Everyone needs a good pastor. Right?? Someone to love you, to guide you on God’s path, to lovingly sound the alarm when you begin to wander off the flight plan. These are all the holy things that us pastors are called to do.
What happens when the pastor needs a pastor? By the polity of the PC(USA), the “pastor’s pastor” is supposed to be the Executive Presbyter. However, with shrinking budgets and personnel at presbytery offices, the duties of the presbyter have become so overburdened, that it’s impossible for the Presbyter to respond to all of the needs of the pastors, except the most urgent.
Where does this leave those who serve on the front lines of churches that are hurting, wrestling with huge issues of declining membership, Biblical authority, and how we are the body of Christ in the 21st century? I’ve been having lunch with a couple of local pastors over the last month, and the conversation always turns to our shared feelings of isolation from our colleagues and the larger body of Christ.
In other words, we all wish we had a pastor.
I know that budgets are tighter than ever, but like Jeremiah buying a field, (Jeremiah 32) what would it be if our presbyteries invested some money in a full-time pastor that would serve the pastors?
Some duties might include:
1. A regular worship service for pastors. We know that there are too few opportunities for pastors to worship without leading/helping to lead the service. This pastor would organize a regular worship service for members of the presbytery to come together, feel and enjoy the presence of God without having to “do” anything. When the leaders of the church don’t worship, pray, and study Scripture together, how can we expect the church to grow and prosper?
2. Help organize a time for pastors to meet and encourage each other. The Presbyterian Church claims to be a connectional church, but are we really? I don’t know the names of half the pastors in my presbytery. I know that I don’t get out much, but I don’t think I’m alone in this. Feelings of isolation are inevitable when we don’t even know our colleagues. This would also help increase trust between pastors and the presbytery. At our last stated meeting of presbytery, in the debate over our newly revised Gracious Dismissal Policy, I heard evidence of a lack of trust between pastors and the presbytery, especially the role of those serving on the COM. If we had lunch each week with those serving in those roles, and we worshiped alongside them, issues of trust begin to vanish.
3. Serve as a pastoral resource for all pastors. Each pastor has their own struggles, both personal and professional. Sometimes, we just need a listening ear, sometimes we need a shoulder to cry on, sometimes we need someone who can journey with us through a particular season in our lives. Unfortunately, family and friends are not always able to provide this. The “pastor’s pastor” would help provide this as needed.
Jeremiah bought a field during the worst possible economic climate. Verse 15 says: “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” Isn’t this what we all want for God’s kingdom here on earth??