Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Changing the Culture

I've recently taken a job in which it is my role to help change the culture surrounding how clergy "do" church.  It has long been known that clergy have the tendency to burn out.  It is no wonder.  Many pastors have the pathology of egomaniacs whose one goal in life is to please people.  That may seem a little harsh but there is no use in mincing words.

Specifically I am working with first call pastors.  In the first years of this new vocation is where we learn the habits of behavior that will follow us for most of our careers.  As we transition from the seminary to the real world the student goes from pleasing the professor to a congregation full of what a new pastor may perceive as "bosses".  It is easy in these first years to develop what I tend to call the "chocolate Easter Bunny" syndrome.  We have fantastic young energetic folk who are excited about all of the programs and academia that have been poured into them and they cant wait to put it to use.

They know theoretically how things are supposed to look, perhaps even how they are supposed to look, and they put all of their energy into making that vision a reality.  All the while, the lovely chocolate Easter Bunny is hollow on the inside.  All of the energy to produce is placed outside and no energy is leftover for the inside.  Where is the center?  Where is the core from which we have the peace and strength from which to act?

In this recent New York Times article speaks about clergy burnout.

Perhaps the larger systemic disease is that so many of us act like business men and women who wear a spirituality hat from time to time rather than being actual spiritual leaders.  Perhaps there is a reason why so many of our meetings and committees look like so much of the rest of our lives out in the rest of the world.  We have done a very good job of feeding people's anxiety that tells us that we have to produce, produce, produce.  So that is what our churches look like, little activity factories where people are much more content being busy then spending time encountering God.  Because who knows what we will find when we look up long enough from our lives to see what God is up to.

1 comment:

  1. A thoughtful post, worthy of further reflection. Did a little research on burnout when I worked on my D.Min, and I found most helpful Will Willimon's observation that burnout is about finding meaning in ministry more than "working too hard." I think you would agree--what's inside the chocolate Easter Bunny? What--or, better Who?--bestows meaning that will tend to prevent "burnout."