A friend from Texas was coolly telling me about constant run-ins she was having with the church matriarch. It’s pretty common, you know, for the new woman pastor to have difficulties with the matriarch. It just screws up the dynamics when there’s more than one Mama-in-charge.
Anyways, the pastor was remarkable. My clergy friend explained how after every nasty note and comment, she would just make it clear that she wasn’t going anywhere. Everyone in the church was going to have to get used to the fact that she was the pastor now. It took some time, but the minister prevailed.
The pastor was doing the right thing. When church leaders cower to bullies, then it creates a really unhealthy situation. She was breaking the cycle of dysfunction by saying, “I’m not going anywhere.”
My own reaction, at least a few years ago, would have been different. It would have been, “Are you going to fire me? ‘Cause if you are, just say the word. I’ll be happy to clear out of your way.” I guess my response stemmed from a fear of being canned.
The fear has some basis. These are difficult economic times, and as Kathleen Parker reminds us, pink slips are the new black. And these are times when young professionals are greatly affected.
And for pastors—it’s really weird—sometimes a church will hang on to a minister who drinks on the job, sleeps with the organist, and hides shady accounting for twenty years. But then the next person, they’ll axe in a heartbeat.
I’ve met really wonderful pastors who are negotiating severance packages.
Or, in difficult economic times, many churches have to go through the excruciating pain of downsizing, and it doesn’t matter how gifted or talented the pastor is, or even how much the person is loved, congregations have to make tough choices.
The fear of being fired is sometimes based in reality. But, as it’s never good to live your life based on fear or threats, it’s certainly not good for the church for a leader to be reacting out of fear.
So it was a learning curve for me. An internal resolve that I just needed to figure out.