Expectations of an intern pastor

Expectations are interesting when compared with reality.

Brian W. Dudar is associate pastor of the Pasadena, California, Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is also a chaplain candidate in the California National Guard.

Expectations are interesting when compared with reality. What we expect and what we receive from each other are often quite different. Pastors are not immune to disappointed expectations in their personal relationships. In fact, they probably suffer them more than most others do, even when dealing with fellow pastors.

But why? Why should two pastors have differing expectations? They serve the same Lord and even work at the same church. What they expect should be the same, shouldn't it? Too often pastors working together make this assumption. Interns and supervisors often fall into such a trap and find themselves frustrated. And how could it be otherwise? Without understanding what to expect from each other, they have little hope of surviving and thriving together.

My expectations

In pondering my expectations of my supervising pastor, the first thing that comes to mind is the image of a mentor. I'm not suggesting that my supervisor be a wise old man. Just wise. Someone I can look to for guidance and strength as I grow and learn, someone I will miss when I move on---instead of being glad to get away from Ol' Iron Pants.

Honest self-disclosure is essential in my mentor. He needs to share lessons learned from personal experience, victories as well as defeats. I need to see his life beyond the pulpit, beyond the confines of the church and its functions.

I also need my mentor for a friend. Pastors working together need one another's encouragement and support. Because I have a hard time enjoying the fellowship of Mrs. Jones, who calls Monday mornings to complain that "Shall We Gather at the River?" was played much too fast, a good mentor fills that need on a personal, social level.

Competence is important as well I need to know I can depend upon my mentor's work and his experience. Furthermore, he needs to inspire my growth, challenging my creativity to move beyond the status quo.

Dividing responsibilities

Within the working relationship of church ministry, I need my super visor to entrust me with responsibility. Not so much that I am crushed by the weight of all the work, and not so little that I become bored; just enough to keep me striving for excellence.

How should church responsibilities be divided? This calls for dialogue so that duties match interests and talents while also providing challenges that stimulate growth. Super visors should not assign "throwaway" responsibilities they do not like. For example, I am not a personal servant to clean up the messes, nor do I mow lawns or wash cars. These are not the tasks that help me grow.

I need assignments that give me a variety of opportunities to make a positive contribution to church life. I need my supervisor to share the mission of the church with me. I need to learn how to manage and administer church business without being stuck with busywork in the church office. True ministry takes place when I am involved eye-to-eye with people I can help.

Frankness and freedom

After the duties of the church have been divided, I need regularly scheduled evaluations. These sessions should be frank, not painting a rosy picture that ignores difficult areas. But they should not be brutal, destroying my identity or discouraging me. An evaluation from a good men tor nudges and inspires me to correct my faults and sharpen my skills.

Most important, I need the freedom to become the person God has created and calls me to be. He has given me talents that are unique to me; my mentor must not attempt to duplicate himself/herself within me. I need freedom to disagree, to point out options, and to create different and innovative ideas. A supervisor must foster individuality and freedom, remembering that to a great degree my support for him or her is a reflection of how he or she supports me.

Finally, I need to see Jesus in my mentor's dealings with church members, conference leaders, and with me.

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Brian W. Dudar is associate pastor of the Pasadena, California, Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is also a chaplain candidate in the California National Guard.

March 1994

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