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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Professional Standards: A test drive

For the past year or so, I've been working individually as well as with my parochial supervisor, my spiritual director and with a clergy colleague group on establishing some professional standards for our practice as clergy.

The conversation arose out of doing some case studies of problem situations in our congregations. It became clear to us that most folk in the pew - indeed, on our Vestries or those serving as Wardens - do not understand the role of the clergy as Servant Leaders in their communities of faith.

Truth be told, it's mostly our fault. The role of clergy in a congregation has been shifting for some time now, and many of us have kept up the role in the script of "Priest-as-Father-Knows-Best." We know our lines quite well.

For many, many generations, rectors have been a combination of CFO, CEO and pastor. That has a certain appeal to a certain type of person - from those who take on this impossible vocation as part of the notion of 'Suffering Servant / Slave for Christ' to hard-core 'People Pleasers', to those clergy who are acting out their role of 'Family Rescuer' or 'Hero' which they played in their own families of origin.

If you are everyone's everything, it not only places your persona (instead of the person of Jesus) at the center of community (great for your faltering ego), it is also a set up for a consumer-based religion to continue the downward spiral into an empty, ultimately soul-depleting piety - as opposed to one that empowers all the baptized (including the pastor) to do the work of ministry and work out their own salvation in community.

The ego of the pastor may be stroked, but it's also a set up for the pastor to have a stroke - or heart attack, or stress-related illness.

Oh, we've talked a good line about "the ministry of all the baptized," but when that theology hits the ideology of corporate America, it can sound and look and feel to some, on a very pragmatic level, that clergy are just lazy back-sliders.

A Servant Leader, however, will have a healthy relationship with the family system known as church - that of being the Rabbi and Priest, the one who teaches, inspires, empowers and leads by effective example.

You know. Like Jesus did. Being a part of and yet set apart for a special work of ministry. Being the "W/holy other" who is, still, an integral member of the community.

So, how to do this? We explored many ways but the one we thought most effective was to come up with Professional Standards that we would work from for a year, refine them, and then share them with our Wardens and Vestry - not so much as a tool of 'performance evaluation' (although, it can be that), but more as a way to teach the leadership of our congregations the role of the clergy.

First, we decided that there are three main areas of work in a parochial setting: Pastoral, Teaching, Liturgy and "Other".

This list reflects the order of priority as we saw it. Other clergy / laity might have a different perspective. This is mine. Absolutely.

Then, we decided to fill in expectations we had for ourselves in the various areas of parochial ministry. Here are some of mine. Please remember that this is a work in progress. I'll be asking you for some of your reactions/responses / suggestions.


1. Handwritten thank you notes in response to any contribution - monetary or otherwise - to the church. For stewardship pledges, that means a note signed by the committee chair and/or rector.

2. Acknowledging and praying for, within the context of community liturgy, major milestone events: birthdays, anniversaries, special accomplishments.

3. A brief pastoral letter, along with community announcements and copies of the previous Sunday's sermon, sent weekly to all those who are fragile elderly or confined to home, hospital or extended care facility.

4. An annual, public acknowledgment of and expression of gratitude for those who serve or lead the various ministries of the church: choir, acolytes, Eucharistic ministers, church school teachers, Vestry, Wardens, etc.

5. An annual, public acknowledgment of and expression of gratitude for the service of the paid church staff.

6. Visit each member of the congregation who is hospitalized within 24-48 hours of hospitalization.

7. Provide for communion or visit at home once a month by Eucharistic Visitors and at least annually at Christmas and/or Easter by the rector.

8. Provide daily (or more) care for parishioner and family members who are on Hospice care, providing for the Vigil of Prayer as the time of death approaches.

9. Visit and bless all newborn babies within 24-48 hours of birth. Check in weekly on the new family, referring to Parish nurse for assessment as appropriate.

10. Visit all new members or potential new members of the church, preceded by a personal letter of welcome.

11. Meet within a week of a request from any member of the congregation for a pastoral conversation.

12. Provide three sessions of pastoral assessment and counseling and, if necessary, referral to an appropriate community service: individual, marriage or family therapy, pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, rehab, 12-step program, etc.

13. Provide no more than six sessions of pre-marital counseling / education and liturgy preparation for those who are engaged to be married.

14. Same day / immediate response to serious accident, unexpected hospitalization, death in the family.

15. Provide, through the Rector's discretionary fund, financial support (help with rent, medications, food, etc.) to members of the congregation and wider community.

16.  Return all phone call messages within 24 hours, if at all possible.


1. Sermons which deepen the congregation's understanding of the texts appointed for the day and also help them link the message of the gospel to their daily life. Sermons ought to challenge and comfort, as appropriate.

2. Occasional sermons designed for children and young adults, either in the principle service or a service primarily for children and young adults.

