Sunday, September 23, 2012

Advice for First Year Pastors: Don't take my advice

Everybody loves to give advice. It makes one feel important. It also lets one think of oneself as an expert, tell stories of one's success, etc. I know this because I am a chronic advice giver. I am the stereotypical, Deborah Tannen-studied male: if you complain to me I will offer you advice to fix your problems. I assume that is why you are complaining.

At Gottesdienst we give a lot of advice, especially to young pastors in matters liturgical. Everybody loves to give advice to young pastors. See the opening paragraph for why. But here's the thing: Your Mileage May Vary. If I had taken the advice from this video, my congregations would still have communion twice a month and not be confirming anybody under the age of 13 (after all, if it was a big deal, Pastor, why are you only bothering us about it now?). If you take my example as advice and move to every Sunday communion within six months of getting to your parish and younger communion within a couple years, you might be out on your ear looking for a job at Starbucks (after all, if you move too fast you are a jerk bull in the China shop unfit to shepherd souls). YMMV. In the final analysis you are on your own out there and have to feel your forward as best you can. The advice-givers will surely not succor you in your distress, though we might take credit for your success.

So the best advice comes with a lot of caveats, or maybe it's better to say statistics; call it Moneyball for pastors. When another pastor tries to give you advice - especially such sweeping advice as "change worship very slowly because they have to know you love them first" or "change worship right up front because when a new pastor comes everyone expects some change and this is your best chance to get a good hearing" - quiz him on his parish, get all the details of why what worked worked. And then still don't expect it to go the same for you.

Ora et labora. That's good advice at least, because it is not mine.



  1. Well, I for one will take your advice to not take your advice . . . or, wait . . . does that mean . . . ? And then . . . but . . .

    I see what you did there.

  2. And please do not think of the congregation as a place where you earn chips to play with your congregation so that you can make changes later because they love you now.

  3. I'm with the worst. I've tried to simplify my advice to this: "Be faithful unto death." It seems to fit and isn't overly practical except in implication, FWIW.


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