a “mom and pop store.”

This is worth our time and reflection as we pray, work, and adapt into a new way of being.

Yours for the reign of God,