3. At least one preparatory meeting with each family (including sponsors) with a candidate for baptism on a day other than the day of the baptism to: review the liturgy, discuss the meaning of the various renunciations, affirmations and vows.

4. Provide adult education - through Advent and Lenten Seasons, Adult Forums, and one or two major community events annually (eg. Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design; Race, Religion & Politics).

5. Encourage participation in an EFM group. Initiate, support and help provide a parish-based EFM group, led by the laity of the church.

6. Participate in the Confirmation Class with the Youth Missioner, with the goal of community building, calling forth servant leadership among the confirmands, as well as a working knowledge of the scriptures, church history, the prayer book and liturgy, Christian ethics; and participate in a mission trip as well as several community service projects.

7. Provide for annual refresher/training of Eucharistic Ministers and Visitors and Lectors, as well as basic orientation/training for new EM's or EV's - including those young people who have been newly confirmed who wish to participate in this ministry of the church.

8. Guide and support a program of Christian Education of young people on Sunday mornings and/or other times in consultation with parents and young people themselves.

9. Provide for an Instructed Eucharist in small groups and/or in the Sunday morning service as needed and appropriate.

10. Meet with all families who are new to the church from other denominations to provide them with a sense of the ethos, theos and (yes) pathos of The Episcopal Church.


1. Sunday morning service:
Prepare a written order of service
Conduct liturgy in accordance with the provisions of the national and Diocesan canons and the vows of ordination.
Preach on the lessons appointed by an approved lectionary
Begin on time.
2. Leadership of the Pastoral Offices in the Prayer Book as appropriate

3. Offering of worship at times other than only Sunday morning, including a regularly scheduled weekday interval (Wednesday morning 7 AM), or principal feast days.

4. Make provision for the public reading of the Daily Office (eg. Evening Prayer every Tuesday and Thursday).

5. Train lay people to take liturgical leadership roles as provide for by the Prayer Book and the Canons.

6. Provide, in consultation with the staff and lay leadership of the congregation, musical leadership and education.

7. Design liturgical services for baptism, weddings and funerals that are personal, warm, participatory and reflective of the sacramental life of the person or persons.

8. Work closely with Altar Guild, Flower Arrangers, Acolytes, Torchbearers, Crucifer, Lectors, Eucharistic ministers, Choir, and all who participate in the liturgical leadership of the Eucharistic Leadership of the church so that the services of the church are coordinated to be dignified yet warm and personal, inspiring and comforting, with a cohesive and relevant message.


1. Active membership / leadership in the community of local clergy in the diocese and among those of other denominations in the immediate area (Chatham Interfaith Council).

2. Spiritual leadership of Vestry meetings in consultation with the Wardens and following a prepared agenda

3. Attendance at parish fellowship events and coffee hour - with emphasis on the role of pastor and trying not to conduct church business during these social times.

4. Host dinners at Rectory or residence for principal leadership groups, such as:
Altar Guild
Lay Readers, Lectors, EMs/EVs
parish volunteers
Area clergy
Other groups.
5. Active participation in at least one Diocesan committee or ministry

6. Active participation in at least one National Episcopal Church committee or ministry.

7. Hire, supervise and care of staff members.

8. Coordinate with Parish Administrator to insure that all records are accurately maintained
Parochial Report
Annual Report to congregation
Parish Register
Register of all baptisms, weddings, and funerals
Certificates of all baptisms, weddings and burials
Memorial Garden/Columbarium
Space utilization and maintenance of buildings and grounds
9. Coordinate with Parish Treasurer/Coordinator of Finances, the supervision of
Parochial Report
Monthly and Annual Vestry / Parish report
10. Regular self care: spiritual, mind and body

Develop a Rule of Life which includes:
Annual physical exam
Monthly spiritual direction
Regular pastoral care/therapy
Monthly parochial supervision
Monthly clergy colleague group
Strive to tithe or maintain tithe as a spiritual discipline
Observance of full weekly sabbath
Regular continuing education
Observance of an annual spiritual retreat
Cultivate the values of gratitude, generosity and excellence; intelligence, creativity and fun in all labors and all aspects of my life.
Participate in a regular mutual ministry review.

So, there it is. My first attempt to put this all down into one coherent form. Did you find this helpful?

Are there things I might have worded or articulated more clearly? Is there something needs clarification?

Were there some surprises or new insights you gained?

Of course, these are my standards, which reflect my strengths (and weaknesses) as I make application of them in the particular location where I practice my ministry.

The particular elements would vary - sometimes slightly, sometimes dramatically - from, say, a rural setting to a suburban setting, or a working class to a college community setting, to an urban or inner city setting.

However, I think the basics 'headlines' of Pastoral, Teaching, Liturgy and Other are accurately reflective of how I see my role as Servant Leader in a Community of Faith.

So - here's another question: Do you think this can be standardized? Can there be diocesan or national standards for professional, ordained ministry? And, if there were, what effect might it have on the church?

