Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the Pastor's 24 project

My old friend Thomas has some tough words for the Pastor's 24 project. Read them here. He sees the project as the result of some of our worst impulses as clergy, pastors "worrying if our congregations think we are spending enough time 'doing' ministry." He goes on:
We should be about the business of being in ministry with other and with God as the guide. So we create lists in order to prove what he have done. We want concrete measurements of numbers and figures. Instead, we should be planting seeds and fertilizing growth. Those have intangible results from day to day, but over time, it bears much fruit.

I don't think you can argue too much with the notion that pastors--and, well, people in general--often seek validation for their actions at the expense of actually doing what is right. Moving past validation, I think, is part of what separates great clergy from marginal clergy. Figure that one out, and the rest is cream cheese.

But the Pastor's 24 project, as I understand it, looks nothing like the project Thomas is describing. Thomas says that "the main reason given here" is to "show that pastors do more than Sunday things." To summarize his argument--I think I am being fair here--Thomas is saying that the whole enterprise is about seeking validation. United Methodist ministry, he says, should be its own validation. We are sent, and in that sending, we are inherently "given value in that placement."

Thomas seems to see the project as our--and let's make it personal, since I am participating--my need to show the congregation that I do, in fact, work all day. As he said, I think that myth has been debunked. I have no worries about whether the congregation things I work enough. Nor do I have concerns about my value as a pastor. I am humbled with the charge I have been given, and I find worth in both the work and in my relationship with God and people. I do not need validation from the Twitterverse.

I think Thomas is misreading the question behind the project. The question is, "What do you do all day?" The question is not, "Why do you only work one hour a week, you lazy so-and-so?" The difference is in the tone.

There is an aura about ministry. Having not grown up in the church, I can testify to the mystery. Clergy are such public figures--there are perhaps few figures so public, other than politicians--that there is of course some palace intrigue as it relates to what we do during the countless hours we spend in private or doing duties other than presiding in worship. The purpose of the project, as I understand it, is to shed some light on those duties: not for validation's sake, but in order to demystify, and because we clergy often toil alone. As Jeremy says in his announcement of the project, "I wonder what great diversity there might be in a pastor’s daily life." I am excited about today because I get to take a brief look into the ministry lives of those people who are public figures, but who spend most of their time in private.

I would say only one more thing. Saying something "gets it wrong" seems to be pretty common these days: see here and here. But I would hope that those who question the project (and I know that it is not just my good friend Thomas) approach it with the same validated humility with which they call for being in ministry. I want to see the project play out before deeming it a misguided venture.

So I am an eager participant. Follow me at @herevrush, or--better yet--search for the hashtag #pastors24.

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