Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-directed, and connected to others. And when that desire is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.
Daniel H. Pink, Drive
Here’s what I wish Church Personnel Committees understood about the pastors who have been called to serve them:
Big theological words aside (call, faith journey, testimony, etc.), 99.99% of pastors became pastors because they are creative people who are willing to give of themselves to see a group of people thrive. They are willing to put a lot of time and energy into other people, helping them to see their full potential as Children of God. They are willing to deny their own needs (to a fault) for the sake of others being able to experience the joy and comfort of being the center of someone else’s attention.
And, yet, many get treated as if they are a bunch of juvenile babies who are lazy and want to goof off.
To be sure, there is often a gross misunderstanding of what it is that pastors do, but I think there is a deeper culprit behind this desire to micromanage the pastor. Like most HR folks, personnel committees operate with a conviction that people don’t like to work.
As a result of this perspective, we do crazy things. Things like requiring 50 hour workweeks in the belief that, if we don’t, the pastor won’t visit us or prep for Bible Study or… Or we insist that the pastor’s butt is always in their office chair in the belief that, if we don’t, they will skip out and go drink coffee and goof off.
I know a lot of pastors, and I don’t think there is anything further from the truth. If anything, pastors are workaholics.
The book I’m reading, Drive (which I quoted above), holds as its main thesis that a) people have an innate inner drive to do creative and meaningful things with other people, but that b) our standard system of rewards and punishments actually negate the intrinsic motivation we all possess and cause us to accomplish far less than we otherwise would. Once basic needs are satisfied, people have a drive to work.
And we can’t stop. Why do you think a lot of retirees “work” more in retirement than before? Why do you think a man who has not had any vacation for a year spends his Christmas break compiling an ebook full of sermons?
Pastors want to do a good job and want to care for the people they’ve been called to serve. But, too often, they are treated like children.
How can we structure a pastoral relationship that liberates the innate inner drive to do good and meaningful work?