I'd love to hear your responses. Thanks in advance.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

As a person who has to adhere to some form of a professional code of conduct to be a member of a hospital medical staff, my short answer is "Hell, YEAH!" And you know I say that with all the love in my heart there is to give, and with a very strong sense of my own about "the ministry of the baptized" and where that can break down at times!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Here's the think, Kirke: I don't know of any resource, at the national or diocesan level, that provides for this sort of assistance for clergy. There may well be, but damned if any one in my clergy group could find it - and, we're not exactly disconnected from the church - locally or nationally.

I think that has to change.

This, of course, could (should ?) be augmented by a statement of the philosophy and/or theology of parochial ministry.

Karen H. said...

Keep going on knee jerk sense after a very quick read through is that this could be enormously helpful for clergy and for the parishes they serve. I'm going to print and study before I make any further comments, but thank you!

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Yes, I think this is very helpful. I, too, have to adhere to a code of ethics as well as continuous review by my department, peers, and students. In my "other life" I serve with clergy as a lay eucharistic visitor, Christian educator, part-time missionary, yadda-yadda-yadda. I'm continually struck by the broad continuum of professional conduct I see. There are many wonderful people who have been pastors and mentors and models of servant ministry. But I also see behavior that I find, well, surprising. I never thought I would have to tell a female member of the clergy, in the year 2009, that giving me an unsolicited shoulder rub is a weird way to express gratitude.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Well, and I think the important thing for vestries is we have our own ideas about what clergy is supposed to do and how we are to support them and each other, and this document simply defines the terms. Not that it should be a "lab inspection" checklist per se, but that it increases awareness of "what composes a healthy parish."

Fr Craig said...

When I was in Seminary (2001 grad) the house of bishops circulated a white paper on the theology of the priesthood, which I have clung to - Pastor, Proclaimer of the Gospel, and Presider at celebration of sacraments. Your outline basically falls into this. My only reaction is that such an outline simply cannot be applied with a broad brush, since every parish has different needs, and different skill sets among the laity. For example, my calling committee made it crystal clear that I was to respect the lay leadership already in place, and I have. My diocesan drafted 'letter of agreement also spells out most of the basics. I struggle against annual performance reviews on the grounds that laity simply can't review what they do not understand, and most don't understand what clergy do and go through. I can't go and review a bank officer, can I? I struggle to achieve a vestry/leadership structure that are truly partners in ministry - haven't even come close yet... Having said all of that, your list would be helpful for new clergy to ponder. thanks for the hard work!

Staying Awake in Missouri said...

Any interest in moving to Kirksville, MO?

John-Julian, OJN said...

I think it's a great piece of work -- and incredibly responsible, too.

Two comments:

1. Certainly NOT an "Instructed Eucharist" during Sunday worship (if ever). I am really put off by USING the Eucharist. Do a walk-through or "dry Mass" if you want to point out meanings and symbols, but not a part of actual worship.

2. Rather surprised that Daily Morning and Evening Prayer (to say nothing of daily Eucharist) is not on the list. Surely the Offices should be recited daily - even if no one else is there! And they can be done with lay Officiants if need be.

Otherwise, a splendid piece!

Matthew said...

I love the idea of this, but wonder how it would work nationally. Particularly in diocese where there are so few paid clergy, where they are mostly locally trained and have other full time jobs, places like Nevada and No. Michigan. Maybe it could be a list of things someone in a parish should do. But, maybe it could be adapted somehow.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, I think this kind of conversation is necessary for us in the Church today. I wonder at how many of the tasks you have listed are based on the size of congregation in which one finds oneself? Where do we identify, affirm and support all people in their ministry within and outside the Church. Surely there are people who have the pastoral skills to provide the care folks in the hospital need, to lead baptismal instruction, etc. I think the skills and tasks listed are necessary in a congregation, just not sure who can or cannot do them. This is a really tough issue. It calls into question our understanding of church and of our relationships as Christians or people of God with each other. I believe that all people are w/holy and we must all learn to share that holiness with each other. This is a really good dialogue question. Thanks for raising it.
Ellen Bruckner

Bateau Master said...

Review Books, Ledgers, Accounts & Endowments on a regularly scheduled basis with professionals outside the Parish family to ensure familarity, understanding, and accountability.

Just a suggestion.

suzanne said...

I wonder if some of the Professional Standards vary based on whether one is male or female. I raise this question because having grown up and matured in churches that were patriarchal. Then I was exposed to female clergy, WOW! What a difference. To me the female point of view is closer to what Christians should be about. New insights? To quote Kirke, "Hell, Yeah!" As a servant pastor, when do you have time to do laundry?
I do believe if you gave this PS to new incoming seminary students, and tell them this is how they will live their professional lives many would fall by the way side. The bar is set high. As it should be.

