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jim

exactly, john. exactly. i would only add that frequently if you 'cold call', people don't like it one little bit.

so one really is in a fix. visit uninvited and risk the label of 'that guy keeps ruining my evening' and visit too little and you'll get 'that lazy so-and-so never comes by my house'.

Sam Norton

"if a pastor is responsible for a membership of 500, as I am, the old parish model of a minister who actually ministers to a flock is not out of the question."

I don't believe you! What sense of "ministering to" is being employed here? Let's say an hour-long chat over a hot drink, which is what I do with those (five or six) who come to me for spiritual direction - and I do that on a monthly basis. If that was my sole ministry, and I was prepared to use up all my working time on it, then I could in theory see 40 people a week = 170 people a month say. That would be quite a satisfying ministry in many ways but would also drive me mad very quickly. It would also mean that I would get no reading done, no sermons would be written, no liturgies would be prepared, no church committees would be chaired, no occasional offices would be carried out - and so on.

So, to be a bit more realistic, let's suggest that two-thirds of my time be allocated to those things, leaving one third to the pastoral conversations - so instead of seeing those 170 once a month, I see them all once every three months. That is possibly just enough to maintain a real ministry with them.

Are you saying you do more than three times as much as this?

Thing is, I don't believe that this sort of pastoral engagement is possible in a church of more than fifty or sixty souls; nor do I think it desirable; nor do I think it is what Jesus had in mind (it certainly isn't what he modelled for us). I also think it has a tendency to utterly destroy ministers in body and soul when they are held up against an impossible and ungodly standard and found wanting.

(Sorry, sore point. See Justin Lewis-Anthony's 'If you meet George Herbert... kill him!')

Sam Norton

PS wanted to add - the article itself is good and I will probably borrow the gist of it myself

Rick Wadholm Jr.

Great article John! I find this to be the only (continuing) complaint that I have EVER received from my church (in ten years of full-time solo pastoral ministry). I would agree that 500 parishioners would exceed my abilities (by far) and my time. I have one board member in particular that harps on my need to 'cold-call visit', but has NEVER invited me over. When I've explained that our culture is not what it used to be and people get FRANTIC when they realize its the pastor at the door and they had no idea he was stopping by...he simply says thats their problem and I should still do so. It would seem that most of the people I pastor seem to be alright without regular pastoral visits in their home (as this is considered high stress for them, because they want things to be perfect first). It is primarily certain of the older folks that have an older model of pastoral ministry in mind as the ideal that continue to think I should visit them (but rarely if ever invite me to do so). However, the younger parishioners tend to be more open to inviting me (for particular things) and also tend to expect less in this regard.

JohnFH

Sam,

I'm not sure I disagree with you. The problem is solved in a parish of 500 because most people know the part about bearing one another's burdens and don't expect the pastor to do the heavy lifting except in particularly grievous situations.

For the rest, people are not so convinced they want a truly pastoral visit, as opposed to a social visit, after I give them one. Just saying. Denial is still most everyone's primary coping mechanism, one reason an incisive sermon or a truly pastoral visit is not necessarily a pleasant experience.

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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