I have handled a lot of questions around my Resigned Sermon from two weeks ago and I wanted to take the opportunity to clarify a few things.
My working hypothesis of the great resignation of pastors stems from unhealthy communication. One way we will avoid burn out and toxic behavior is putting boundaries around how we communicate. One healthy boundary is “no anonymous feedback.” Being in the covenant community, we use names. If you have a concern, name it. Put your name on it. That way as we work to address the problem, we can check in with one another to see if progress is being made.
Another unhealthy communication pattern is “Pass-Through Comments.” Rev. Dr. Tracey Dawson and Rev. Wendy Kidd are two UCC pastors who do boundary training. They define pass-through comments as “When the person holding the concern lacks confidence in expressing the concern directly and recruits a go-between as the messenger.” What often happens with this is the initial person might be venting and doesn’t have all that much invested in their complaint. But the messenger doesn’t know that. Instead, the messenger edits, embellishes or gives the message more emotional weight than the original person invested in the first place. It then creates problems and makes mountains out of mole hills.
In short, toxic communication takes way more work that healthy communication does.
Healthy communication patterns are honest and transparent. They have integrity and communication is intended to create clarity and a way forward together. A lot of nonjudgmental listening is involved and we listen for understanding. Together, we decide the next right step. Because if we’re part of the church, then we’re all part of the problem.
We are co-creating church together. You and me. Me and you. All our teams, staff, moderators, and such. We’re all trying to live out our mission of welcoming, loving, and serving as we are each gifted. The best way to live this out is in community. Jesus did not do it alone. He gathered his named disciples and so many unnamed, taught them, and sent them out. The church is the gathered people, seeking to follow Christ in joint fellowship. Community is assumed by Christ as he states in Matthew 18:20, “When two or three are gathered, I am there in their midst.”
The church has always been the people, together. Good communication is not just the pastor’s job, but all of us. God’s people move through open and honest communication around the table and those words cast the vision of the beloved community of God.
Keep up the good work, church! We’re onto something and I hope you’re feeling the energy and excitement building here for all that we are doing.