Sunday, January 22, 2006

Do I need to hire image consultants?

I remember being vaguely amused in the past when the punditeratti nattered amongst themselves about whether one or the other of our new presidents was acting sufficiently "presidential". Who cares? I thought. What a dumb thing to blather about.

I'm feeling a bit more sympathetic right now. At least toward those new presidents who had to run this gauntlet. Vague rumors have reached my ears that "people" in the congregation where I will begin serving in six weeks are expressing the hope that I will take charge immediately, be decisive, sort out some issues that have gone unresolved waiting for the new head-of-staff's arrival. In short some "people" appear to want me to waste no time beginning to act presidential.

Sheesh. As if a girl didn't have enough to worry about already. Here's the thing. Or rather, here's the dilemma. I feel a bit credibility challenged already. I'm the first female head-of-staff for this church, the youngest in quite a long while, and I'm coming to this having most recently served a really small church. The temptation is to charge in like Xena Warrior Princess and slay all the doubters. But I'm not sure I could really pull that off--and that's probably a good thing. That's really not the kind of pastor I have been or would want to become.

But are "people" willing to wait for the more subtle, collaborative leadership style I prefer to take hold? Or will the congregation's punditeratti shake their heads and pass judgement?

Yikes. Good thing the only image we are really supposed to focus on is the image and likeness of Christ, huh?


Gord said...

I'm with you. Not your job to come in and fix everything. In fact my understanding of Presbyterian traditon suggests that while the clergy person is the "teaching elder" they do not run the church (as many clergy have learned the hard way).

It seems much more appropriate to find out what the best answers might be before trying to "solve their problems" and that takes time.

BUt you are right--organizations tend to dislike the uncertainty of waiting for an answer.

reverendmother said...

That's a good one.

I wonder whether it would help to make it clear to them exactly what you're doing. Make it plain that no, you're not a quivering mass of indecisiveness just because you aren't making instant changes--you are very intentionally coming in and listening, watching, laying groundwork. In other words, is it possible to charge in like Xena and be collaborative? Really show that you're on the ball, just with a different style.

We had a head of staff when I was a youth director that came in and it wasn't at all clear that that was what he was doing. So everyone felt very unsettled--is he ever going to do anything? A simple "this is part of the process" would have helped. Although I'm sure there are some who wouldn't have been satisfied with that--but maybe nothing would have.

I know you'll do great. As a minister younger than you in years and in experience I'm looking forward to hearing about it!

cheesehead said...

Ah, yes. "People". Gotta love people who use "people". They're not the luckiest people in the world, are they?

I agree with what reverendmother has to say. Know that there are some "people" who will not be satisfied with this approach, however. But some people will.

Apostle John said...

Hey, you are in my prayers! I've been to several churches where people said they wanted swift and clear leadership -- which often can be translated as, "You'd better do things my way, you hear?"

Alban Institutes folks urge patience during the first year, and to slow down on sudden changes. Just you being you with your own style will offer enough changes for them to absorb.

It will also give you time to analyze what God really wants.

And Gord's comment is a good one -- the pastors and elders together on Session are the leaders -- not the clergy alone.

Songbird said...

Perhaps you can offer to lead them through a time of holy anxiety?
I'm not being flip, although it may sound that way. But the bringing of the new does create anxiety, and maybe that's a time to do some rich work together, examining what is feared and what is hoped, and where the fears both collide and connect with the hopes.

Preacher Mom said...

Forgive me, but I hate "people." I love individuals, mind you, but the generic "people" drive me batty. Hmmm. Not too pastoral of me, is it?

SpookyRach said...

Wow. I am so glad there are people like you who are destined to be pastors. And I am so glad it doesn't have to be me. I can only imagine the pressures you have to face.

(And can I just say Cheesehead cracks me up?)

ppolarbear said...

rent a white horse and ride it to work on the first day. That might not solve your problem, but it would at least give people something to talk about.

Lorna said...


you'll do fine, woman of God, if not Xena the warrior style :)