Monthly Archives: September 2016

Spirit Centered 06 – Six Core Competencies of Pastors

My last Core Competency for pastors is being Spirit Centered. You can call it Christ Centered, God Centered, Kingdom Driven, Spiritually –what you call it may depend on your background and on what connects with you. But whatever you call it, it is core to pastoral competency.

Faith and trust in God is a lifestyle for pastors. Much of what we are entrusted to do (preach, teach, lead, care for people, etc.) had to be grounded in God or it becomes ego driven, false and exhausting. Even the best pastors fall into this trap.

It has probably always been an issue, but today too many pastors have become the “professional Christian” busy with the work of the church – and because of the scope of that work, pastors can find themselves estranged from their own spiritual life. Instead of leading the life of a spiritual leader we settle for CEO of a small business that peddles religious goods and services.

Being Spirit Centered is not only about making one’s spiritual deepening a priority in life and ministry; it is about how having that priority shapes and forms ministry.

For pastors a profound spiritual life shapes ministry in several ways but, I want to focus on three:

First, it decreases the burden and burn out of ministry. It is no secret that too many clergy are depressed, critical, complainers. I believe the incredible scope of ministry pushes pastors into unhealthy life choices and relational patterns. Clergy can feel the weight of the world and the fate of the church on their backs and it is overwhelming. A deep spiritual life grounds a pastor in a helpful truth: You are not in charge, You are not God.

Second, it enables pastors to hear God’s voice in ministry choices. Ministry in today’s world is complicated. Our culture is more disconnected from what church has traditionally offered and pastors face more choices with more consequences for the wrong choice. A deep spirituality enables a pastor to hear God’s leading in the midst of complicate choices. A deep connection to God also enables pastors to risk, to be bold and to do the right thing even when it is costly.

Third, it awakens pastors to what the Spirit is doing now. As the shape of church changes I believe the Spirit doesn’t leave us here to figure it out on our own but is leading us forward. What will church look like? The Spirit will guide our steps as we listen. I believe a Spirit Centered pastor learns to walk in that unfolding.

Being Spirit Centered is a hard competence to live in to. I say this because most pastors have done well relying on their own strengths, experience and wisdom. It has often felt like these were enough to guide the church and ministry. But we fool ourselves. It is not enough.

I left this as the last Core Competency because it is the most important but also, for many seminary trained clergy, the hardest. It calls us to live a different daily pattern, one where the ancient ways of prayer, retreat, fasting, scripture study and more aren’t what we do but who we are. The work of the clergy continues to be essential for the future of our faith. The question is will clergy take their call seriously enough?

Over these weeks, I have spent time sharing my Core Competencies (Professionalism, Focus, Communication, Connectionalism, Developer) with the hope that it would push other clergy leaders to wrestle with what they believe are their own.

Our calling is a high calling and we are called to nothing less than giving it our all, and out of that surrender and that giving,  I believe God’s Spirit will work.








Developer 05 – Six Core Competencies of Pastors

My Mother wanted me to be a professional photographer. She thought I had a good eye for photography and she loved how passionate I was about it. I took classes starting when I was 16 and spent long hours in the darkroom trying things out. I like to think that some of what my Mom saw in me when I was in high school is part of me today: I am a developer.

The metaphor of developer is a good one. In photography a developer takes what is hidden on the film and brings it into the light. Ministry requires developer skills.

Developer is my fifth Core Competency for pastors and not just because I like photography.  Like Connectionalism, Communication, Focus, and Professionalism, Developer is a key competency for today’s clergy leader.

Don’t relate to the developer metaphor? You can substitution your own – maybe for you it is the sculptor who by carving away the marble lets the art emerge, the gardener who tends the soil so seedlings grow big and strong, or the parent who sees the giftedness of each child and cultivates it forward.

Much of what good pastors do is uncover treasure that is hidden. Like the developer uncovers the photo hidden in the film, pastors uncover the Christ within people, communities and churches. It may be buried, damaged or forgotten but pastors are called to bring it into the light through:

Developing others – developing disciples & leaders (of all kinds).

Developing teams – for the work of ministry (both within the church and the community).

Developing community – both within the church and beyond. (This would include knowing the community so if you don’t know about missioninsite you need to check it out!)

Developing our own gifts —so we grow and expand who God has gifted us to be.

So are you a developer? How can will you give time to this core competency? These are important questions – because without the competency of developer a pastor may have ideas or vision about what could be but will lack execution.  And, what could be in people, communities and churches will remain hidden.

So, what and who are you developing these days?

Six Core Competencies of Pastors 04: Connectionalism

I didn’t grow up in the United Methodist Church (UMC). But when I was in college I fell in love with the UMC and I especially fell in love with what they called Connectionalism.

