What makes good pastors?
A pastoral job analysis study, commissioned by the Board of Higher Education, is being used by leaders in the Baltimore-Washington Conference to better understand pastoral effectiveness. It is food for thought in assuring appropriate appointments and evaluating clergy performance.
“This study provides us with valuable understandings for our work and
ministry here in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, which may shape our work and thinking in the future,” said Bishop John Schol.
“The study helps us to understand that pastoral ministry is a challenging calling, which demands expertise in a variety of functions and tasks and requires diverse skill sets for those serving different sizes and locations of churches,” he said.
Richard P. DeShon, a psychology professor at Michigan State University, conducted the study using focus groups. A list of tasks, thought to add to effective performance, came out of the group discussions: administration, care-giving, sacraments and rituals, facility construction, relationship building, communication, management, fellowship, evangelism, self-development, preaching and public worship, connectional service and other development such as training and
“If you take a look at the job description of a pastor, no one human being is able to do all of those tasks and do them perfectly,” said the Rev. Joye Jones of Good Shepherd UMC in Silver Spring and chair of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry.
“An effective pastor is one who understands his or her strengths and weaknesses, offers the Gospel to people, is there when people need hope and assists in moving people from pew-sitters to cross-bearers,” she said.
According to the Rev. Rodney Smothers of St. Paul UMC in Oxon Hill, identifying, equipping and cultivating other spiritual leaders is the true work of a pastor. “Good pastors are fruit-bearing,” he said.
The act of juggling so many pastoral tasks is one that requires intense skill and careful balance. “The demands are huge, yet rewarding,” Jones said.
“You need healthy boundaries and a good support system of people who understand the demands of ministry. It’s also important to take time to renew yourself,” Smothers said. “If you are called into ministry, there is an inner joy that overlooks what would otherwise be very draining.”
Because United Methodist clergy itinerate, the ability to transition fairly seamlessly into a new congregation is also important.
“Every pastor has a different leadership style and set of gifts. It is important to be able to understand your unique style and gifts,” said the Rev. DaeHwa Park of Oakdale-Emory UMC.
Smothers also underscored the
importance of understanding the needs of a congregation according to where they are in their growth process. He compared caring for a congregation much the way you would care for a seed that grows into a beautiful flower. “If you attend to its growing needs, you will be amazed at the beauty that comes of it,” he said.