Dear St. Cecilia,
I serve with a first-call pastor who has many wonderful gifts – preaching, teaching, and excellent people-skills. I am proud to serve with her. When she first took the call, I helped quite a bit with organization, and was the “go-to” person with questions about the church. We used to have regular staff meetings (at my request), but now they are very infrequent (three or four this year, total). I don’t feel like it’s my place to tell her how to do her job anymore, and this lack of meetings sometimes means I (and the church secretary) are not privy to important information that she “thinks” she told us in other conversations. We are frustrated, but we are not the supervisors, and she doesn’t tend to take criticism very well, even if it is constructive. Can you help?
Signed, Feeling Out of the Loop
Dear “Feeling Out of the Loop,”
Thank you for being there for your pastor when she first came to your congregation. I’m sure your presence and advice was very helpful as she began ministry there. She may feel the need to establish herself as the pastoral leader she is called to be, independent of your input, thus the absence of the meetings that you used to have. Without you requesting a meeting, maybe she is saying that she wants to do this on her own without your input or suggestions. Despite your best intentions, your help may have come off to her as criticism. As you state, she is sensitive to that.
It seems to me that how you approach this issue is very important because she may read into your request to meet regularly your sense that she isn’t doing her job in a way that’s helpful to you. Maybe an approach to the issue that expresses your need to meet with her and be in the loop would be helpful. Somethings like, I am feeling kind of lonely in my work at First Lutheran. I’d like to feel like we are more of a team and that we are there for each other. Would it be possible to schedule regular times when we can get together and share more of the joys and tasks of ministry? I am so proud to serve with you and admire your gifts of ministry, especially your amazing people skills. I need to feel closer to that.
Putting it that way, that it’s your issue and not hers, may relieve the sense that you are giving her constructive criticism that she seems to be so sensitive to. In a way you are saying that you need her ministry to you, even if you are also on staff. As pastors and musicians, we know that ministry is often very lonely, and yet we have a difficult time expressing our need to be in community. We are the leaders of the faithful communities we serve, and we often need the community to help us. That is a difficult thing to ask for. However, we can create small groups that are helpful. It seems to St. Cecilia that your staff can be that kind of small group. At the very least, this approach might get the ball rolling.