Thursday, November 13, 2008

5 models of pastoral ministry

My friend Mark often talks about expectations in ministry. There are things that congregations expect of their pastors that may or may not align with their gifts or calling in ministry. Often these expectations are unwritten.

Though Mark talks about these usually within the context of youth ministry, the expectations game is without doubt present in the arena of pastoral ministry. When a pastor comes to a church people have expectations of what he or she will do. The pastor is thought to be doing a good job if he/she fills all the expectations of the people. And these expectations are never the same. I think within each congregation there are a wide variety of ideas regarding how the pastor should/should not be doing ministry.

I think these expectations come because of the models of pastoral ministry people assume. I've tried below to incredibly briefly narrate five common models of pastoral ministry. Of course, no one fits completely into one model. Nor should they. But sometimes congregations set up their pastors for a fall when they're not clear about the model of ministry they operate from. Likewise, pastors set their congregations up for dissapointment when they're not clear about their model of ministry. Understanding both perspectives can help create a more viable working relationship between pastor and congregation.

Take a look at the models below.
What model or combination do you think is best?
Are there any of these models you find problematic?
Can you guess what my primary/secondary models are?
If you're a pastor, what is your primary and secondary model?

Pastor as Shepherd
The Shepherd is one who understands their main objective in ministry is to care for the congregation which they serve. Their strength is in pastoral care and often in counseling, too. The main use of their time and energy is spent in visitation, bereavement, and healing care. A Shepherd is usually skilled in ministries of compassion, peacemaking, and relationship building amongst their congregation. A Shepherd’s biggest weakness is that they may be prone to caring for their congregation to the neglect of other people.

Pastor as Evangelist
The Evangelist is one whose model of ministry is motivated almost singularly by conversion of new people and church growth. The Evangelist relies on the lay members for the organizational management, teaching, and leading of the congregation because the main use of their time and energy will be spent with people not currently engaged in church activity. An Evangelist is usually skilled at communication and proclamation of the Gospel. An evangelist’s biggest weakness is that they may be prone to neglect their congregation for the sake of new people.

Pastor as Resident Theologian
The Resident Theologian is one whose model of ministry is based upon forming the ideological makeup of the faith community, regardless of whom that faith community may consist of. Their strength is in study of scripture and theology and they are passionate about spiritual formation, preaching, and teaching. The main use of their time and energy is spent in prayer, study, and teaching, which will all be done at a high level. A Resident Theologian is usually skilled leading a congregation in discernment and opening channels of spiritual growth. A Resident Theologian’s biggest weakness may be in skills of organizational management.

Pastor as C.E.O.
The CEO is one who sees their purpose in ministry as being responsible primarily for the organizational management of the congregation. Their strengths include the ability to improve functionality of the church, excellent management of physical and financial resources, and oversight of congregational staff. The CEO spends most of their time and energy in the church office overseeing planning, budgeting, and activities. The CEO is usually skilled in good decision making and can even sometimes be seen almost as a legal counsel of sorts for the church. A CEO’s biggest weakness is that their desire for good management may lead to a lack of vision.

Pastor as Divine Intermediary
The Divine Intermediary is one whose ministry is based on a position of nearly-ultimate authority as they minister from a position of speaking to God for the people and speaking to the people from God. Their strengths include the ability create congregations where people are willing to follow one voice and one purpose and people are often willing to do as they are instructed by the Divine Intermediary. They are often excellent speakers and communicators who can attract many people to their message. The biggest weakness of the Divine Intermediary is the high level of authority they hold can often lead to misuse of power.


ScottM said...

Thanks for the thoughts, D.
I believe that my congregation expects all of 1-4, but would be a bit suspicious if I presented my self as #5-Divine Intermediary.
Therefore - I have tried to work with the congregation - and specifically the leadership to discern such things as Core Ministry Values, Mission Statement and now working on visioning for the short-term and the long-term. I myself am suspicious of a pastor who says - this is the vision that God has given to me - follow this vision with me - or get off the bus.
So - D. - do you have a primary/secondary - or do you find yourself being asked to be all things to all people -- wink. ; )

Dan Mayes said...


Truthfully, yes, I do have a primary/secondary. But I think congregations expect all of 1-4 sometimes 5. I don't think everyone expects you to have the entire collection. Instead you'll find some expect 1, some 2, etc...

So a pastor has to be a "jack of all trades" if you will, and represent a good showing of gifts/skills in all areas.

But I don't think it's possible to be completely balanced on all of them. I think most of us have 1 or 2 we primarily operate out of most.

For me, I think the Resident Theologian model is primary, while the Shepherd model is secondary.

What about you?

ScottM said...

I think my gifts are especially needed as Resident Theologian - but my responsibilities require quite a bit of CEO and Shepherd. I am most comfortable as Shepherd first and then as theologian. I look for programming packages like the ALPHA program to assist me in the work of Evangelism.
Congregational leaders did this excercise at a retreat - identify those involved in a wagon train: scout, trail boss, enforcer, sweeper and cook - which all assist the families in the wagon train. Then the facilitator said, if the church is the wagon train - what do you expect of the pastor.
Eventually - they admitted that they expected the pastor to be all. Then the facilitator said - but the pastor CAN NOT be all and be healthy. Now what?
That did generate some interesting conversations.

Ultimately - my opinion is that the question is: How do we educate and facilitate so that the congregation has healthy expectations that do allow that one pastor's giftedness may be different than another.
Do you feel that you are currently matching the congregations general expectations of you?