Belonging to a Network

As I’ve engaged with other senior pastors in conversation about their networks and denominations, a reasonable question they almost always ask me is “what kind of network do you want to be part of?” or “what would your ideal network look like?” Usually these questions are followed by a lot of verbal processing and a word salad that ultimately sounds too vague to hold any real meaning.

So I decided I would force myself to work some of this out in a more coherent way that I hope will give a more definite shape to the kind of thing I’m looking for when it comes to belonging to a network or denomination as a pastor and as a local church. This post will be part one and in this go, I want to create a list that is specifically about me as a pastor. My next post will be a list that is specifically about what I would like for our local church to be able to count on from participation in a network/denomination.

I welcome your critique, suggestions, and fine tuning.

(I thought about ordering these but other than my first comment, these are in no particular order of importance.)

First, generationally it is time for us to have structures that allow full participation and create, not just the appearance of having a voice, like a “suggestion box at the back of the room” but tangible opportunities where everyone in a senior pastor position will feel heard and will be able to see their participation is welcome and valued. It’s time for flat structures so the current and future generations will connect with us.

I would like to see small groups for senior pastor couples that meet once each year for a week. Gather with a senior leadership couple. Meet according to church size. Life story sharing, prayer ministry, worship together, shared meals, rest, daily content that builds up and both challenges and encourages.

Annual area retreats for worship pastors and leaders with seasoned worship pastors and leaders. At these events, senior leaders would listen to the stories of the participating worship pastor and leaders and then create a conversation with senior pastors to give them constructive feedback on how they could better support and respect their worship leaders/pastors.

Large, grass roots gatherings for senior leaders to discuss the issues facing us and develop a grass roots response. We are living in a time where both present and future generations no longer resonate with the top down, hierarchical models of the past. It’s really not organizationally hard to get us all in the same room but it might be emotionally hard and it might lead to fierce conversations but that, in my mind, is the way to wholeness and being better together. The kingdom of God on earth is decentralized.

A senior leadership team that speaks for our movement on issues of the day – immigration, justice, racism, Christian nationalism, etc. any issues that intersect with the kingdom of God. Silence from senior leadership creates the impression that silence is an acceptable response and we will lose a generation that’s coming for fear of losing those who are operating on different ideological presuppositions than our kingdom mandate.

An emphasis on diversity. Rather than a majority white movement that “lets” BIPOC participate, a movement determined to decentralize power by platforming voices from BIPOC and prioritizing plans and decisions to be made by women and BIPOC for the movement. Majority white male leadership has to willingly and intentionally divest themselves of power at every opportunity.

Pastoral Care in regions for senior pastors from people who have time and space to provide relational care and who have the gifts and personalities to facilitate that. Rather than asking the pastors of the largest churches in a region to provide pastoral care for pastors in that region and ultimately overwork those with the least amount of time, discern together individuals or couples who have a heart for looking out for others well and empower them to do that.

Regional Events that are coordinated by a national team (like the team that would plan the area worship pastor/leader events) with the input of regional leaders so that the event reflects both the national ethos of the Network and the local flavor of the region. This would provide a consistent experience of the Network throughout the regions while honoring the local flavor and unique characteristics and challenges.

Living in these days, we need a network that utilizes Zoom or another platform(s) for monthly gatherings for ongoing equipping and conversation on leadership/local church/big picture topics. Offering something substantial quarterly that provided both teaching sessions and processing sessions in smaller groups. We could easily facilitate a monthly (or even weekly) Zoom prayer room for anyone who wanted to drop in for the hour to get prayer, give prayer or intercede for the world.

Finally, I think a key feature needs to be the removal of or deconstruction of silos and the will to not establish silos to keep people separated from people. We are living in days when the potential for connection and communication is greater than ever and the temptation for leaders is to keep people in silos so we can control the narrative. As we come to realize that the narrative doesn’t actually belong to us, it will free us from the fear of people talking freely to one another about the things that bother them and the things that thrill their souls. The things that make them happy and the things that make them sad. Establishing an ombudsperson or an ombuds panel would be a big step in this direction as well so that people feel there is a safe and empowered person(s) to whom they can turn for an impartial hearing of the grievances they may have towards the organization (Acts 6). Admitting we all make mess up and all need help is a big gift here.

We’re living in a day where we don’t ask people to trust us anymore. Instead, we act in trustworthy ways. We don’t ask people to wait for justice, instead, we act justly. As I think about the kind of network that I need to be a part of as a senior pastor the list above is a start in the direction at my age and stage I feel like I want to be living into. I’m not looking for perfection because I’d ruin it by becoming part of it. I’m looking for a network that course corrects together as we find our way together without fear and without needing coercion or compulsion to get to where we are going.

If you’re a senior pastor or can imagine life as a senior pastor, what would you be looking for?

Published by APastor'sStory

Trying to squeeze this life for all the juice I can get out of it.

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