Pastor as Convener

“A pastor re-envisions his primary vocation not as a preacher, teacher, healer or administrator but as a host, a “convener.” It wasn’t what seminary prepared him for, but it’s a high and holy calling.”

The above is a headline for an article written by a colleague and friend, Cameron Barr, in the publication, “Faith & Leadership.” Cameron is pastor at a UCC church in Grinnell, Iowa. He’s as sharp and clear as they come. Oozes with the ability to shape story and invite people into it.

Cameron and I got to work together several times in the ways that he describes in this article. I was primary consultant in what started for them as a strategic planning process. What I was able to offer was an invitation to shift how that work is done, and a set of practices that helped give it a chance — all based on a premise of turning to one another, and going further together.

I love these words from Cameron:

The turning point came late in my first year, when I discovered the Art of Hosting(link is external), a leadership approach that views leadership primarily as a practice of hospitality. With the help of a consultant and ardent proponent of the Art of Hosting philosophy, our church focused on re-connecting with each other and “re-humanizing” our relationships. We spent time together, sharing meals, telling stories and reviewing our community’s history.

Soon, we held a series of retreats to engage church members outside our ordinary structure of boards and committees. Instead of recruiting people to existing bodies, we invited people to follow their energy and work on needs they had identified.

Gradually, I accepted that I was powerless to direct our ministry toward my own ideas of what a church should be. I began to think of myself primarily not as a preacher, teacher, healer or administrator but as a host — a convener. My greatest asset was not my knowledge but my position in our community. So I started creating a space for church members to have more genuine encounters with one another. I learned not to look within myself for answers but to summon the gifts of others.

Rehumaning is at the core of it. Funny to say this. Yet, I say it often. We are just trying to create processes (or interrupt some stuck ones) that help us to be better, smarter, kinder, more imaginative humans together in these varied arenas of life. It helps to be deliberate in noticing where there is energy. It helps to create multiple encounters that welcome genuineness of what people really care about.