Pastoral Leadership in the age of Batfleck and #FireToddHaley


A few weeks ago, nerds* lost their minds.  Ben Affleck was named as the new Batman in the upcoming Superman/Batman movie, slated to release in 2015.

*Full disclosure: I am a nerd. 

The outrage was instant. 

"Does anyone remember Daredevil?!" they cried. "Marvel is doing a happy dance!" they moaned. 

To many a nerd, this was unacceptable. It was yet one more example of Hollywood going for the safe pick and trying to earn a paycheck. In their minds, this film is dead on arrival, with many not even willing to entertain the notion of standing in line for a ticket.*

*Full disclosure: In the end, the nerds WILL stand in line for a ticket.  

Around that same time, NFL got started up again, and fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers* also began losing their minds.  Todd Haley began his stint as the Steeler's Offensive Coordinator.

*Full disclosure: I have almost no interest in American Football. I like the kind of football where you use your foot know...kick the ball.  

In the wake of a horrendous 0-3 start to the season, the Steelers Nation took to the interwebs and began proclaiming that it is time to #FireToddHaley.

"Don't you know that scoring goals is the way to win games?!" they cried. "We should have listened to Kansas City when we had the chance!" they moaned. 


Ignoring whether or not the criticism leveled at these two gentlemen is justified, the salient point for today's lesson in Pastoral Leadership is a two-parter.

1) It is hard to be a public professional in the age of hyper-opinionizing. 

To be under the microscope of a congregation/session/presbytery/synod/general assembly is awfully hard. To have every move scrutinized and critiqued is difficult when you're often just trying to learn how to be good at what you do. For many, this kind of fishbowl living proves to be too much.

So we should acknowledge what leaders go through, and the fact that most of the folks offering their nuggets of wisdom would be much less welcoming of it if it were directed at them. Striving to create a culture of constructive support is a job for the long run, and pastors can model that for those they serve and make it an expectation. Believe me, it works when expectations are set publicly and prominently. It takes time, yes, but it pays off in the long run.  

In the meantime... 

2) We've gotta get over it. 

This is the life we were called to friends, and we shouldn't be naive about it. Ron Heifetz defines leadership as “disappointing people at a rate they can tolerate." Welcome to the big leagues. Disappointing people is a daily occurrence here. As sure as the sun will rise in the East and set in the West, 

Are the folks who start the whispering campaigns about us wrong to do so? Probably. Should they come talk to you directly? Definitely. Is our whining and moaning going to get it to stop? Absolutely not.

I know its a bit cliched, but if being the leader was easy everyone would do it. But it's not, and they don't. Being a leader means that someone is going to find some way of getting you up on some cross, and it is going to be unjust, and you're going to have to suck up everything you have to say "Forgive them, they don't know what they do." Right? Learn whatever lesson you can from whatever situation you're being thrust into, and then jettison the rest.

I want a healthy church just like everyone else. People are scared and frightened and there is more anxiety going around than grace these days. And that's a shame. But Jesus started with and handful of disciples, and changed the world, so don't–for one second–think that you don't have what it takes to weather whatever storm you're in. If God called you to this, then God must know something about you that you don't. Lean on that.