Not long ago a Ministerial student sent me a question for an assignment they had for school. The question was about the duties of a minister–and was requesting that I rank them in order of importance. Here was my reply to that question:
I question the legitimacy of these areas being “ranked” in any way, any more than I might rank my children into favorites. [I might also disagree with some of the way they are defined, but that’s not my main problem]. You see, my calling as an Ordained Minister includes all of these things, in whatever role I am in (including an Executive Pastor, Youth Pastor, Church Planter, Professor, and Chief of Staff. In each I do all of these things.) When I do each I should give them the care and attention a holy one should give all the “offices of ministry.” I might have greater gifts in some of these areas–let’s day: evangelism, teaching, administration–but I dare not neglect shepherding, preaching or bringing a prophetic word to my congregation or the world. I cannot dismiss the worship of a congregation and my role in it’s liturgy, even when I was a Small Groups pastor, focused on the Monday-Saturday body life of a church.
Sorry, I refuse to play along… A minister of the gospel does not merely “prioritize” these matters as if they can be put in a calendar, or managed as a to-do list. Pastors that attempt to do this find their ministry largely out of balance, and are often under conviction to be a more centered and diligent minister, but they often dismiss any criticism on these matters as the “whining of my people” casting themselves as Moses, and them as stiff-necked people, when in reality they are just incompetent ministers, forsaking their duties and the joy that comes with leading someone to Christ even if they aren’t gifted evangelists, or the joy that comes in preaching the Word, even if they aren’t great communicators, or the joy that comes in shepherding a dying saint doubting their faith, even if they aren’t good counselors.
When doing each of these things, a minister must take reverence, time, attentiveness, and a nature sensitive to the holy spirit in that very moment, even if it’s the dreaded “administrivia” that so many of we pastors loathe, but must do, lest we have a church organization resembling the marooned boys in Lord of the Flies. This is especially true when the administration involves financial integrity or managing a crucial church transition involving a capital campaign.
So here’s my “ranking”…
Ministerial Priorities Worksheet
Instructions: Please take no more than 5 minutes to prioritize the following roles of the pastor in order of importance from 1 (high priority) to 7 (low priority). So, the most important pastoral roles or functions will have the lowest numbers. You must use all numbers from 1-7 once.
__1__ Shepherd: care and counseling
__1__ Liturgist: conducting weddings, funerals, baby
dedications, baptisms, and communion services
___1_ Leader: discerning and casting vision, as well as initiating a strategic plan to achieve that vision
__1__ Preacher: planning and preaching sermons for corporate worship gatherings
__1__ Evangelist: initiating, promoting, and funding of local, national, and global mission that serves the needs of people and connects them to Christ
__1__ Administrator: managing policies, people, and financial resources to fulfill the strategic plan and day to day ministry tasks
__1__ Teacher: overseeing Christian education, in general, and leading bible study groups and classes, in particular
So, what’s your take? Have we gone overboard with our “ranking” of our duties, pastors? Lay people–are pastors letting this prioritization craze be a cover for incompetence? If you would have ranked this list–how would you rank it? Or do you divide this list into two parts of priority? Do you have a new list of priorities to offer?