In thinking of the role of a pastor under the understanding of the Friends Church many things must be considered. What is the role of a paid individual in an organization where ministry, business and the decision making process is performed by a group and not individuals? More specifically what is my role in this position? Traditionally the pastor is seen as a Shepard or leader of the flock. Among Friends we see the Shepard as being Christ Himself with no need for a middle person between God and humanity. Yet there is a reason for the role of pastor. From my perspective it is to advise.
The first and possibly the most important part of the role is to advise the meeting on scripture. This is the place of the vocal ministry and probably the most visual aspect of the pastor. The vocal ministry is advice as well as encouragement. This advice on scripture doesn’t stop at the pulpit though; they are to also advise those teaching in various settings to gain understanding. They do not necessarily have to have total knowledge of scripture but should be encouraged to create an environment where others can discuss what God is saying historically, culturally, and practically.
The second role of the pastor is one of spiritual director. A spiritual director is a trendy word, but one that I feel fits a pastoral role better than counselor. As a spiritual director a pastor meets with people on a more individualized basis to advise and encourage them to deepen their relationship with God and those around them. This is similar to a counselor because often times the spiritual and interpersonal aspects of life merge, but it is different a pastor may not have proper training to help people get a grip on deep emotional wounds, and that is why professional counselors have emerged in our culture. Yet there is still a role for the pastor to encourage, advise, and walk with people in this. As a spiritual director their role in counsel is more directed in helping other develop a lifestyle of prayer, devotion, ministry service, and biblical study applications. These may help emotionally as well since our spiritual and emotional aspects of life are connected.
The third role is to advise the Meeting. I do not feel that in the Friends Church that the pastor is the leader, if they were there would not be the need for the Clerk. The pastor is there to encourage prayerful consideration and to ask questions of individuals as they consider ministry. After advice is given then encouragement is provided. I find as a pastor I am often slowing people down so they can consider multiple aspects of an issue. At times this may seem like I am trying to control the direction of the Meeting, but as an advisor the wish is to encourage the Meeting to consider various options, use of resources, and to not get caught up in popular trends but to seek the leading of Christ. This is one of the hardest aspects of pastoral ministry in the Friends Church since often I feel as if I am opposing the Meeting. The reality of it is that the pastor is trying to encourage potential ministers to develop their positions, and to seek prayerful guidance and direction. When there is clearness the ministers enter the meeting for business with confidence along with the backing and support of the pastor to help advise the Meeting.
Most of the pastoral role in the Friends Church is unseen; it is backstage so to speak, even though pastors regularly speak publicly in the meetings for worship. This role is present even in the unprogrammed Meeting. This is the reason that the role of pastor is listed as a spiritual gift.
By no means is the pastor to be the only doer of church ministry. The hands and feet of the body of Christ, which is the church, are all those called to various tasks? The role of the pastor is for advice, encouragement, and direction. They come along side others so they can do the work they are called to do. The role of the pastor is one among many. It is a specialized role one that does require training at times, and the devotion of time not necessarily required by other ministers in the Meeting.
The last role of a pastor is that of the contact person for the community. They are the representatives of the Meeting to people who do not understand our processes. A pastor must understand that even though they speak for the Meeting they are not the Meeting, and should bring matters of consequence to the Meetings to be considered. All of these things require time, energy, and some training (either education or practical application). These tasks can be spread through several members of the meeting but often these gifts are found in only a few.
Since this role is specialized and often only found in particular members, they should have some compensation for the time and energy they devote to the Meeting, to advise them corporately and individually. This of course is something the meeting should consider. Is there a member who is devoting so much time advising the Meeting in these roles that they are having to sacrifice time to make a living?
I have been a pastor in three different Meetings and have yet to learn fully where to draw the lines. I have been asked to give reports in our Meetings for Business yet am unsure of what to report, because most of a pastors activity is done in confidence. It occurs between individuals and specific groups. So I have generally just reported on the growth and passion I observe while attending the various meetings and conversations with emerging ministers. Ending always with encouraging the Meeting to embrace the leadings of those who speak of their ministry passions even if they do not fit the traditional ideas of ministry. I do not know if other pastors have struggled with their role within their various Meetings and would enjoy a conversation with anyone and their observations of their roles when they apply their gifts.
Spanish Translation via google docs.