Recently, Matt, one of our pastors at “the Vine,” told me “people don’t want to be pastored anymore.” He said that often, when he tries to reach out and minister to younger people who are hurting and struggling, he gets the unexpected rebuff. It’s like they are saying “I feel like I’m a project to you.” Interestingly, Matt reports that when he reaches out to the older group, he is welcomed.
There could be many reasons for this. Most obviously this could simply mean Matt’s pastoral manner isn’t very good. The older ones are just more polite. But I don’t think so. I think this attitude reflects the further onset of the conditions of post Christendom. Here’s three observations.
â€¢ Gone are the days when the pastor, with his/her credentials is assumed to have professional authority and expertise to speak into the spiritual/emotional problems of people. This trust must be earned relationally in community. Older folks are still used to the idea that a pastor should care for and shepherd the hurting during their struggles, whether they be financial or physical etc. The younger ones however now view it with suspicion?
â€¢ The newest generations want someone to be their friend, not their professional pastor.
â€¢ The post-mega-church generation simply cannot seem imagine that the pastor they see up front is someone who actually knows the people in the community. They see the pastor as a figurehead, a media figure, who leads through image and a hierarchical corporate position. They cannot fathom that this person would actually be in their home and talking about their real lives. This has hastened the end of the pastor as “pastoral care” professional.
If the above is true, then:
- This hastens the day when the church must become an actual community, not a professionalized society. The church must be a community of friends, the pastor one among many, walking and mentoring and leading among, not above as some sort of professional. The dramatic shift into post Christendom pushes Christendom models of professional pastoring aside for a “leadership among” that can lead the struggling by walking alongside.
- Relational pastoring necessitates de-centralized leadership in our churches. A pastor can know relationally at most twelve to twenty people. Our churches then either have to be this small so that everyone is the pastor’s friend, or become more decentralized in leadership. Leaders must mentor leaders and give away pastoral authority. And we need places where the spiritual disciplines can be practiced in small groups, where confessing sin, penance, discernment takes place among friends.
- The visiting of our sick becomes an exercise of the whole community not the professional domain of the pastor. I still advocate that all of our pastors must visit the sick in the hospitals. We must model it to others as well as engage in ministry to our friends. I also see the hospitals as places of incarnational ministry. The hospitals are the place where the poor(in spirit) and dying reside. There is nothing more incarnational than ministering Christ’s presense in our austere business-like hospitals of the West.
What do you think? Is the era of the pastoral care professional over among the younger generations? What does this means for professional counseling?
Just to let those know who missed it, Andrew Jones and I are featured in this month’s issue of Next-Wave.It’s great to see that two people in McLaren’s corner can still engage his work critically, yet charitably in a pro-emergent e-zine. Check it out!