Slowing Down to Minister (literally)

©RATOCA/ Dollar Photo Club

Think about the pastor in your life who’s had the most profound effect on you.

My hunch is that the person who popped into your brain influenced you not through their accomplishments, but rather, their presence.

Pastors who can exhibit presence, despite all the things going on with them or the church, have a profound influence on people.

How’s your pastoral presence?

In my case as an executive pastor, many people don’t see my role as one where the competency or gift of pastoral presence is greatly needed. But, I’ve learned otherwise. And despite knowing that, I still often choose pastoral production over pastoral presence.

If you’re consistently choosing pastoral production over pastoral presence — you’ll complete stuff, just maybe not the stuff that matters.

Pastoral presence…

… Knows when to slow down and just be with people.

I have a habit of walking fast. Maybe it’s because I’m short, and I’m trying to make up for smaller steps. But when you walk fast, you miss things – and people. People who might need your attention, or your presence.

Years back, in a 360-degree job evaluation I underwent, a church member said I “walked too fast in the church hallway.” I don’t think they thought I was disrespecting the church hallway. I think they were saying he barely slows down to say hello. Or, he doesn’t even engage me in the hallway.

You may be going somewhere important, or have a pressing matter or person waiting on you down the hall. But the others in the hall don’t know that. So when it’s possible, be slow enough to allow margin for engaging with people.

… Sees conversations with church-members as ministry moments.

Sometimes I have hallway interactions that help me accomplish tasks. It’s when I have the most church-members available to me. But although it’s good to talk church sometimes, and even occasionally accomplish “work,” if conversations become all about tasks or image-management, you’ll miss ministry moments. Ministry moments seek to understand how someone really is – there’s no goal for the conversation, other than relationship.

… Engages with people’s personal lives (even staff).

Sometimes, you need to ask someone to lunch or stop by someone’s office just to be with them. To get to know them personally. More than likely, the recipient of this gesture will be confused. They might wonder or ask, “So, what do you want?” Or, “What did you want to discuss?”

And it’s nice to be able to reply, “Nothing. Just time with you.”

Engage them personally.

… Reflects others emotions.

A pastor who can laugh with those laughing, be sad with those who are saddened, and empathize with the frustrated will be present with the person not just physically, but also emotionally. (I’ve blogged before about ministry empathy.)

There are times when your role will be to lead people out of sadness. There are times when laughter isn’t right for the moment, and there are times you’ll have to coach-up people who are frustrated. But good pastoral presence knows when presence is more important than leadership.

Maybe like you, my bent is toward action. I take pride in efficiency. After all, being efficient often shows good stewardship of the role you have. Improving your pastoral presence doesn’t always provide measurable results, or get a lot done – in fact, it rarely does. But I’m learning that the pastoral part of my job is just as important as the task part of my job. Efficiency is important… but so is engaging with the people I lead and serve. As leaders, we need to be able to balance both parts.

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