Posted by: morgan1965 | June 25, 2011

What do Your Parishioners Say About You?

What do your parishioners say about you? This is an intriguing question for a pastor to ponder and think about.

Immediately, one might say that he/she is not interested in what people think about their pastor. A more patient and honest response might confess that a pastor, deep down within, wants his/her parishioners to think well of him/her.

Let me tell you what people said about my father (Rev. William L.D. Lyght) in his first appointment as a local church pastor as reported by his district superintendent. Back in the 1930’s it was customary for the district superintendent to include a report about each district church in the conference journal.

The superintendent’s report about my father’s church quoted the parishioners as saying: “Give us more Lyght.” This was a positive report that indicated not only the congregation’s satisfaction with their pastor, but their desire that the pastor be continued in the appointment. Why would the parishioners want their pastor to return to them in the new appointment year? What is it that perhaps plays a role in laying a foundation for an extended tenure for pastoral ministry?

From this perspective, there were four dynamics that I learned about my father’s pastoral ministry. First, he practiced a ministry of presence. This ministry was exemplified in his love of the people, and their love for him. This ministry was cultivated by regular pastoral visitation among the parishioners. The people knew that he wanted to live and work among them.

Third, his ministry was characterized by a regular and consistent posture of prayer. My father would start the day with prayer and end the day with prayer. There always was time to have a little talk with Jesus. He taught his family and his congregation the art of prayer.

Third, my father prepared for the proclamation of God’s Word through daily prayer and reflection. He spent a lot of time in his “study” on a daily basis. He did not have an office in the parsonage. The study was a place for sermon preparation through prayer, bible study, meditation, reflection and preparation. The preparation for the Sunday sermon would begin no later than the Monday before the next Sunday.

Fourth, not only did he believe in the axiom that one should bloom where planted, he practiced this principle. He learned to love the people in the appointment, while cultivating affection for the place of the appointment.

In my ministry over these 45 years, I have sought to employ these four dynamics. I have dared to ask myself, what do the parishioners say about me?

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