Monday, May 25, 2009

Back Off This is My Flock!

A weird experience I never expected to have:

A man came into my congregation as a guest, a pastor from another community. At my invitation he preached in worship and held a Q&A session afterword about his ministry. Following the Q&A one of my parishioners approached him with a private question and he proceeded to offer her pastoral advice. The advice wasn't well received. This parishioner came to me later that day in tears and here is what surprised me - I was emotionally very protective of this person and angry at the man who came in from outside and mucked around with my people.

Now, I disagreed with his approach and felt his advice was off-target, but I wonder if I still would have been miffed even if I'd agreed with him. I thought his behavior was presumptuous, not so much because it transgressed on my territory but because, as an outsider, he doesn't know my people, whereas I am spending a lot of time and energy getting to know them precisely in order to justify the privilege I have of being approached by them with these kinds of questions. Furthermore, since he was a guest he went home and will probably never see this person again whereas I am likely to have to deal with this person's hurt feelings for a while.

What do you think - am I just overreacting? Is it silly to be protective of members of my congregation? Is it some outmoded patriarchal control impulse? Or is it legitimate?


Cecilia said...

I don't think you are over-reacting. I think if he was approached with a pastoral question/ concern, as a guest preacher the proper thing to do would have been to encourage the woman to speak to you... you who have a relationship with her. He overstepped. I don't think my response is "patriarchal," because I'm not a patriarch. It may be controlling, but... I don't think so.

Hope the damage isn't too long-lasting.

Pax, C.

Sam said...

Being a lay-person, my answer comes from the pew side of the discussion. I can think of a couple of reasons that I may approach a pastor other than my own. One would be if I felt he had a little different expertise (not the right word). If I have built any kind of relationship with my pastor, I know his strength and weaknesses when it comes to his pastoring skills. The second would be if it was a sensitive subject that I would be uncomfortable speaking to him about.

Having said that, I think your reaction is justified. It just shows that you are a good pastor who cares about his flock. I would have the same reaction if my daughter asked a question of a guest in my home and was upset by the advice. Particularly if I found the advice to be counter to what I would have said.

Aric Clark said...


I can think of plenty of reasons to ask someone other than your own pastor for advice and I certainly don't have any problem with it. In this case it was because the question directly related to the subject of the visitor's presentation. I had already been asked the same question by this person at an earlier time and I was present this time to hear the advice - in other words I think the question was asked innocently, not to avoid talking with me.

Nick.Larson said...

It's definitely and interesting question. I don't think you should be too worried about being upset about being protective. The very fact that you are thinking about it shows me that you have the awareness to see your own initial reaction and to question your own motives behind it. That's nice reflection if you me :).

But onto the actual subject matter. If I were that guest preacher then I would feel comfortable offering my own advice on the situation. I often give my advice when asked, even when I'm not always the best person to be giving it. I do this because I want to help the person asking the question, not out of some desire to tread on someone else turf (so to speak). So in this case, hopefully you trust the guest speaker. It seems to me that if you trust someone to come and speak at your church you should be able to trust them to give advice. But then there is the issue of fallout. Your right that you are the one who's going to be there during and after the advice. But isn't that your gift. I would be extremely thankful that the person had the confidence to come to you after they had heard this guest's advice. We can't always control what others are going to say, but it seems like your doing a good job establishing open lines of communication to talk about the advice with this person. That's what I would focus on.

So I think it is legit to be protective, but better than that to be thankful that your congregation members are willing to come to you, before, during, and after others advice.