Seven Steps to Making Your Worst Pastoral Move Ever
The season for pastoral moves in some denominations is right around the corner. While you’re packing boxes, painting walls, grousing about mortgage rates, and threatening to fire your realtor, you’re also looking forward to a new church where the people will certainly be nicer, the building is new and problem-free, and the worship is more heavenly than the place you’re currently serving. You’re on your way up, of course, so you don’t want to stay too long. The First Church of Nirvana is likely to open up at any time! So, in the interest of helping you make as many pastoral moves as often as possible, here are seven steps to ensure you’ll be on your way to yet another church in no time.
1. Plan to interfere as much as possible with your current church after you’re gone. Sure, you’re leaving, but lots of people in your current church still love you. They’ve told you that they can’t live without you, and you absolutely agree. It’s important to listen to their complaints about the new pastor and empathize with them about the fact that a lesser theologian has attempted to take your place. Show up randomly at church events, even if it means driving a couple of hours. Stoke the gossip on social media by posting comments like, “How are things, really?” And don’t leave the new pastor any helpful information. You’ve got better things to do. Follow this advice and you can be sure that the church you just left will never be as effective as it was when you were the pastor.
2. When you get to your new church, assume that God hasn’t been anywhere near the place until you showed up. The people at your new church won’t know what they’ve been missing until you arrive. When you look at the building, church board, and bulletin, you will be certain that God has long forsaken this place because there’s clearly no evidence of him anywhere. It will be up to you to bring God back to this nearly pagan community because no one sitting in the pews has a shred of the theological sophistication that you possess. Make sure you preach to them condescendingly and mock their feeble attempts at expressing love for God through their wheezy music and ineloquent reading of Scripture. They will thank you for it when you leave in a year or two.
3. Heed the advice of people who show up at your office door with a cake on the first day. The first people to greet you will have all kinds of important things to tell you. They’ve been eagerly waiting for this moment, and they want you to know you can count on them to give you the straight scoop on how the church operates. Don’t consult anyone in the church other than these people! They will throw you a great going-away party in a couple of years. Sadly, no one else will be there.
4. Make changes without getting input from anyone else. Nearly every church says they want “change” when a new pastor arrives. But you already know what changes the church needs — you figured that out in the first few minutes of the interview. There’s no need to get input from anyone else because the facts will just get in the way. After all, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than ask permission, right? People love change, especially when it means they’ll get a new pastor even quicker next time!
5. Don’t bother learning the church’s history, values and culture. Who has the time to learn all that stuff? You are busy doing God’s work. Sure, the pulpit is 100 years old and several generations have preached there before you, but those people are long forgotten. You’re looking forward, not backward. Don’t waste your time talking to the old-timers and listening to their boring stories. Don’t bother getting to know people in the neighborhood or learning about what life is like in the community around the church. After all, you won’t be here long enough to become part of it, anyway.
6. Ask fewer questions and make more statements. You’re a pastor. You’ve been trained to speak volumes about the Scriptures, about church leadership, and about everything that has to do with church. You’ve read all the books, gone to all the conferences, kept up with all the ecclesiastical heavy hitters on Twitter. You know what you’re doing and you’re quick to tell everyone what needs to be done. Speak as much as possible in every meeting and don’t ask questions — except about when you’ll get your last paycheck.
7. Add less value to the church than you receive from it. The first thing you looked at when you came to this church was the salary package. You’ve memorized the Scripture where Jesus says, “the worker is worth his wages,” and you’re pretty sure that you are worth even more than they are paying you, even though you haven’t proved it yet. Focus your energy on how much you’re getting from the church rather than how much you might give. Castigate the people about their lack of faith in giving to the church. Chances are they will be happy to help you move on to another church where you will make the money you absolutely deserve.
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