DNA OF PASTORAL LEADERSHIP
Practical Preaching Required
My best friend is a gourmet chief. He loves fancy restaurants and fine dining, but we live in what he describes as a “feeder” town. There are dining towns and feeder towns. Rural ministries are “feeder” towns when it comes to preaching. They like things plain and simple (think meat and potatoes). They will travel great distances for a good meal – but they measure it in quantity (think buffets), not quality. They need something they can apply today – and spelled out in very specific ways.
I know – you want to do more – but you are not in seminary anymore. School was about what you needed – this is about them. Find other ways to challenge yourself – don’t do it at the cost of your congregation.
Commitment is a Necessity
There is often a high turnover in rural ministries. Most people view them as “stepping stones” to greater places. While you may like to innovate and design new programs – when you leave they know they will be the ones running them. Until they are assured you are going to be around for awhile – they are going to be very hesitant to support your latest idea. Since I have been in the same ministry since 1992 – they support just about any idea I have – because they know if it doesn’t succeed – I have to deal with the consequences, not them.
I am an Outsider
I didn’t grow up in this area, and I am a transplant. I have learned to accept myself as an outsider. That’s okay – I understand my place in their community. I always refer to myself as the “city kid”, but it is thrilling when they start correcting you – you are one of them!
I have to be myself
I am myself, and as I seek to understand them, I have to help them better understand me. I tell them stories and allow them to see my flaws. I have to be careful in what I reveal and when I reveal it. (Think of a missionary among natives – they have to be able to handle the information before I share it.) By helping the congregation understand me, I set the mold for the role of the Pastor in our church. If I do not allow them to know and understand me, then they will set the mold and they may not be a good fit.
I have to Pastor Myself
I have learned that I still need to be challenged. Therefore I have learned ways to grow and stretch in an area that provides very little opportunity to grow and stretch. The web has become a tremendous resource. (forums, websites, blogs, mp3 sermons, etc) I have Pastor Friends who I gather with and we discuss books or share resources. Sometimes it means a 3 hour drive for lunch – but I have to make sure that I do not become stagnant.
The Golden Egg
The golden egg in rural ministry is longevity and stability. These two items will gain you more credibility than you can ever imagine. The faithfulness factor will enrich and support everything you teach and preach. Your life becomes a vivid example of what honors God.