Friday, September 26, 2008

Lost in the Sticks

I am not a happy camper.

Today was Day Two of our western-part-of-the-synod leadership conference, and oh, yes, the camp where it was held is very rural and attractive. I wish I'd had more time to explore the paths and hills.

But today, the personal and group reflection activities had more and more to do with how we were going to put the principles we'd learned to work in our parishes, and I'm thinking, Rot it, but I don't have a parish! Oh dear, oh dear, the day is coming to an end and I'm coming to the end of what I can use now!

And never, ever, since first thing yesterday, did we talk about It, about the Pastor Competency Model.

That is, not until about twenty minutes before the end, when a guy who pastors a church in my town got up and made an argument for it. "At first I thought it was really legalistic," he said, "but then I realized you can't be a good pastor without having all fifteen of these competencies."

Yeah, maybe, sure, but these precise interview questions designed to bring out whether you have these competencies, since when are they unchangeable holy scripture? Funny, yesterday I was afraid we'd be addressing them and my lack of experience would be revealed, but today I wanted us to confront them head on so I could find out how strict and absolute they were. But nothing was officially said.

I couldn't leave without knowing. So after we were dismissed, I accompanied the official from Big City Presbytery* back to her lodgings, to ask her about it in private.

She confirmed that they instruct interview committees to use these questions not just for potential solo and senior pastors, but for associate pastors as well.

"I can see," I said, "how someone who had several years experience in ministry could answer all these satisfactorily, but what about someone, say, who's just out of seminary?"

"Oh," she answered cheerfully, "the answers don't have to be restricted to someone's time in ministry! We figure if someone is the right kind of candidate, they will have done all these things sometime in their lives before that! Besides, the questions aren't about experience anyway, they're about competencies!"

I would beg to differ-- few of the questions leave you open to describe what you have accomplished under a given competency, they assume you have had particular experiences and accomplished certain things, in a congregational context, and call on you to describe how they went! Good things to have done if one has done them, certainly, but not all things that can be taken care of in the first years of a ministry, let alone in a student internship.

But this wasn't the time or the place to deal with the matter. She had to hurry off to another engagement. But she gave me her card and told me to ring her up to discuss it.

Will I or won't I? On one hand, it might be useful to explore what sort of answers might be considered satisfactory should I get an interview out of one or more of the feelers I've put out in Big City Presbytery.*

On the other hand, I've definitely learned from a misspent ministerial life that it's a mistake to put too much confidence in presbytery officials, especially when it involves revealing one's self-doubts. In my experience they tend to take you entirely too much at your own estimation. And when they could stand between you and getting a post, we're talking fatal error.

No, I have to face this thing and find my own way out of this forest. I need to consider how I might answer these forty-five questions if I'm ever called on to do so. And where I can't by myself, I should consult people who know me and my work to give me perspective. Maybe I've done a lot of these things and never even realized it!


Anonymous said...

I think your last sentence says it all. Maybe you have done more than you think.

If if matters, you have one (completely agnostic, but interested) person pulling for you in me.

Good luck, and all that.


St. Blogwen said...

Thanks. Maybe just for fun (!) I should do some posts on the Competencies and list the prescribed Questions. Might get me thinking about it.

Or hey, it might make a brain-teaser of a meme, with users free to suit them to their own situations!

Mile High Pixie said...

Interesting, St. B. On the one hand, we need certain experiences in order to have competencies, and some of those experiences are particular to practicing our line of work, whether it be architecture or the ministry. At the same time, some competencies could be gained through a wide range of experiences. I'd love to see some of the questions as a meme--if you do it, be sure to send it to me!