Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Infuriating Things, Part 2: Low Expectations of the Laity

First off, thank you to Mary Beth for giving my previous post the shout out on the Rev Gals blog. Thanks to that, my traffic is (as of right now) five times what it normally is. Yay!

This next issue is very closely linked to "Pastor as Butt-Wiper", in that it focuses on the ridiculously low expectations laity in general seem to have for themselves in terms of their role in bringing about the kingdom of God.

As a pastor, I preached and encouraged my congregation to discover their gifts for ministry and use them. I emphasized in sermons, groups, and individual conversations that everyone has a gift for ministry, that they are important to the local church, and that simply warming a pew or having a place on the membership rolls is not an option. Even a home-bound person who cannot attend worship or participate in activities can at least commit to praying for the church in general and our prayer list on a regular basis (and I told my home-bound members that).

However, all of this fell on deaf ears, apparently. Twice, I offered a study on discovering yours gifts and how to use them. The first time, NO ONE showed up, allegedly because it was "too cold outside". Yes, it was in the 30s and windy. However, the church was heated, and I don't think it's asking too much for someone to go from their heated house to a heated car to the heated church. I can accept the "it's too cold" excuse from someone in their 70s or 80s, or with a chronic health condition that's exacerbated by cold weather, but I can't accept that sort of excuse from someone who is reasonably youngish (under 70) and who attended worship that morning. There were plenty of people at SJ who fell into that latter category. The second time I offered the same study, it was in the summer (and no, not too hot for southern Virginia-high 80s) and I had...drumroll please...ONE person** show up. However, she told me it was her third time doing this sort of thing and she was leaving on vacation in two weeks. So, it sort of fizzled out.

Another example came during my last few months at SJ, during a PPR meeting when I was trying to communicate some of my methods for ministry, schedule, priorities, etc. I mentioned that I had our shut-ins on a monthly visitation schedule. In other words, I visited (or at least attempted to visit-there were a few people who never returned my phone calls) all the shut ins once a month. From my conversations with other clergy, this is a very adequate visitation schedule, even a bit ambitious according to some. What was my PPR's (Pastor-Parish Relations Committee) response to this bit of info. Several of them said that they felt once a month was not enough. After all, I "might be the only visitor they receive." HELLO!!! That should never happen...for several reasons. First, there is one of me and 40 or so of them in worship every week. I can't be expected to do meet the social needs of every shut-in; the church needs to be the CHURCH. It doesn't take that much work to visit say, one or two people a month, even for 15 minutes. Second, my understanding is that I do not visit people simply to socialize; I have the education and experience to provide them with quality pastoral care. Sure, small talk happens, friendships develop, and social occasions arise while providing pastoral care, but that remains the focus of my ministry. The people of the church can and should "visit" to keep people company; I provide those in need with pastoral care.

Don't even get me started on how no one would help me with the bulletin or help with any sort of follow-up for visitors.

**This person was, actually, one of the most active and gifted lay people in the congregation. I think her giftedness, maturity, and enthusiasm really intimidated a lot of people. I would have asked her to go to the Expo mentioned in my previous post, but it was during the last week of school and she's a schoolteacher, so that wasn't an option.


Mompriest said...

It's a pandemic....laitis...

It's also sad. Lazy. Uninspired. and not at all clear what will inspire.

Songbird said...

Some churches really need to be closed, don't they?
I have been fortunate to serve churches where people did keep track of the homebound fairly well, though you might discover that the trend was set by one of your predecessors who preferred "calling" to other kinds of ministry. Once that mindset is communicated, the homebound expect it and the congregation is "off the hook." You now have a family pattern!