The motivated pastor

Is the pastor "the most important person within the organisational structure"? If he is, then should he not have a greater say in the setting of goals in cooperation with leadership?

John W. Fowler is president of the Ohio Conference.

What is the number one topic of discussion among today's church administrators? Discovering the key to a motivated pastoral ministry.

A glaring illustration of this concern is a brief article in the February, 1981, MINISTRY. Titled, "What! Fire a Pastor?" the article deals with a presumed lack of pastoral motivation and indicates that in one particular conference most of the pastors are nonproductive. The article concluded with a suggestion that nonproducing pastors should be fired.

Pastoral response (via letters to the editor) showed clearly that while many pastors may not be as productive as they themselves would like to be, there is certainly no lack of fire burning in their bones.

One pastor in a letter (June, 1981, MINISTRY) stated that if it were actually true that more than half of the pastors working under the direction of the unnamed president referred to in the article were unproductive, then the conference president "is the most incompetent of anyone," inferring that he, not the pastor, should be fired!

It is not a bad idea, as this pastor reminded us, to direct our attention toward those of us who must shoulder a major portion of the responsibility for the pastor's productivity or lack thereof.

The efforts of church leaders to motivate clergy and laity and to bring about substantial church growth in the Western world are patently obvious. Just notice the multitude of well-attended soul winning seminars being conducted and the number less church growth programs that clutter conference and church offices. However, all these efforts bring about very little change in church growth patterns. The human thing to do in such a case, of course, is to blame those individuals most directly responsible for bringing about church growth. However, any effort to place the responsibility for lack of church growth at the door of the pastoral ministry is quickly rejected by that group.

Some argue that pastors are not interested in evangelism and soul winning. The inference is that they have a different set of goals and objectives than do administrators. Careful research, however, indicates that this simply is not true. One consultant surveyed sixty pastors and personally interviewed more than twenty of them. The pastors were asked to write a job description for themselves. The activities they listed as their primary responsibilities fell naturally into three basic areas: (1) evangelism, (2) pastoral nurture, (3) church administration. I would dare say that conference administrators would write exactly the same job description for their pastors. It seems clear that pastors desire to see the church grow as much as administrators do.

In the Ohio Conference we put together a large, master-planning committee that met several different weekends. One of this committee's tasks was to write a job description for the local church. The seventy members (40 pastors and 30 laymen) were divided into groups of ten to twelve, with a pastor serving as chairman of each group. The groups were asked to identify five to seven key areas in which the churches should concentrate their energies. When all the groups brought their suggestions together and voted a master list, the following areas emerged: (1) pastoral nurture; (2) church growth; (3) leadership training; (4) evangelistic outreach; (5) finances.

Thus the evidence supports the idea that pastors have just as great an interest in soul winning and church growth as do administrators. The very fact that pastors show so much interest in the various programs created by administrators or by depart mental people also provides a clear indication that there is no lack of desire on the part of pastors to bring about church growth. We must look elsewhere for a solution to the problem of meager growth. No simple answer exists, and the problems are complex and elusive, but the church must squarely face this dilemma if we are ever to finish God's work. Creating more programs, constantly accenting a single method of evangelism, or using rewards to bring about growth will only further delay the desired results.

We must recognize, first of all, that motivating pastors is not something that leadership or administrators can do. Efforts to motivate any group of workers usually have not proved very successful; particularly ineffective over the long run are attempts to motivate through rewards or punishments. People are either motivated or they are not. Studies indicate that almost everyone possesses ample latent motivation. (See "Fear and Productivity: More Closely Related Than We Think?" AMA Management Review, January, 1981, p. 23.) The intense motivational drive of children is a graphic illustration. Why, then, do so many of us lose that motivational drive as we grow into adulthood? It is a result of being hurt through ridicule and rejection; thus we sublimate our motivation until we appear to be passive or nonaggressive. We become afraid to express ourselves, to attempt outstanding results, or to implement innovative and creative programs. Motivation is lying dormant within us, and all the efforts of leadership to draw out that motivation through rewards or punishment are doomed to be short-lived at best.

