How do healthy clergy offer ministry in an anxious world?
CLERGY DON’T HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER
Clergy, like all humans, come to their work with all the wounds, hungers, insecurities, and troubles of their past. As the Bible makes clear, being called by God does not perfect the person. As our seminaries demonstrate, you don’t perfect a person through education. We are the imperfect servants of God through whom God chooses to work to effect the divine purpose.
So when I say Healthy Clergy Make Healthy Congregations, I recognize that we are at best speaking of “Wounded Healers.” However, as we continue to reflect on the work of Brene’ Brown from her TED talks, a key issue for clergy is whether they can respond to the unhealthy dynamics they encounter in a congregation and in ministry in a healthy manner.
IMPERFECT CLERGY/HEALTHY RESPONSES
Consider some of the healthy responses that clergy can make in a congregation.
- By faith they believe they are worthy but not perfect. They are willing to learn from their mistakes.
- They are not afraid to acknowledge their own weaknesses, doubts, and concerns but do not let them become a narcissistic focus of their ministry. They recognize that many of the issues that arise are not a reflection on their worthiness
- They do not ask perfection of themselves or members of the . They are not afraid to fail.
- They believe that their congregation, with all its strengths and weaknesses is sufficient to be the Body of Christ and therefore they explore their issues and challenges as opportunity to grow in faith.
- They have the courage to embrace the vulnerability of their life together with compassion for all involved, believing that with risk comes creativity, courage, innovation, and growth in faith.
- They are willing to help the congregation surface any shame in their history that binds them and demonstrate the empathy that is an antidote to the shame.
- They demonstrate practices of gratitude and joy.
EMBRACING THE CHRIST WITHIN US
Healthy clergy know they don’t have all the answers, that the best of plans can fail, and that the demonic is expressed in silence, secrecy, and judgement of each other. Healthy clergy seek to exegete the word of God incarnated in the Body of Christ. Healthy clergy trust that God is not defeated by sin and that God’s grace can find expression in the worst of circumstances. Healthy clergy recognize that they are called to serve God rather than the reverse and that not all service is going to be comfortable.