Restructuring the Office of Pastor in a Generative Manner


The process is important.  That is often the case.  It is especially true as St. James leaders work on a new vision of the pastoral office.  As I am away on vacation this week, the Pastoral Support Team is meeting with the Executive Mission Team to share a new paradigm for pastoral ministry at St. James.  

The Pastoral Support Team is made up of Konrad Gastony (past President), Dave Dickman (past President), Birdie Olson (past Council person and Internship Mission Team co-leader), Jessi Kurvers (past Council person and Internship Mission Team co-leader), and Bjorn Pearson (Vice-President).  Among them, they have a vast knowledge of the workings of the pastoral office, pastoral leadership styles, and understand the needs of St. James.  Over the years, they have reviewed results of our many congregational surveys and direct feedback from Town Hall meetings and numerous conversations with others in our community.  As important as their leadership experience at St. James is, I think their most significant contribution to this project is their passion.  They have a deep passion for the health and vitality of St. James Lutheran.  Connected to this passion is a deep support of the pastoral office.  Healthy pastors and healthy congregations go together.  The Pastoral Support Team understands this relationship.  

In a time of largely uncharted waters for the church, the Pastoral Support Team has been a valuable asset to me.  Their support to the pastoral office comes in many forms.  At times, they are a sounding board that allows a confidential outlet for expressing concerns and frustrations.  At other times, they have spoken hard truths out of love.  They are natural listeners that know how to go to the deeper questions.  The team challenges, comforts, encourages, raises concerns, and offers alternative perspectives.  

Now, they are presenting ideas on how to adjust the role and responsibility of the Lead Pastor in light of the reality of St James being a sole-pastor parish for the current season in which we find ourselves.  These ideas have come from careful deliberation and exploration.  They have reviewed previous job descriptions for all the roles that have been expected of the pastoral office, when multiple pastors, interns, assistants served.  They listened to the wisdom of Pastor Sandy Rothschiller, who worked with Portico (benefit arm of the E.L.C.A.) and served as a sole pastor before joining the staff of Prince of Peace.  They interviewed people from other congregations in the area to see what expectations they had of their pastors.  They have also reviewed the comments, on what people in the pew expect from their pastor, made at the Pastor's Coffee and Conversation in early August.  They have done a lot of work.  

The new paradigm that they will be presenting to the Executive Mission Team is a step forward in reshaping pastoral roles and expectations.  Back to process.  Here is how we will make the ideas better together.  From the Executive Mission Team, the work-in-progress will be shared with Council at their September meeting.  After Council has had a chance to discern how it connects with our congregational tri-part vision - a Town Hall meeting will be scheduled in October.  At this point, the ideas will be made public.  Feedback and input will be solicited from the congregation at large.  Again, we will make it better together.   Following the public hearing, at the October Council meeting, a vote will be taken on the new model for pastoral ministry at St. James.  When all is said and done - many voices and perspectives will go into restructuring the Office of Pastor. 

I am grateful for all the work that is being done in reshaping the Office of Pastor in such a generative manner. As you might have guessed, since the beginning of the year, it has been a challenge to provide the visionary leadership that is needed to meet our challenges while also covering the other aspects of the Pastoral Office that were once done by multiple pastors. New patterns are needed in order restore healthy practices and expectations to the Pastoral Office now that it has only a single occupant.

 As I shared in my blog series this summer, I remain hopeful for St. James and excited for the ministry that we will do together.  I can't wait to see what comes out of the work of the Pastoral Support Team and the Executive Mission Team while I'm away.  Again, the process is important.  That they are doing significant work in my absence points to the new paradigm that we are entering.  Please pray for these leaders, the generative process, and the well-being of St. James.

In Christ,

Pastor Walt