Okay, I admit it. I find home groups hard work. As a pastor, it was always that sense of being on duty, of being responsible for what happened. Your mind was constantly alert, even when not leading the group. Was everyone engaged, did anyone seem uncomfortable, was anyone acting in an inappropriate way to make others feel uncomfortable? Was that “heresy” they just uttered or just a clumsy way of trying to explain something? Is it best to let it go now or to make sure the problematic statement is corrected?
And then there was the awkwardness of prayer time. We would work our way around the room and then eventually someone would say “And what about you Dave? What can we pray for?” Partly because by this stage there already seemed so much to pray for and partly because … well what do you share? I’d be thinking of something safe to say.
“ I can’t really tell them about that intense pastoral situation, that would breach confidentiality. And if they heard about the tricky things being discussed among the leaders, well that wouldn’t be very encouraging. I don’t want the spotlight to be always on me and for everyone to be worrying about how I’m feeling even when I do feel low, exhausted, an imposter.”
At the moment, I am not a pastor. I’m just another person attending a church, getting to know people and joining in with a home group. And guess what? It is both nice and weird at the same time. When we start to talk and share, there is still that little voice in my head wanting me to worry about those things I used to worry about. But someone else has got that covered. So I don’t have to.
I’m having to learn how to not be a pastor and just be part of the church family. That’s a direct result of circumstances for me.
However, I think it is a good thing for all in pastoral ministry. Don’t get me wrong, there is something about gifting, calling and responsibility which means you can’t just take the hat off. I’ve heard people talking about relating to people as friends and not as elders. I don’t think you can do that. But you do need to remember that first and foremost, before you are a pastor, you are a sinner saved by grace, a part of God’s family, a member of the church.
This means pastors need to be pastored too and my churchmanship means that I see that happening primarily in the local church and not through some outside network with pastors to the pastors offering special services.
So, it is helpful to
- Be part of a small group that you do not lead
- To regularly sit in the congregation and worship with the church family without having to worry about preaching, leading the service, setting out the chairs, giving feedback.
- To let others love you, care for you and pray for you.
- To take time out like sabbaticals where you lay down the duties.
- To not get caught up in titles and status.