Friday, March 13, 2009

New / Old School

The church where I work is currently looking for a new Lead Pastor...which, as far as I can tell, is sorta like a Senior Pastor. Whatever. The big question being asked right now is, "What kind of pastor do we want to call?" I suppose every church asks this question in a call process, but, for some reason, the answer feels more nondescript than the other times we've been looking for a pastor. Part of the uncertainty resides in trying to figure out if we want an Old School Pastor or a New School Pastor.

Allow me to explain in the form of sweeping, over-simplified generalities...

An Old School Pastor and the church are joined at the hip. They are the first one there in the morning and the last one there at night. The OSP has their hands in everything that goes on at the church. Their influence is felt in every aspect of congregational life - from the style of worship to the way the carpet is vacuumed. The OSP is the point-person for all questions, whether it's their job or not. Nobody wonders who is calling the shots. The OSP may have a spouse, but they are married to the church...and function as Head of Household.

On the other hand, the New School Pastor lives a very boundaried existance. Their day-off is non-negotiable. They delegate most of the work of the church to the appropriate staff people, council members, and committee leaders. The NSP doesn't get too emotionally invested in the details of congregational life. They see their job as being to equip lay people to be the ministers, which means taking a hands-off approach. An NSP knows they will not be there forever, so they partner with the church without putting down any roots.

* * * * *

It comes down to trends in how (Lutheran) seminaries prepare pastors for leadership. A generation ago, pastors kept 9-to-5 office hours...and then spent their evenings and weekends making house-calls, attending meetings, and leading worship. I'm not saying this made them more devoted pastors (or less devoted fathers & husbands)'s just the way it was. Today, we see the pendulum swing to the other side. Pastors pay careful attention to overall wellness and balance in their life. They talk about avoiding burn-out...carving out time for prayer and study...not attending things that don't require their presence.

I feel like the church (the whole church) is at a tipping point. We've reached equilibrium in the NSP and OSP pool. Both philosiphies bring good and bad things to a congregation. It really depends on what style / approach a congregation prefers. I imagine we'll start interviewing pastoral candidates in the next couple of months. It will be interesting to see what kind of pastor our call committee embraces...and which pastors embrace our congregation!

All I know is, after saying farewell to 3 pastors in 5 years, I hope that whoever we call ends up outlasting me this time!


  1. From the general tone of your (well written) post I'd say you are feeling the NSP. However, from your last paragraph perhaps something deeper does want that OSP. I know that I ended up choosing WHLC because it was a great mix of traditional (no rock bands, no "karaoke screens") but also a lot of new school (Pastor Eric's preaching style, the music and clapping that would be frowned on in an uber traditional church). I agree with you that it will be interesting to see who comes our way!

  2. Thanks for weighing in Flippy :-) I tend to be a OSP kind of guy at heart, and tend to think that those gifts are most often best-suited to lead large-ish churches. However, I know a lot of the pastors coming out of seminary have been given a different sort of tutelage...which might be kinda cool, too. (I'm sure I'll change my mind on this tomorrow and the next day...)

  3. (hey, sorry to be so traditionalist/fundamentalist/old-fashioned, but I liked the blog title godisnowhere better ;-)

    I've been thinking about this all day, and am wondering if by using terms like 'equipping' and 'empowering' (which I've done, many times) we betray our assumption that gifts and abilities and power are centralized, rather than diffuse. If we think that the 'Pastor' has that much influence, we've already lost our stake in our churches.

    Now I affirm the place of leadership and of pastoral gifts, but I'm wondering if even 'equipping' Pastors are hoarding power that they shouldn't, and making their jobs all the more difficult.


Thank you for taking the time to be a part of "koinonia"