A Healthy Relationship between Pastor and Staff-Parish Team

January 7, 2021

Rev. Billy Rintz, Retired WNCUMC Pastor

Early in my career as a United Methodist pastor, the Chairperson of my Staff-Parish Relations Team invited me to lunch. During our mealtime conversation, he broached a difficult topic—my friendship with a congregation member. Apparently, at least one person had voiced their disapproval of that relationship.  The chairperson had invited me to lunch so that we could talk through the situation.

My response was a poor one.  Rather than actually listening, emotionally I puffed up like the proverbial toad and immediately went on the defensive.  I recognize now that this man had not come to criticize or reprimand me, but to help his young pastor think through the ramifications of a pastor’s various relationships within the congregation, and had chosen to do that personally instead of bringing me before the entire team as before judge and jury. 

A healthy relationship between the pastor and Staff-Parish Team can make a huge difference, for it not only builds up the pastor’s ministry but filters through to the spiritual health of the congregation.  How does such a relationship come about?  Here are a few ideas.

Communication.  It makes a positive difference when the Staff-Parish chairperson and pastor check in regularly with one another, even with something as basic as creating meeting agendas.

Support.  Every pastor is seeking to fulfill God’s calling in their lives using the gifts God has given him or her.  The Staff-Parish Team’s role is not to tell their pastor how to do his or her job.  Rather, in conversation with one another, the pastor and the team can determine how the pastor can best utilize their God-given calling and gifts to meet the spiritual needs of the congregation.

Trust.  When a pastor knows the Staff-Parish Team “has his or her back”, the pastor learns to trust that team.  If criticisms of a pastor’s performance come to Staff-Parish Team members’ attention, it helps when team members don’t respond in ways that “fan the flame” of criticism. Significant issues can be addressed in conversations between the Staff-Parish Team and the pastor where the atmosphere is one that seeks to build up both congregation and pastor.  
Listen.  A pastor needs to learn to listen to the Staff-Parish Team.  Those team members are theological beings who have been called to this particular task in the congregation. They bring wisdom from their experiences and offer significant insight into how the pastor can strengthen his or her ministry both personally and with the congregation 
Encouragement.  Like everyone else, pastors need encouragement and a Staff-Parish Team is in a position to offer that, including through the pastor’s salary.  No pastor entered the ministry for the money.  Yet, salary increases, especially well-deserved ones, can go a long way in affirming a pastor in ministry.  

A new calendar year, when new members are joining Staff-Parish Teams and everyone is looking forward with hope, is a good time to take a fresh look at the relationship between your Staff-Parish Team and pastor.  Make it a healthy one!
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