Administrators must remove the fear of being criticized, rejected, or punished for failure before the pastor's own dormant motivation will impel him to begin pursuing the realization of his own desire for church growth. In other words, administrators must create a climate or an atmosphere of confidence and trust in which pastors feel secure. From that security will develop a growing motivation to achieve the goals and objectives that most pastors hold dearly within their hearts. Pastors must be convinced that administration will fully support them and provide the necessary help for them to be successful and fulfilled in their efforts to bring about church growth. They must be secure enough to feel free to fail in their efforts to achieve the goals that both they and administrators hold in common. Failure is a vital part of success. All talk of firing unproductive pastors will only further alienate pastors and administrators from each other. If a pastor continually fails and never learns how to succeed, he should be retrained for some other work within or without the organization—not fired!

Another problem relating to pastoral motivation is that of ministerial training. Training for the pastoral ministry neglects the area of church administration and management. It is my conviction that in order to bring about church growth pastors need to be given more specialized training in developing leadership and managerial skills. In an article titled "Church Management: The Architecture of Ministry" (Christianity Today, July 20, 1979), Nor man Sawchuck wrote: "Unfortunately, Bible colleges and seminaries have not adequately equipped church leaders for this part of ministry. Practical theology courses deal more with how to conduct funerals and how to visit in the hospital rather than with the largely neglected management issues of making decisions, managing conflict, setting goals, and evaluating. Pastors and church leaders need these skills today in order to keep the church on target. Theological education has equipped leaders to be mechanics— that is, to do what is needed to keep the machine running. But church leaders today must be architects, not mechanics; managers and shapers of the future, not precedent followers of the past. . . . We cannot escape the fact that the church requires management."

The church could well profit by helping the pastor understand his role as a manager of the local church's resources for achieving growth. Instead, we have indirectly trained him to believe that his most important work is that of personal soul winning and have held him accountable for actually doing most of the soul-winning work that is done in the local church. Workers' reports, statistical data, and news stories have inadvertently been used to place great emphasis upon what the pastor does personally in terms of soul winning. While I don't want to depreciate his personal role as a soul winner, we must recognize that this is not his primary and first responsibility.

Ellen White makes it very clear that the pastor's primary duty is to train the laity and set them to work. "The best help that ministers can give the members of our churches is not sermonizing, but planning work for them. Give each one something to do for others. Help all to see that as receivers of the grace of Christ they are under obligation to work for Him. And let all be taught how to work. Especially should those who are newly come to the faith be educated to become laborers together with God. If set to work, the despondent will soon forget their despondency; the weak will become strong, the ignorant intelligent, and all will be prepared to present the truth as it is in Jesus. They will find an unfailing helper in Him who has promised to save all that come unto Him."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 82.

We are all well acquainted with the illustration regarding the foreman and his crew of men. The owner of the company came along and found his foreman doing the work while ten men were standing around watching. That is basically what is happening in the local churches today. The Biblical concept is quite different. In the Old Testament, leadership of God's people was divided among three different individuals. First was the prophet. Although we see some dissimilarities, the prophet of the Old Testament is comparable to the preacher in the New Testament. There was also the priest, who was the mediator between man and God. Last was the king, who had the administrative or managerial responsibilities of the kingdom of God. In the New Testament all three of these offices were gathered together in one person, namely Jesus Christ. Christ became the model for the Christian pastor. The pastor, then, is prophet, priest, and king. Most of us recognize his responsibility as prophet and priest. But we give little attention to the kingly, or managerial, responsibilities of the pastor.

In the same article referred to earlier, Norman Sawchuck writes: "Management practice is perhaps the purest form of practical (practicing) theology, giving flesh and blood to the sacraments, creeds, liturgies, and to the confessions of the church." If pastors are given training in this important area of leadership and if higher levels of organization can provide a true support system to enable him to be a manager of the church's resources, then we are likely to see an unprecedented motivation taking place in the pastoral ministry. We will see the pastors developing and utilizing the total resources of the church to bring about church growth.

Another important consideration in motivating the pastor is to help him realize his own personal goals and objectives while he is working to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization. We have done a fair job of this in the area of the educational ministry. However, in the area of pastoral ministry we have fallen far behind. A pastor often has to break away from denominational employment, taking a leave of absence, in order to pursue personal goals and objectives. The result is not usually desirable. Often the pastor ends up dropping out of pastoral ministry and entering some other line of ministerial work. If the church could provide the opportunity to pursue one's personal goals while working to realize organizational goals, I believe pastors would more willingly and earnestly bend their efforts to work with administrators in advancing God's cause.

