Image Description: Clay art pieces are on a flat surface. They are shaped like people who are standing in a circle with arms around each other. There are three circles of people.
I’ll be honest with you about something.
When it comes to being a pastor, as I was for seven years, I certainly believe in being thoughtful about the role. It’s particularly important to ensure you never abuse the power of that role, including emotionally.
That being said, I never really bought the idea that pastors are somehow completely separate from the community they are serving — as if they are only a professional providing service, and therefore, must keep a great deal of their own lives hidden and out of view. I also never really bought the idea that the pastor is the only person providing care in the congregation, or that the pastor never receives from the congregation.
And yet, I think many pastors and ministry leaders feel pressure to live precisely this way. Does it really aid a congregation when they are only ever receivers of care and never practitioners of care? Does a congregation ever aid a pastor in holding expectations that the pastor is to be the single, spiritual professional who does it all?
I’ll tell you something refreshing.
When I and some others started the Michigan Nones and Dones community, one of the most meaningful aspects was the collective vision. This included the ways that we all shaped conversations collectively.
Michigan Nones and Dones is a community is for people who are “spiritually curious but institutionally suspicious.” It includes people who are religiously unaffiliated (the Nones), people who have left traditional, institutional congregations and religious communities (the Dones) and people who have maintained a sense of religious identity but want to practice spiritual community in different ways.
I am often the facilitator of conversation, but I’m never the sole teacher or storyteller. Everyone adds their insights, thoughts, and experiences to our shared conversations. We are all transformed and enriched by it. I don’t want to speak too generally, but I find that religiously unaffiliated people often value flat leadership structures. Personally, I find this collective vision to be refreshing and invigorating.
Now, it’s important to say two things: In the Michigan Nones and Dones community, we are not seeking to be a church, so these things are entirely comparable. And there are plenty of people in congregations who want to make shifts so that leadership, empowerment, and care are more shared. And to this, I say, more power to them!