Can it be standardized? Maybe with the younger set. But with older white haired white males, probably not on your life.

Thank you for writing this. it sure gave me new insight into the life of the servant pastor.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks so much, one and all, who have responded thus far.

Thanks for that suggestion, Bateau Master. An annual audit is part of the by-laws of the church and a requirement of the diocese.

Fr. Craig - I've been toying with the categories. I'm thinking: Pastor, Priest, Prophet and ???? What to use for the Administrative stuff?? I am really adverse to using that term to highlight it, which is why I put most of it in the category "Other". I know it's not sufficient, but I don't want to use the word "Administrative" because I don't want, in any way, to fit into the Corporate / Consumer model.

John Julian - hello, my brother. Your suggestions about Daily Eucharist and Office bring up an interesting tension between some assumptions about the parochial vs. the monastic model and the particular (nay, peculiar) nature and location and understanding of individual communities of faith. Not sure yet what to do about that, but I'm grateful, as always, for your bringing it up.

Matthew - I don't know how it would be adapted to other diocese, other parochial locations. I'll take that on next - after I do this for myself. Thanks for your comments - and yours Ellen. It's an important question for continued conversation.

Suzanne - you also bring up a good point about gender difference. Again, another piece for continued conversation.

Thanks to those who have taken the time to read this and respond. Please do keep your comments coming. It's really the only way this will get 'perfected'. Give me a few days and I'll send out my "next draft".

Josephine- said...

As someone who will be graduating and moving into parish ministry next year this is HUGELY helpful to me. Please keep this list up, edit, etc and tell us how that works.

If nothing else its great for me to be able to START with and maybe not forget some important thing that they totally forgot to warn us about in seminary.

John Kirkley said...

Elizabeth - you point out a huge problem - clarifying standards and expectations. If I have any critique, it is to say that this draft seems to assume the model of "full-service" church, e.g. that there is a parish administrator and youth missioner. Many of my colleagues don't have such support staff.

Even so, this provides a great baseline for discussion/adaptation. Thank you!

suzanne said...

I believe this is an incredibly loving and kind thing you're doing. With some of the comments you've received it's obvious that one size does not fit all.

Maybe you'll want to break it down into categories. Part time priest, small church, etc.. But what to chose, and where to put it. Oy.

Terry said...


This is quite good. I particularly liked the way you spelled out the pastoral bit. You listed a number of guidelines that many of us use on a regular basis, but I've never seen them written down in one place before.

As someone engaged once again in the "search process," this will be helpful in discussions with search committees and vestries regarding realistic expectations. Thanks.

Caminante said...

Not to be a nay sayer though this is going to come off as such...

This list will work for a suburban full-time priest in a congregation with good staff and lay support. For a part-time cleric, the expectations would kill the person. BTDT. Even as an 80% time priest with a fabulous secretary, loyal lay visitors, daily MP led by laity, the list seems daunting. I haven't even figured out in the past year when to squeeze in my exercise.

I like the categories, I like what is in them, but whew. I am exhausted. There needs to be taken into account the majority of congregations who have PT clergy and whose ASA is under 75.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Staff - I'm glad it can be useful to you.

And you are absolutely right, Caminante - this is reflective of what I do - with a staff of six in a congregation of around 200 families. It's not "one size fits all" (I thought I made that clear), but I think the categories are helpful and I think, if most clergy actually sat down and took the time to write what it is they do as a matter of course (see 'standard') you might either feel exhausted or energized.

Either way, I think it's a helpful tool in working with Vestries and Wardens and, as Staff noted - in the search process.

I'm working on Draft #2. Stay tuned.

Caminante said...

Mind you, the pastoral stuff happens... such as today when a home for people with memory loss called for me to come for a 101 year-old who was dying. She died literally as I walked in the door. And then it was off to the assisted living place for HE... and on and on. So the pastoral list that you have reflects a lot of reality (except the hand-written notes).

word: hotie. if it had two 't's... That I am not!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Caminante, my sister - there are days when the pastoral responsibilities are absolutely overwhelming. It comes in waves - sometimes much more than three's.

And, 'hottie', like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. You, my darling, are both. Intelligence is the best aphrodisiac - second only to a wicked sense of humor. You have both.

Fran said...

Brava Elizabeth - this is great. I have to say that I read this and was reflecting on what my boss does in his role as the servant leader of a Catholic community.

It is pretty close to this list, with some exceptions based on the size of the parish.

Now you see why I love my job so much - it inspiring to work with and be empowered by someone who sees their ministry in this way.

If I didn't work for him (and if I weren't RC, if I didn't live 3 hours away etc etc) I would want to work for YOU!

You always inspire me.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Fran - I'm guessing that if you put together a Standard for your Servant Leadership and Ministry, you'd come up with a list similar to your priest.

Your faith shines through everything you write. You have no idea how much you inspire others.

susankay said...