One motivational concept that has been discussed widely is "owned goals." If pastors sense they are being used by administration to achieve goals owned solely by administrators, then demotivation will take place!

A graphic acknowledgment of this fact appears in Pastor Richard Morris' very frank article, "It's Time to Do Less for Your Church Members" (MINISTRY, January, 1982). His opening paragraph: "As a pastor, I've never been able to get too excited about somebody else's program. Not even if it comes from the conference president himself. But when it's my pro gram, something opens up within me, and I invest incredible amounts of time and energy to achieve its success!"

Students of organizational development have shown that a group of workers who feel they are being used to achieve goals that are owned by others will develop "defensive behavior." Most of their energies will go toward maintaining that defensive behavior and working, often unconsciously, to sabotage leadership's goals. It appears to me that this is taking place within the church, particularly in the Western world. An educated pastoral ministry demands a style of management that allows more participation in developing and achieving goals. While it will never be possible to have an organization in which everyone has a voice, we can make the organization more responsive to the needs of the pastoral ministry. Few workers will respond to a command by a superior simply because the superior wants something done. Workers must perceive the request as relevant and meaningful in their work if they are to respond. It may be difficult, but we must find a way to give pastors a voice in planning and decision-making if they are to feel a part of the team and realize more fully the relevance and necessity of the church's goals and pro grams.

Pastor Morris' article illustrated well this principle at the local church level. He writes: "In order for our members to be committed to the church and its work, the thinking, planning, and goal-setting processes that underlie that work must be completely evicted from the private sanctums of the departmental director's office and the pastor's study. They must take place instead in the full public light of discussion and decision by the laity." The only correction I would make to this statement is that the planning and decision-making must be a joint endeavor between clergy and laity. The challenge administrators must solve is how effectively to involve the pastor in the planning and decision-making process at the conference, union, division, and General Conference level of church organization.

We talk, and rightly so, about the pastor's being the key to church growth and about the local congregation's being the primary action unit where church growth actually takes place. We talk about higher levels of organization providing a support system for the local church; yet we continue to act out of harmony with those concepts by trying to dictate to pastors and local churches how they must work to bring about church growth. Ingathering is the number one exhibit of this.

Plans for church growth must be developed at the local church level. Church growth happens in the local church, not in some administrative office or departmental planning session. Plans created in such an atmosphere are sure to fall on deaf ears at the level where church growth actually takes place. Yet that is exactly what is happening in the Seventh-day Adventist Church today, and it is greatly impeding and undermining church growth.

Planning by the local conference administration or departmental staff must be in response to perceived needs of the pastors. Requests even from the local church members must not bypass the pastor, for he is the manager of the total resources in the local church, and what he does not foster or implement will never work effectively. Therefore, local depart mental or administrative functions must be brought into existence as a result of expressed needs of pastors. In fact, the major criterion for evaluating staff personnel should be how often pastors request their help. When we don't work in this way, we create a bureaucracy that militates against motivation at the local church level. Departments and administration have an intrinsic characteristic that leads naturally to bureaucracy and unless care fully managed will continue to demand larger staff, proliferate programs, and wear out the copy machines in an effort to convince everyone of the importance of their existence.

When higher levels of organization, and particularly departmental functions, per form in this way, the pastor's authority is usurped, his ability to plan effectively for church growth at the local level is impeded, and his energies are scattered in an attempt to meet demands that often do not bring about church growth anyway. The pastor then views the higher levels of organization as not only unnecessary but oppressive, and demotivation takes place at the local church level.

The result is that the rightful authority of these levels of church organization—the right to hold the pastor and the local church accountable for managing in harmony with the policies of the church and for bringing about church growth—is faulted. This is one reason why pastors and, increasingly so, laity are seeking to reduce the "higher" levels of organizational structure within the church. We talk about the higher levels of organization providing a support system for the local church; however, we have not yet seriously faced that concept. Departmental people should be trained to work as consultants and advisers to the pastors and local churches. When this happens, we will begin to see less criticism of departmental men and higher levels of church organization. The pastor then will believe us when we say that he is the most important person within the organizational structure. It is my conviction that he will then respond, and unprecedented church growth will take place in the Seventh-day Adventist Church!


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John W. Fowler is president of the Ohio Conference.

August 1982

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