Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From donut to turnover

Our pastor writes in his column in the July 12, 2009 St. Al's bulletin about an article he read on why there is such a high rate of turnover among clergy. This turns out to be about all the other people that individual clergy blame.

First, they blame lack of support from denominational leadership.
There was a sense that parish ministry was somehow less appreciated and held in less esteem as compared to “specialized” ministry.

In the secular world, we sometimes refer to this sense as "envy".
Some felt that the leadership simply saw parish pastors not as uniquely gifted persons but as someone who could “fill” a slot.

I came away with the impression that everyone involved pretty much sees things that way when I sat in on the Parish Council Pastor Replacement Consultation. As have others.

Having blamed those above, we now turn to how clergy blame those below, the members of the congregation.

Though clergy want to be regarded as "uniquely gifted persons", the first complaint is that congregations expect too much.
Some congregations expected the pastor to be available anytime for almost any reason.

For example, because you're dying.

The next complaint, for married clergy, is the congregation's expectations of their spouses and children.
The expectation existed that the pastor’s spouse was to be part of the “deal,” like a two-for-one package, and there was congregational resentment when the pastor’s spouse or children did not live up to this. Also, family stress was reported because congregations were critical of the spouse’s personality or even family dynamics.

Despite everything he just said, our pastor concludes this point by saying,
One must wonder how many do not become Catholic priests because of current restrictions as to whom can be ordained.

The next complaint is characterized as "entrenched vision", described as
a “collision” between a pastor’s hope and vision to move a congregation and some members who follow the “we have always done it this way” vision.

Sometimes it might be some variation on the "after you're gone we're the ones still here paying the mortgage" vision.
In many congregations, there seem to be a group of “good old boys or girls” who have the “levers of power” and hinder or even dash the majority of members hopes and dreams. Pastors often feel caught in the middle.

It's almost as if people expect the pastor to build support for a course of action.
They also report that there are some in the congregations who view themselves as the “guardians of orthodoxy” and often send incomplete or even false reports to the leadership.

On the other hand, I've seen and heard of pastors giving parishioners a world-class jerking around to try to manipulate outcomes and suppress questions.

Finally clergy complain of petty attitudes...in the congregation.
This seemed to stand out as the main reason for leaving ministry. This was experienced when members of a congregation considered themselves more like members of a “Christian country club” rather than a parish committed to the Gospel mission. Some members would often say things like, “If you do not do this or that, I am going to leave the church and take my money with me.”

On the other hand, I've gotten an email from a pastor saying that if the Archbishop doesn't like the way he does things, he can have the keys to the place.
Others felt a sense of entitlement to sit in a certain pew or sing at a certain time or sing a certain song or lead a certain group within the church or demand to be scheduled for lay ministry on their own terms regardless of the larger needs.

An earlier clergy complaint was that "There was a sense that the pastor had no right to personal time for him/herself and their family." Maybe parishioners have the same concerns. From past experience, I recommend getting any time commitment spelled out in detail in advance to assist a pastor in resisting the temptation to lowball you.
Another related issue was the expectation that the pastor somehow is responsible for all the problems in the physical plant, i.e., the grass is too long; there is too much snow on the sidewalk; the flowers are not budding; the toilet is leaking; the door is sticking; it is too hot or too cold in church.

A previous pastor was always ready to rattle off the boiler specs from memory. Maybe that's where parishioners get the idea. And our current pastor did, in a prior column, report at length on a staff meeting dealing with people taking too many donuts at after-Mass "hospitality".

3 comments:

  1. Aquinas1:03 PM

    Good Lord! Anyone who expends this much energy recounting the ways in which his job is unsatisfying/unfulfilling/annoying has WAY too much time on his hands. Perhaps DOING the work instead of grousing about it might leave less time for thinking how put-upon one is. As for married priests: anyone this self-obsessed would make a really miserable husband and father...

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  2. It does seem that the laity is not up the clergy's standards, though I thought was at least part of the reason there are clergy.

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