Elizabeth -- A suggestion for how to name the Administrative/Other slot. How about Steward? To go with Pastor, Priest, Prophet -- too bad it's not alliterative.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Good suggestion, Susankay. I'm sort of partial to "Episcopoi" but that's just because I can see a few people in purple shirts squirming at that. Tee hee.

Paul Powers said...

Outside the Roman Catholic Church, most clergy, including yourself, have families. Shouldn't finding the appropriate balance between family and parish be part of the clergy member's rule of life?

Linda Ryan said...

Just a comment from a butt-in-the-pew, but if I were part of a church where expressions of gratitude were a part of the mix like you have in several places in your list, I'd join in a minute. It would be lovely to be where people are appreciated for the work they do, not just for what they put in the alms basin. Please--- keep the gratitude in. Even just saying "thank you" frequently owuld go a very long way to making a happy community.

ps. my verification word was "imingodo" --- I sure hope so.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Paul - done. It was in my notes, but I omitted it. (Hmmm . . .) I also omitted things like sabbatical and supervision of staff and staff meetings and . . . . Oh my!

Kitty - I have found that there are four powerful words in the human language:

Thank you.

I'm sorry.

Caminante said...

Thank you much!!! I'll remember these words. On to get ready for diocesan convention which begins tomorrow.

Ann said...

Oh, Elizabeth, this list makes me feel even more inadequate than I usually feel. I could no more do all these things than I could run a marathon. Bless you for your energy, passion, and commitment, but I will continue to thank God for my call to a parish where many of things are not needed or desired. I pray this remain your private job description, and not anything adopted by a wider leadership body!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Ann - I just got a wonderful note, offline, from a recently retired priest who had been filled with regret and guilt about all the things he felt he had 'done and left undone'. After he read this, he suddenly felt so much better. He wrote, "I had no idea what a good job I had done. My bishop had no idea so he never told me. My congregation didn't really know the role of a parish priest so they thought what I thought - that I wasn't good enough, didn't do enough. It was all that 'Suffering Servant' crap. Now, I know better. I was a 'Servant Leader' - and, turns out, a damn good one at that. I'm going out to have some ice cream to celebrate."

Made my day.

Lindy said...

I would like to humbly suggest that you consult with someone who has actual experience in quality assurance and standards of professional accountability. While this is a very nice list, and I am over the moon with happiness that you want to address it, it is also clear that this might be your first stab at it. Talk to someone who does it for a living. Any organization that has standards of professional accountability or conduct will also have someone, probably a group of people, who craft the standards so that they work for most situations and make provision where they don't work. Because, while these are all very good ideas, they fail to address the fact that some clergy are just dicks. Obviously, you can't use that type of language but I hope one of your objectives is to weed out the dicks. Keep going on it. I really do think this is over due and I'm glad to know that the sharpest minds are on the case.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Lindy. Thanks for the suggestion, which is a good one. I do want to avoid the corporate mindset and the language that reflects it, but I'm all about not re-inventing the wheel. I've already gotten two resources I had no idea were out there - a Theology of Priesthood that was written by Trinity Institute and a Professional Standards manual that was produced by the Clergy Association of DC.

So, this is not an 'original thought' and I'm certainly not one of the 'sharpest minds' but I am nothing if not persistent and tenacious. I tinkered with it some again late last night. Stay tuned.

Muthah+ said...

I believe your outline is too centered on the suburban full-time parish. The majority of the parishes in my diocese are part-time country cures. This schedule would not be helpful to what I understand the majority of parishes in much of the church.

I also believe that there is too much make-work in this list. I felt absolutely exhausted when I read all the things that you do.

I applaud your attempt to put into a document some of the expectations you have, but the expectations of differing communities need to be addressed.

Muthah+ said...

+Pierre has made a important comment on HOB/D but DO NOT FOLLOW IT. Bishops need to NOT be a part of what the clergy understand to be the center of their vocation. I have had bishops with outrageous ideas of the vocation of priest--ones that they did not live out while they were in the parish.

Unknown said...

Now this would be a totally separate project, but I think it would also be helpful for the larger church to have something similar for bishops.

Anonymous said...

Lots of do do do...not much be be be...

Prayer and theological reflection - relationship with God is also key, no?

textjunkie said...

hmm. I'm confused. I'm just a butt in the pew (actually haven't been one in a few years, but for most of my life I have been a regular butt in pew, and active in various church ministries)--but it seems to me what you list is what *the church* should be doing, and not the rector per se. Yes, people should be thanked, and visited in the hospital, and education opportunities should be provided--these are all great things--but it's not up to the rector as a single person to provide it all.

