Relocating the Clergy Ego

When I speak at seminaries about leadership and management in congregations, professors usually need to be somewhere else, and students tend to doze. To wake them up, I mention a favorite topic, “ministerial authority.” Seminarians love to talk about the potent symbolism of the clergy role, and to picture people looking up at them projecting issues properly belonging to their parents. They reflect gravely on the special powers and obligations that the hands of ordination will load onto their heads.

On the whole this kind of talk is harmless; at best it gets some silly notions out of the way early. Seminary is the last occasion most students will have to fret about the perils of excessive clergy power. After graduation, those who take congregational positions mostly worry about how they are doing and all the things that measure that: praise, thanks, headcount, lack of controversy, money.

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