Connectionalism (or Connexionalism) is a funny word. In the UMC we use it to talk about the relationships churches and pastors have to other churches and pastors and to the worldwide UMC. Connectionalism means we are not alone, that we are connected both locally and globally.

“What is connectionalism?  It’s a peculiarly Methodist understanding of what it means to be the church.  According to connectionalism, the church is defined not by formal structures or doctrine or lines of authority.  It’s defined by connections between people: connections between pastor and pastor, between pastor and laity, and between laity and laity.  When The United Methodist Church claims to be a connectional church, that means that we hold such interpersonal connections in so high a regard that we understand them as the essence of the church.” David W Scott “Connectionalism as a Basis for United Methodist Unity”

I love these words from David W Scott, they speak of connectionalism at its best. But we are also familiar with it at its worst – this is when we dumb down this essential way of being church to local church paying apportionments (giving to the larger church) and pastors and laity serving on Conference committees.

At its best, connectionalism is worthy of being a core competency for pastors. Like Professionalism, Focus and Communication, Connectionalism moves the life of a pastor out of personal kingdom building toward a bigger understanding of ministry.

I think we may need a new vision of connectionalism. Our connections feel weak these days. Maybe this because of the stress of ministry and the call of individualism which seduces us to believe that as long as our little church is doing fine who cares what happens to the larger UMC?

What could this new vision of connectionalism took like? Here is what I am thinking connectionalism could look like in the 21st century. I’d love to hear your thoughts too.

1.Connectionalism looks like pastors serving based on gifts. You are great at pastoral care and I am great at administration? We work together and build each other’s ministry. A third pastor in our community is a great preacher? She preaches several Sundays a month for us and we carry the administrative and pastoral care load those weeks.

This would call pastors to know each other and put aside any competition we might feel with one another.  It would also call us to be more accountable to one another.  If pastors were appointed to a Mission Area (smaller groupings of churches to which every UMC in Cal-Pac is assigned) based on gifts instead of to a local parish, this would be a major shift in our connectionalism.

2. Connectionalism looks like Mission Areas doing church assessments, and when needed, recommending closures and vital mergers. The best wisdom is the wisdom of those in the community so lets use it more strategically.  This would include having a key role with the District Superintendent (DS) in deciding how the funds from the closed property would be strategically used to build ministry in the Mission Area. Funds would be used for new starts, building updates and staffing.

Sharing this responsibility with the District Superintendent might not work in every context, but in those in which it  did a DS would benefit from the wisdom of a strong Mission Area. (Note: some of this has started to happen.)

3. Connectionalism looks like Conference staff deployed to districts on a rotating basis at least 50% of the time. This would include staff being housed in the district (a guest room  and space at the District office) so they really get to know each district and its needs. This could include staff from: Justice and Compassion, New Ministries, Hispanic Ministries, Camping, Age Level Ministries, Finance and Human Resources.

In today’s mobile world, Connectional Ministries staff spending the bulk of their time in Pasadena isn’t the highest use of the staff’s ability to resource. I’d love to see Mission Areas invite Connectional Ministry staff in regularly as a way of educating them on the real needs of churches. (Note: some of this is already happening too!)

Historically, connectionalism has been a core competency. Today it needs to move front and center again. As I look around I see too many pastors forsaking the connection due to a lack of time, energy or interest and I wonder how a renewed focus on connectionalism could enable us to lead more boldly and with less loneliness.

What place does Connectionalism hold in your ministry?

100 Days of Summer – A Review of the Happiness Planner

I spent the 100 days of summer using the Happiness Planner.  The planner style I’m using is a 3-month version.

I picked it up by chance when I had a gift certificate from Anthropology and thought it looked the mid year pick-me-up I need. It was.

The planner starts by asking what makes you happy & unhappy, what are your strengths & weaknesses, what upsets you and what do you want to improve, etc.  There is a place for goals, so I set summer goals (mostly around getting outside more, playing my ukulele and enjoying myself). Then I jumped in.

Weekly you put in your schedule and each day you record “what I’m excited about,” “good things about today,” “what I hope for tomorrow.” There is a place to list daily goals, exercise and meals.  I loved the focus on the positive.

What worked:

  • It was doable – setting goals for 100 days was something I could do. I found I was more focused and I achieved 50% more of my goals.
  • It was different – I liked having to think each day about what I was looking forward to. That really starts the day off differently – I liked it!
  • I could use it with what I already use (I use The Way App where I track my daily personal rituals).
  • Each week there is a 2-page summary which included a place to describe the week in 3 words (which was fun to think about) & a place to “score” your happiness, health and engagement.
  • On the 2-page weekly summary  there was a place for me to record what I learned that week – those ideas got captured and I could refer back to them. I really loved that.

My plan was just to do this for the summer and then to go back to my regular planner but I bought a second one to use for the next 100 days!