This looks like a great list to take to your congregation to say--here's what the church *as a community* is supposed to provide. Do we agree, and if so how are we going to provide it? Do we have a volunteer to make phone calls, someone who can write thank you notes? Anyone who can help lead adult education? Etc. Do we as a congregation care enough to make all these things happen for each other? If not, what are we willing to let go of? But you'll go nuts trying to do all that by yourself--and as you point out, it sets up a priest as the go-to person for everything, which isn't healthy.

D. Jonathan said...

I like it; it's very helpful. The one thing I missed was any mention of ongoing, serious theological or biblical study. As a former academic who has transitioned into fulltime ministry, I am shocked by how little most clergy engage the theological traditions of Christianity as well as contemporary thinkers. My sermons, pastoral practice, and above all formation efforts are deeply enriched by the discipline of reading even if the texts I read seem far removed from daily ministry.

Unknown said...

This description terrifies me for you. It seems totally consuming to me.
I know you have a life -- a wonderful one -- but it is hard to read this and see how you fit it in.

Fr Craig said...

Amen to what 'textjunkie' said. And someone else commented on how vital it is to take care of ourselves. I went through burn out in corporate life and have no intention of doing it again...
Great conversation, EK.
Pastor, Proclaimer, Presider. This is what I was called to do. I wasn't, and don't think I am called to be and administrator, let alone a social club pep squad leader. There are lay people who have those gifts...

Anonymous said...

I ran into this via Episcopal Cafe and want to offer my comments here as well.

Please, if you are talking about diocesan and national standards for clergy expectations, keep part-time clergy and small churches in the focus as well. Every time a diocesan or national guideline or program comes out, it's the job of our small churches to translate that into what it means for them.

Whether the program is Fresh Start, clergy compensation guidelines, or even the language of rector/vestry vs vicar/bishop's committee, small churches are constantly translating into their primary language.

If we are looking at a standard this basic, please consider the large proportion of part-time clergy in this. How does this work for someone who is 50% time? Should they ignore half the things here? Should they all be done, just not to 100% satisfaction? Which are essence and which are accident?

I believe that the old picture of one rector/one parish is itself a Herbertism that is on the way to death. I'm going to keep looking at this list and thinking about it. It would be nice to see a standard like this that spoke Small Church as its first language.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Jason, thanks for stopping by and leaving your important comments. I did this as an exercise for myself and then started asking questions about whether or not this could serve as a template for others. I'm now convinced that it CAN be used for "all sort and manner" of "professional ministry" lay and ordained - full and part time. The thing of it is that YOU need to "fill in the blanks." It's often been said that there's no 'part time work' in the church - just 'part time pay'. I'm willing to bet that YOU do the bulletins and YOU do lots of the B&G stuff - I know I did when I was "part time". The question is: Should you? Is that part of your professional standard? Or, is it part of the same-old, same-old "suffering servant" model that ultimately dis-empowers the laity from doing their baptismal ministry?

Lots more questions - let the conversation continue. It doesn't matter if it happens HERE. It's much more important that you begin to talk with your colleagues and congregations about what are the 'Standards of Servant Leadership' that YOU want to embrace?

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

As a part-time priest, I appreciate the effort here and our congregation is going through a period of diocesan-supported strategic planning to help provide clarity along the appropriate roles of the laity and the clergy. There's been a lot of bad relationships in this congregation's past and it's taking mammoth effort to untangle them.

I'll be looking this list over as we renew our Letter of Agreement, etc. I appreciate the work that's been done so far.

Also as a part time priest, it's very tiresome to hear that my ministry doesn't actually exist. It's a very common line: there's no such thing as part time ministry. Usually this line is given by full-time clergy.

Maintaining a life in part time ministry is difficult. Keeping up the boundaries is very hard and congregations constantly push against them. No one likes their priest watching the clock, especially when they need care.

However, part time ministry is real. Many of us are doing it and working hard to balance other jobs and maintain healthy boundaries against parishioners who would rather we work extra unpaid hours (a justice issue?).

When creating diocesan and national standards we need to take into clear account that part time clergy exist and need help keeping these boundaries. To deny the existence of this ministry is to ignore the people doing the work.

Right now, many small churches are struggling to keep their full-time clergy at all. The presence of part-timers is not only real, it's the future of our dioceses and the church nationally. We should be recognizing that in clergy compensation documents, professional standards and all kinds of diocesan and national programs and documents.

Linda Ryan said...

Ok, here goes again.

What if ---- this list were meant for the whole church, not just for the full-time suburban or urban clergy? What if even the most part-time clergy took this list to the church (no matter what the size but especially if a small one) and said, "Ok, here are the jobs that need to be done, kingdom work that involves all of us. Let's sit down and start a conversation on what roles each of us need to take in order to cover as much as we can with the resources -- people, money, time and talent -- we have available."

Ok, it's a crazy idea and not what you had in mind when you began this, Elizabeth, but with conversation would come understanding of the role each person, lay or clerical, needs to play.

Anyway, thank you for the time and effort you've put in and continue to put in on this. I think it's a great idea and I think you can produce something truly valuable.

