It’s conventional wisdom among pastors that we don’t have one boss, or even a team of bosses, but a congregation of bosses. That each church member/friend/acquaintance/giving unit is our supervisor. And since our little congregation has roughly 235 members, I have 235 bosses.
I used to affirm this. But something inside me wouldn’t let me really believe it. And now I thoroughly reject it.
I reject it because this is a recipe for burnout. With all the competing expectations, varied understandings of what a pastor’s job entails, differing needs and wants, it would be impossible to be accountable to EVERYONE’S assumptions of what I’m supposed to be doing.
I also find that putting using the word “boss” misunderstands the pastor/parish relationship. Yes I get paid for what I do, but I also contribute financially. Yes, I have performance evaluations, but it’s a back and forth conversation. Yes, a congregation votes on whether or not they’re going to call me as their pastor, but I also have to listen to the Holy Spirit, asking God if such a call comes from God, or if I just had a really good interview.
I would say that I don’t have bosses. I have partners, fellow pilgrims, sisters and brothers with whom I walk and who walk with me. Together we try to listen and discern God’s future for us.
I’m writing this because, mainly, I’m getting tired of the “us vs them” attitudes I often hear from clergy, as if we pastors have a corner on how the church is to be run. We may have Divinity degrees and know a lot of theology, but the people with whom we serve have built the church through hard work and even harder prayers. And that needs to be honoured and respected. Clergy need to understand that we’re simply one voice among many.