Inputs and outcomes – on the slavery of pastoral performance

There are three challenges that church workers often have to face when trying to work out how they are doing and whether or not they are being fruitful in their jobs.[1]

  • You tend to be responsible for managing your own time, so how do you know whether or not you are spending it in a productive manner?
  • You tend to have to set your own objectives. 
  • It is hard to define exactly what those objectives are and what you actually are achieving. So both point 2 and 3 make it hard to know for certain whether you are achieving what you should.

In that kind of work environment, it is easy to start setting objectives and measuring effectiveness by your inputs.  How many hours did you spend in the study, how many talks did you prepare and deliver, how many people did you visit, how many hours did you work altogether? I believe that this leads to legalism, a sense that you can never do enough, exhaustion and eventually burn out.  You will still fail to please some people and you will find that you are increasingly ineffective.

So, I want to suggest that we step back and think more about the outcomes we want to see.  I am not talking here about numbers on charts but what do you want the church to be like, what effect do you want the Gospel to have on the community.

My desire is to see people growing in Christ, using their gifts, loving and caring for one another so that the church is a healthy body and sharing the Gospel. Those are the things I believe we should be seeing in the local church.  Those are the things that will contribute to kingdom growth.  Once I recognise that, then I also recognise that this is not something I can achieve through my efforts on my own.  Rather, it is time for me to ask “in what ways can I contribute to that?”  Further more, we will be able to see if those things are starting to happen and if they are increasing.

In our context, this means that the priority is not necessarily to have visited x number of people and delivered x number of talks. Rather, I want to know that church members are caring for one another and I want to know that there is a team of people using their gifts so that the church is fed on God’s word.

In order to contribute to this, I have felt that it is best to invest in 4 or 5 people at any one time. Sometimes I am deliberate about his and identify the specific people, sometimes it is just happening in and of itself naturally.  This means that I am aware of 1 or 2 people who have been brought into my life so that I can share the gospel with them. It also means that at any given time I am likely to be dealing with a serious pastoral crisis in someone’s life.  Finally, there are 2 or 3 people that I am seeking to invest time in knowing that if they do the same for 2 or 3 people and so on then that is a healthier way of seeing discipleship at work through the church.

This does not stop me getting legalistic or putting the wrong pressures on myself from time to time and there are other ways in which I can allow myself to become overwhelmed and lose sigh tof the purpose but it does help considerably.

[1] Well three that I am talking about here, there are actually more!

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