Thanks again.

Courtney, Esq. said...

One other thing, from a clergy spouse's point of view. I read the list of suggested dinners to host and my eyes almost popped out of my head! It assumes a level of time and resources we as a couple simply don't have.

I know the traditional model in the church involved a vicar or rector's wife who would channel Martha Stewart to entertain. However, my experience is that this is less and less of the norm, and it certainly isn't the norm for my spouse's and my life. I am a local government attorney and he is a country vicar -- when we first were together he lived in a tiny apartment where we could host no more than 2 people at a time. There is no way we could have entertained the bishop's committee in such cramped quarters. And even now, I'm not sure how our budget would handle cooking for half a dozen to a dozen people monthly without serving them fish sticks and tap water.

That's just the expense; it doesn't even begin to cover how that meal is supposed to happen while we're both working 40 hours a week.

I understand the idea behind such dinners and it truly is a lovely pastoral thought to imagine the rosy faces of the choir gathered smiling around a pot roast in our dining room, but then again it also sounds like something in the George Herbert fantasy you're rightly trying to avoid.

Perhaps prioritizing some of the items on your list (and groups to host for purposes of this example) would help those non-suburban, non-full time clergy and their partners follow these standards in a reasonable way.

Peter Carey+ said...

This is an interesting beginning of a project, likely strengthened by different voices and by people with different personality and spirituality "types."

Thanks for kick-starting a conversation!

Peter Carey+

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

This has been a great conversation. I've spent so much time reading responses here and EC and HOB/D that the time I usually have to blog has been (wisely) spent here.

One quick note the the rector's wife: I absolutely agree with you. And, when some members of the Vestry started fussing about "dinner at the rectory" a few years ago, I finally came up with a plan: Once a month, one member of the Vestry takes on the coordinating of the Rectory Dinners. It's a shared meal: Three couples (or six people) are invited to dinner. One takes on the appetizers and wine, another takes on the main course, one takes on dessert. Ms. Conroy and I take on the coffee/tea and set up and clean up. It works very well.

The Vestry comes once a year - as new come on and old go off. The staff comes at Christmas. At the end of the year we have an Open House Brunch after the summer schedule begins (one service at 9:30 AM) Again - it's all shared 'buffet" style, which cuts down on the cost substantially. And, people ALWAYS stay afterward to help us clean up.

Like any other HUGE task, this works if you break it down into "doable" chucks and spread the wealth - you know - like the feeding of the 5,000.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

One last comment - I've had so many clergy write to me off line, chuckling and saying, "This is what it IS. This IS the job, Elizabeth. This IS what we do in some form or other, in various combination of things - part time, full time, rural, interim, whatever. If you omit one thing, you'd just add another that is particular to that area. (Here's the line I really wanted you to hear - wait for it). . . .

Some clergy work so hard, they don't even realize how hard they work."

Just thought I'd pass that along.

Jean Holmes said...

Elizabeth, I just now got a chance to read through this. I think you make some wonderful points - especially all the self-care that allows us to be a servant-leader. Presbyterians see life a bit differently than Episcopals. There is a lot of responsibility I am not allowed to take, which makes my job even more servanthood - more tedious - more time-consuming and in need of more patience! There are times when I long to be Anglican:-)

Just a comment about titles for the categories. What about pastor, preacher, prophet and co-creator? I always try to look at the administrative tasks of the servant-leader in relation to God's creative Spirit hovering over the chaotic mess and creating order.

Marcia King said...

Looks like a lot of work went into preparing this list but...interesting that there is nothing about prayer or reading the Bible in the rule of life. (May have missed it. If I did, my apologies)

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I'll tell you how you do those dinners in one word in a small parish:

Potluck. LOL

I especially hear where Ann is coming from with the small parish perspective b/c I am in one. I think when I read your draft, what I did was just sort of eliminate those "extra staffers" and figure you "do what you do" for some of it.

But there is a lot of stuff in your draft that is certainly do-able in a small parish, IF the "servant leader" encourages the parishioners in a small parish to empower themselves.

I agree that not all of this applies to the small parish. I also agree that God finds workarounds for a small parish to do more than they could imagine!

Malcolm+ said...

Thanks for doing and sharing this, Elizabeth.

It seems to me it is a good start on the issue of what is and isn't) the job of the priest - understanding, of course, that this will vary depending on the nature of the community and the strengths and weaknesses of the priest.

(I'm always struck by the issue of parish administration, given that the personality types likely to feel a priestly vocation tend not to be those inclined to effective organization. Since it always takes us longer to do things we aren't good at, many, many clergy end up spending a disproportional amount of their time doing things they aren't good at, doing it not particularly well and usually hating every minute of it.)

