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Role of the pastor

In thinking of the role of a pastor under the understanding of the Friends Church many things must be considered. What is the role of a paid individual in an organization where ministry, business and the decision making process is performed by a group and not individuals? More specifically what is my role in this position?  Traditionally the pastor is seen as a Shepard or leader of the flock. Among Friends we see the Shepard as being Christ Himself with no need for a middle person between God and humanity. Yet there is a reason for the role of pastor. From my perspective it is to advise.

The first and possibly the most important part of the role is to advise the meeting on scripture. This is the place of the vocal ministry and probably the most visual aspect of the pastor. The vocal ministry is advice as well as encouragement. This advice on scripture doesn’t stop at the pulpit though; they are to also advise those teaching in various settings to gain understanding. They do not necessarily have to have total knowledge of scripture but should be encouraged to create an environment where others can discuss what God is saying historically, culturally, and practically.

The second role of the pastor is one of spiritual director. A spiritual director is a trendy word, but one that I feel fits a pastoral role better than counselor. As a spiritual director a pastor meets with people on a more individualized basis to advise and encourage them to deepen their relationship with God and those around them. This is similar to a counselor because often times the spiritual and interpersonal aspects of life merge, but it is different a pastor may not have proper training to help people get a grip on deep emotional wounds, and that is why professional counselors have emerged in our culture. Yet there is still a role for the pastor to encourage, advise, and walk with people in this. As a spiritual director their role in counsel is more directed in helping other develop a lifestyle of prayer, devotion, ministry service, and biblical study applications. These may help emotionally as well since our spiritual and emotional aspects of life are connected.

The third role is to advise the Meeting. I do not feel that in the Friends Church that the pastor is the leader, if they were there would not be the need for the Clerk. The pastor is there to encourage prayerful consideration and to ask questions of individuals as they consider ministry. After advice is given then encouragement is provided. I find as a pastor I am often slowing people down so they can consider multiple aspects of an issue. At times this may seem like I am trying to control the direction of the Meeting, but as an advisor the wish is to encourage the Meeting to consider various options, use of resources, and to not get caught up in popular trends but to seek the leading of Christ. This is one of the hardest aspects of pastoral ministry in the Friends Church since often I feel as if I am opposing the Meeting. The reality of it is that the pastor is trying to encourage potential ministers to develop their positions, and to seek prayerful guidance and direction. When there is clearness the ministers enter the meeting for business with confidence along with the backing and support of the pastor to help advise the Meeting.

Most of the pastoral role in the Friends Church is unseen; it is backstage so to speak, even though pastors regularly speak publicly in the meetings for worship. This role is present even in the unprogrammed Meeting. This is the reason that the role of pastor is listed as a spiritual gift.

By no means is the pastor to be the only doer of church ministry. The hands and feet of the body of Christ, which is the church, are all those called to various tasks? The role of the pastor is for advice, encouragement, and direction. They come along side others so they can do the work they are called to do. The role of the pastor is one among many. It is a specialized role one that does require training at times, and the devotion of time not necessarily required by other ministers in the Meeting.

The last role of a pastor is that of the contact person for the community. They are the representatives of the Meeting to people who do not understand our processes. A pastor must understand that even though they speak for the Meeting they are not the Meeting, and should bring matters of consequence to the Meetings to be considered. All of these things require time, energy, and some training (either education or practical application). These tasks can be spread through several members of the meeting but often these gifts are found in only a few.

Since this role is specialized and often only found in particular members, they should have some compensation for the time and energy they devote to the Meeting, to advise them corporately and individually. This of course is something the meeting should consider. Is there a member who is devoting so much time advising the Meeting in these roles that they are having to sacrifice time to make a living?

I have been a pastor in three different Meetings and have yet to learn fully where to draw the lines. I have been asked to give reports in our Meetings for Business yet am unsure of what to report, because most of a pastors activity is done in confidence. It occurs between individuals and specific groups. So I have generally just reported on the growth and passion I observe while attending the various meetings and conversations with emerging ministers. Ending always with encouraging the Meeting to embrace the leadings of those who speak of their ministry passions even if they do not fit the traditional ideas of ministry. I do not know if other pastors have struggled with their role within their various Meetings and would enjoy a conversation with anyone and their observations of their roles when they apply their gifts.

Spanish Translation via google docs.

About jwquaker

I’m sure everyone wants to know who I am…well if you are viewing this page you do. I’m Jared Warner and I am a pastor or minister recorded in the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. To give a short introduction to the EFC-MA, it is a group of evangelical minded Friends in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. We are also a part of the larger group called Evangelical Friends International, which as the name implies is an international group of Evangelical Friends. For many outside of the Friends or Quaker traditions you may ask what a recorded minister is: the short answer is that I have demistrated gifts of ministry that our Yearly Meeting has recorded in their minutes. To translate this into other terms I am an ordained pastor, but as Friends we believe that God ordaines and mankind can only record what God has already done. More about myself: I have a degree in crop science from Fort Hays State University, and a masters degree in Christian ministry from Friends University. Both of these universities are in Kansas. I lived most of my life in Kansas on a farm in the north central area, some may say the north west. I currently live and minister in the Kansas City, MO area and am a pastor in a programed Friends Meeting called Willow Creek Friends Church.


