🎶 Oh the games churches play now. 🎶
If you’re old enough to remember that old Joe South song (well, the original version anyway!), then you’ve been in ministry long enough to be familiar with the most popular game churches play with the pastor.
I call it pastor fetch.
I learned about pastor fetch early on in my career. I was a student pastor of a Methodist church. The parsonage was about 50 feet to the east of the church building and the cemetery was about 50 feet to the west. I moved into the house in mid-July and within a couple days, I was busy in the rural community meeting new people and trying to keep up with summer intensive classes.
One Saturday morning there was a knock on my door and when I opened it, the property chair wished me a good morning and then let me know that the grass was getting kinda long. I guess my puzzled look misled him and he thought I was confused, so he began to explain my “job” at the church.
🎶 Oh the games churches play now. 🎶
It wasn’t a week later and the board chair asked me to come see her. Apparently Sister Adele had fallen and broken her hip, so she’d be out of commission for awhile. It had been decided that since I was familiar with the worship service already that from now on I would be need to create the weekly bulletin, print it, and fold it.
Pastor, you need to …
Pastor, it’s your job to …
Pastor … “Fetch!”
I made a lot of mistakes at that church … expensive mistakes that probably contributed to the ultimate demise of that church. It would be several years later, when I finally decided I realized I needed a coach, before I discovered how to stop being the loser in the Pastor Fetch Game.
Let me coach you in three things that I’ve long-since learned so you don’t make the same mistakes (or if you have, so you can stop playing the game).
Live By Your Job Description
I’m not sure if I can legitimately say “most” pastors have a codified job description – because there are a lot of small churches out there that has a lot of expectations and not a lot of written documentation. But if your church has a position description, or if you’re under the umbrella of your denomination’s organizing documents (Book of Discipline, Book of Order, etc.), then take the time to read it and get to know it. I’m guessing there’s nothing in there about creating bulletins or cutting grass. There wasn’t in mine. And although you might run into the miscellaneous clause that says, “Or other duties as assigned” be sure to read further to find out who the “assigner” is. You should only have ONE supervisor and if it’s the “board” it’s time to negotiate that you need to have a single person that you report to, most likely the board chair.
Once you know your job description, then it’s time to begin living by it. The third section “Find Work Arounds” I’ve offered a couple of ideas on how to do that more easily. But it’s really the next section, Live Self-Differentiated, that will give you the power to start living into your job description.
One tidbit … if you DON’T have a job description, then it’s time to write one. When you do, I recommend writing one that’s mission based rather than task based. There are really only five things that should be on a lead pastor’s job description: Spiritual Modeling; Mission Alignment and Fulfillment; Vision Creation, Casting, and Alignment; Team Building; and Fund Raising. I’ve uploaded a generic version of a Lead Pastor’s Position Description I developed for a client for you to peruse if you’d like.
The definition of self-differentiated is someone who can make decisions irrespective of outside influence. In other words, you decide what needs to get done, what actions you’ll take, what direction you’re going regardless of what others might think or say or do. If you’ve worked through the above, then then next step is to get yourself self-differentiated.
That’s a lot easier to do if you know your personal mission and vision – AND – if your personal mission/vision lines up with the church’s mission/vision. Presuming you and your church are committed to going in the same direction, and that you’ve got a viable job description that doesn’t designate you as the church’s pet gopher (“Pastor, go-fer this and go-fer that”), then it will be mostly your mindset you have to change.
Too often, pastors spend a lot of energy worrying about what their members are thinking, or worse, trying to please all their member’s whims, fancies, and preferences. You’ve heard it before, but just in case you haven’t been reminded lately:
You Can’t Make Everyone Happy
In fact, you can’t even make everyone like you, respect you, follow you, or go the way you know the church needs to go. (Remember, in the end, Jesus only had a handful of followers, so if he couldn’t convince everyone to follow, don’t be surprised that you can’t!) That being said, being self-differentiated allows you to focus on those tasks that are mission-critical while handing off, redirecting, or simply letting of distraction-tasks. To be self-differentiated means becoming okay with saying, “No, I’m not going to do that because I’m going to do this,” when this is the more mission-critical task that needs to get done.
Find Work Arounds
My final tip for getting out of the Pastor Fetch Game is to start finding work arounds for those tasks you’ve taken on that belong to somebody else. Let me put it this way, you did NOT get all that pastoral leadership training so that you could fold bulletins, cut grass, or set up chairs. Those responsibilities belong to the members of the church, not to you – you have your marching orders (see the above two sections!). The trick is to get those tasks handed off to someone else.
Some time ago, I created the Get More Time Planner that walks my clients through the process I use to help them figure out what belongs to them, what belongs to someone else, and then creates a clear process and path to get them out of the Pastor Fetch Game and gives them the time to do the Mission Critical work that is so desperately needed.
By the way, the Get More Time Planner is in our store for $19.95,
but you can get it from free by clicking on the above link or the button below.