Part of what needs to be considered is how we are accountable - and held accountable - for the effective performance of our responsibilities. Some people in orders simply aren't suited for or effective in the jobs they currently hold. For good or ill, we tend not to deal with clergy effectiveness unless and until it gets connected to some sort of misconduct. Simply being an ineffective parish priest has no particular career implications. The stipend (such as it is) keeps rolling in unless the congregation has declined to the point of non-viability.

Problem is, we have few objective means of measuring the effectiveness of the priest - and the few we have are problematical in two ways.

Average Sunday Attendance, membership figures and giving from members are objective, but like any statistic in isolation, they tell you what they tell you and that is all they tell you.

Now, in general, I'd say that rising ASA, rising membership and increased giving from members USUALLY indicate a healthy church and an effective ministry - both ordained and lay. But the priest whose sermons offer godly challenge, who afflicts the comfortable as much as s/he comforts the afflicted, may see a decline in all of these indicators.

The other problem is that these indicators, to the degree that they do measure "performance," do not measure the performance of the priest in isolation, but rather of the whole community.

In any event, I know that the Diocese of British Columbia is doing some work on these issues, and that part of their plan is to establish a process to assess clergy performance and even, where appropriate, to help transition some clergy out of parochial ministry. (Help, not fire, I note.)

I can't find that documentation on the DioBC website. What I saw was shared with me by some retired priests of that diocese who were interested in my thoughts. I have the doc, but I'm not sure it's my place to share it.

However, they do have a "Personal Ministry Performance Development" tool on their website:

I look forward to future iterations.

Matthew said...

Something for full-time, perpetual deacons or diaconal ministries would also be useful and the lay people involved in it (prison visits, homeless meals at church, pantries, clothing drives, etc. I realize you posted round II, but I figured I'd comment here since it ocurred to me before you posted round II. A few years ago, I was a member of a church with a full time deacon. She did SOOOO much and had all kinds of rules about professionalism, like what not to say to prisoners in certain situations, whether money would be given to the homeless and if so, how much.

Jean Trewhella said...

Elizabeth, I came across your blog looking for some simple way to educate our congregation about how the role changes between Full Time,Part Time, and Supply Priest. I am the finance chair of our church and I need to communicate at the annual meeting what our parish would look like given our current pledges vs our pledge goals. This is an urgent and real issue for our parish. Have you ever seen a crisp easy to understand comparison?
Any help you can provide would be appreciated.
Thank you,

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi, Jean. I wish I could provide a "crisp, easy to read comparison" between FT, PT and supply clergy.

Here's what I know from having been both: The "priority" becomes presiding and preaching in the liturgy of the mass on Sunday. If you have two services (8 & 10), and expect the priest to be there at least 30 minutes before the 8 service and to be present for coffee hour or some contact with the Wardens and Vestry and other lay leaders after church, you are talking a minimum of 5 hours of work - six if there is an actual Vestry meeting after church.

The things that get cut are things like pastoral visitations, Christian formation (adult ed, confirmation class, children's programs) and liturgical coordination with the organist and training with acolytes.

Those issues can be addressed by some careful, thoughtful raising up and training of the laity as Eucharistic Visitors, Christian formation leaders, and Liturgical Coordinators.

If your diocese has a deacon, they serve as an absolutely invaluable member of the team - if they have been trained well. If not, they can be a disaster. Trust me on this. Not their fault. It's often the problem of a bishop who hasn't a clue about how to use deacons.

Here's an interesting option: I know of two clergy who figured out that working "Part Time" (= 20-30 hours per week), was really not feasible - especially if the clergy lived in the rectory (and the rectory was close by) as part of the compensation package. So, they figured out how much it would take to be considered "Full Time" but taking the other hours as "vacation time" - which, in one case, came to 10 weeks per year.

What that means is that for 46 weeks of the year, the congregation has a full time priest and 10 weeks they do lay led morning prayer, which their priest has carefully trained them to do. She has also raised up and trained Eucharistic Visitors for those 10 weeks when she is away. They also share the rotation of visiting those who are homebound and in nursing homes throughout the year.

I think that's a really creative, efficient way to move to part time clergy on staff without compromising all the other provisions we expect of our faith community.

It takes more thought and care, requires a lot more involvement of the faith community, and saves money, but I think it's a wonderful model which gets us back to more fully being church.

Think and pray on that for awhile and see how that sets with you.

Don't hesitate to write again if you have any questions or concerns.

Harry Bennett said...

Elizabeth: This is a wonderful list of functions and responsibilities. Many have commented on the applicability to different size parishes and different Diocese. I think it is applicable to ALL sizes and types of parish. These are functions that need doing. Perhaps with large layity participation as Kitty has suggested. A parish should not limit its vision because it is small. It should look at each of the items on your list and decide how it could be accomplished with the resources available and/or what additional resources can be brought to bear. Not all items are essential, but all should be considered.

Thanks for your list and the ensuing discussion.