Thursday, September 17, 2009

pioneers and pastors? poles apart or creative tensions

Mark Berry has written an honest and thoughtful reflection on leadership, using the lens of pioneer and pastor. He’s used the angle of entreprenuer to ask why we don’t allow some leaders to start and move on. (This of course flies against the big mantra/urban legend in Kiwi Baptist churches at the moment “long term ministry = healthy churches.” However, while there is one anecdote, I am still waiting for some systematic or statistical analysis of this). The comments on Mark’s post, including the facebook discussion, have tended to go in a structural way. Personally, denominational structural discussions drive me crazy. Most of us can’t fix denominational structures. But what we can do is reflect upon how we structure our own lives, where we place our energy, what drains our energy, what replenishes our energy.

So, here, practically are some of my reflections, based on 9 years pioneer/astoring at Graceway, starting from scratch, and now 6 years pioneer/astoring at Opawa, helping a 95 year old church explore a mission future. Both contexts have strengths and weaknesses. Both have required my pioneering and pastoring skills.

0. Know your own thumprint. Only one person can be Steve Taylor and my task as a disciple of Jesus is to fulfill my God-given thumbprint. (So while categories of pioneer and pastor are helpful, they are simply names). How I spend my time needs to be sheeted as closely as possible to my thumbprint. The more I know me, know my wiring, the better.

1. Keep the best parts of your day for the things that energise my thumbprint. If it’s people, then be with people when you’re at your best. If it’s new things, then work on those when you are at your best.

2. See church as projects. Yes, there are plenty of weekly cycles, you have to attend to. But there are always projects. This week Sunday is coming, along with team meetings and Board meetings and a number of regular pastoral encounters. But I have also put time into Advent. And started to think about the 2010 Bible days. And done some dreaming around some film/faith projects. Keeping a number of project balls in the air, and implementing (1) – Keep the best parts of your day for the things that energise you is useful.

3. Evaluate well. I try and finish most projects with some sort of relational evaluation. Usually 3 questions – what went well, what could have gone better? Take notes and file it. This creates healthy feedback loops and celebration times. Pioneers don’t do this well because they are onto the next thing, but this is pastoral and makes up for the inevitable stress around projects.

4. Take spot checks of your time. I’m spontanous, so I don’t plan my day much. Every now and again, I take note of where my time has been been spent over a day. And then I group that under the headings of my call. For me, my call is about leadership and creativity. So looking back helps remind me of what I did, and whether I need to make intentional adjustments.

5. Think thirds. I tend to have three people categories in my head: leadership/pastoral in church/pastoral beyond church. It reminds me that each is important and to give time, regularly, to people in each. Related to this I always have regular time for people on the fringes of the church. I need to be sitting with the brokenhearted and that is part of my call as a gospel minister. One of the personal joys for me was being able to invite people I know to Back to Church Sunday. I love it that as a minister, I have relationships inside and outside the church. But the “thirds” concept helps me be intentional about where I spend my time.

6. Think aloud. This is partly a personality thing, but I use coffees to dream with people. And in my reports to the Board I have a template (with my 5 – Think thirds) and a section called “Thinking aloud.” In there I drop my “tentative projects” and it allows people to shape vision with me and to keep the pioneering thing in front of me and my team. When that section has nothing in it, it’s a worry.

7. Develop good review processes. I insist on regular personal performance reviews. Pioneers have weaknesses and we need to, as part of our gift to our communities, create ways for people to challenge us and develop us.

8. Use the magic words “I have an appointment.” It might be an appointment with a book, or with a creative project, or a person outside the church, or with my family. If you are becoming unbalanced, simply write “appointment” across your coming week.

9. Just for fun, every now and again imagine charge out your time. Consider how much you are paid and ask if you have just spent that pay well. Seriously. There are plenty of lazy pastors. There are plenty of driven pastors. There are plenty of poorly focused pastors. So every now and again, charge your time out. Was that last 60 minutes really worth $40 (or whatever rate)! Could someone else have done it? If a minister is paid about $50,000 a year, (including allowances) and you offer 1 service a week, is that service really worth $1000. Yes I know you do more than preach, but seriously, what else could your community do with that money?

Those are my practices. Always evolving. Critique welcomed. And I would love to hear what do others do?

This post follows on from the quote about pastoral curators. See also Pioneers and pastors? part 2 – the community.

Posted by steve at 10:54 AM


  1. Thanks for this Steve, very helpful! One thing I would clarify, my question is more about the flow of leadership within community – less about moving on to a new place more about how a Pioneer can remain a pioneer within the community once it’s foundation stage is over. At the moment I feel called to safespace Telford but not to shift from being a Pioneer to being a Pastor/manager so the question is how we learn to allow leadership to flow in the community.

    Comment by Mark — September 17, 2009 @ 11:12 am

  2. thanks mark. i think i get that there are structural issues in terms of the community. what i was doing was sort of focusing on what the pioneer can do in terms of their own time/practices.


    Comment by steve — September 17, 2009 @ 11:22 am

  3. Steve thats so helpful and practical. Its interesting that you say keep the best parts of your day for things that energise you – it makes sense but its really hard to do the non-energising things on low energy – probably need more of those refreshing appointments 🙂

    Comment by Jo Wall — September 17, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  4. brilliant, steve – that was like a shot in the arm! (I mean that in a good way!) thanks very much

    Comment by maggi — September 17, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

  5. Oh yes.. one last point. If you are working outside of your core skills – you are robbing someone else the opportunity of using THEIR core skills in doing the job you don’t want to do!

    Comment by joel toombs — September 18, 2009 @ 1:36 am

  6. Wonderful stuff – I think it’s also helpful for those of us currently in moinistries that are not with local churches. Much of what you say also holds true for ecumenical contexts and beyond.

    In the French Reformed church ministers get paid relatively little – around 1000 euros a month but we get free housing and health insurance. We are also not allowed to receive money for extras – eg funerals etc – it all goes to the church (this is different in the UK).

    twice in my ministerial life I have received donations following funerals that amounted to alot more than my annual salary. I now know that in the future if that happens I shall insist that money like that should be put into a special mission fund rather than the general fund that keeps the church structures running but neither challenges nor celebrates something in the local area.

    Anyway you’ve given me a lot of food for thought – many thanks

    Comment by jane — September 18, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  7. Joel,

    i was at our church camp last year and was very pleased to see all of the pastoral team cleaning up the toilets. a team that had led worship and teaching, who probably feels no charism/calling for toilets ….. where does the role of service, doing the tough jobs, play in what you are suggesting?


    Comment by steve — September 18, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  8. HT to Maggi for being pointed to read this.

    I suspect I need to print it out, put it in my Bible and read it daily… especially point 8!

    About to be licensed as a lay minister (which makes 9 irrelevant) and having a “touch of the seconds” as to whether I am up to the role. Several of the things about knowing yourself and evaluation need to be actioned in my life… so how to create space to do that when training doesn’t finish till after we’re licensed, and the vicar desperately needs our help, preferably yesterday?!

    Comment by ramtopsrac — September 18, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  9. Hi Steve, good thoughts, I have just added some of my own here: which include the need to engage in manual work, prayer, and study as well as other things, as part of a disciplined life which will serve to re-invigorate the creative person, and allow the pioneer to engage with the realities of a growth/maintenance situation in a balanced and realistic way.

    I agree with your call in the comment above for a recognition of the need to engage in service, there are many jobs which few people are ‘called to do’ and which all of us should be engaged in.

    Off to clean the toilets now…


    Comment by Simon — September 19, 2009 @ 1:04 am

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