9 thoughts on “Role of the pastor

  1. You sum up my feelings precisely. Question is, how does the Meeting embrace this role for one who ic called pastor?

    Posted by jannieglen | May 31, 2011, 11:32 AM
    • That really depends on the health of the meeting. if the meetin is one that actively encourages ministry, I feel they would be more open. But unfortunatly many meetings only see a specific aspect of this role and not the others.

      Posted by jwquaker | May 31, 2011, 4:57 PM
  2. I’ve been struggling with the idea of the Quaker pastor for some time 🙂 Thank you for this clear explanation — it actually makes sense to me.

    Posted by michaeldavidjay | June 1, 2011, 8:19 AM
  3. I wonder if it isn’t a problem that, because churches find a need to free people to do things by paying them a salary, and the conventional model for that is pastor, that Friends have just fallen for the conventional package too often.

    I wonder if it might be wise to be skeptical of even using the term pastor because of the baggage it carries. Not have a rule against it, but looking for what the church needs and what best describes that.

    The typical pastor does a great variety of things. The typical package of things expected is, I think, not normally a typical package of gifts. So usually the pastor is doing some things s/he is gifted at, and some s/he is not.

    For example, one thing a church of any size often needs is someone freed up to spend time coordinating all the different things that need to be done, and filling in the holes. Usually the pastor does that, but it is not what pastors tend to be primarily trained to do. And the gift to do this well by no means is necessarily paired with the gift of vocal ministry, something churches usually look to the pastor for.

    Wouldn’t a better practice than the standard pastoral system be one where the congregation, perhaps through the Elders, discerns what are the needs the specific church needs at that time to free someone up by paying for their time in order to get done as needed. And then find an appropriate title for that position which reflects those responsibilities. And try not to ask that person to do a bunch of things for which they are not really gifted.

    What I think can happen if there is an openness is a very organic process. For example, in my church (not Quaker), there was a woman who got into spiritual nurture in a big way. She didn’t have seminary training, but she clearly had a gift. The church saw there was a need for more of this, and freed her up to devote more time to it by hiring her as Pastor of Spiritual Nurture.

    Posted by Bill Samuel | June 1, 2011, 9:22 AM
    • You may be correct Bill. I do believe that process would be most benifitial in any Meeting. And would encourage every Meeting to pursue that discernment prior to entertaining the thought of hiring any paid staff.
      But this issue is deeper. there are individuals being led into pastoral ministry or what we believe is pastoral ministry all across Friends traditions and Meetings asking them to serve with them, yet there is confusion because even in Pastoral Friends Meetings we understand and believe that Christ leads us directly and we do not need a mediator. Yet I was called to pastoral ministry, I was not called to administration, hospitality, or other things and my role is greater than vocal ministry. I have found Spiritual Director to be the closest fit, but that itself is lacking to some degree. I find the biggest issue for me and what I have obsereved is that Meetings have hired pastors without knowing what they need and expect the pastor to clear that up for them, this is un healthy because no one person can determine the direction of a Meeting but only Christ.

      Posted by jwquaker | June 1, 2011, 10:58 AM
      • No, that isn’t the question I am raising. The question I am raising is whether there isn’t a better paradigm for determining and filling needs for paid staff at churches (this is in a Quaker context but I wish other churches were also raising the same question).

        Posted by Bill Samuel | June 1, 2011, 1:02 PM
      • Yes there probably is and I believe you gave a great example of that.

        Posted by jwquaker | June 1, 2011, 4:37 PM
  4. I have had a couple of difficulties. The Quaker pastor is a leader and an employee paid by the people in the meeting.
    The pastor is paid but the congregation is made up of volunteers.
    Christ is in all people. Also, ignorance and egotism are much sprinkled about.
    One role of the pastor is prophet and truth teller no matter the personal consequences.
    There is conflict inherent in the role of Quaker pastor.

    Posted by John Todd | June 1, 2011, 1:30 PM
    • Very true John. A prophet is part of every vocal ministry and does pose tention. Especially when a pastor is among a group dedicated to unity, like Friends. I believe speaking in any meeting of worship should be done in great reverence. I think John Woolman is a great example of a prophet and e should all be as concerned with sayin too much as he was, but also just as bold to speak when we are lead by the Spirit.

      Posted by jwquaker | June 1, 2011, 5:27 PM

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