Developing life-giving metrics for the pastor is very hard

Very regularly I talk with pastors who tell me  they struggle with setting measurable goals (metrics, they now call them).  Because I have lived in the pastor world for more than three-and-a-half decades, I can imagine what they are saying and feeling.

Is writing, say, a sermon, part of a pastor’s work life?  I bet you’d say, “Yes.”  Is playing tennis from 2-4pm with a church member part of the pastor’s work life?  Hmmm… Again, I bet you would say, “Yep.”  What about if a pastor plays tennis with me during the day?  “Oh my goodness, that sounds like very hard work.”  🙂

I actually met with a pastor a week ago who sought me out  — we met in a coffee shop, not a tennis court — for my counsel.  At the end of our conversation he thanked me and said, “Well, I better get back to work.”

Ah, “Excuse me, sir?” I thought.  Apparently meeting with me was not one of his metrics.  Never mind that he sought me out.  I actually punched him in the nose as we left the coffee shop.  Good grief…

There is nothing wrong with tracking things like efficiency, productivity, customer satisfaction and profitability.  But I meet with pastors and I see how hard it is for them to measure relationship building, cultivating ideas, identifying opportunities and developing people.

And yet, doing work like this is their unique contribution to the world.  But who of us doesn’t know that developing people is messy, time-consuming but absolutely essential?  Thus, over and over I try to help pastors embrace the tension they feel, rather than try to solve it and eradicate it from their life.

For me the cutting edge of judgment for pastors is mercy. And the cutting edge of mercy is understanding.

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