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Ministers deal with desk work, too

Religion Columnist

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

A photography student phoned the church a couple of weeks ago, asking the secretary if she could schedule an appointment with me. The secretary told me this student was preparing a photo essay on clergy and wanted to take two photos of each pastor. She wanted one photo posed in the pulpit and the other one sitting behind the desk in the office.

The scheduling didn’t work for me, but her request got me to thinking about those two photos. I would have been glad to have been portrayed in the pulpit but would have been far less enthusiastic about a photo from behind my desk. Most pastors (including this one) never realized that their calling to ministry included time behind a desk.

Although I never spoke to this photographer personally, I played out a conversation in my head with her that went something like this, “I’ll be glad to meet you at the pulpit, but you’ll have to follow me to the hospital or nursing home or maybe go on a pastoral visitation call with me to get that second photo. Those places are my real office.”

But suddenly I found that my imaginary conversation took an uncomfortable turn and became an internal debate. How could I deny that a photo of me behind a desk represented my ministry, too? I hated to admit it, but I did spend time there. Some days I spend lots of time there.

Every pastor had better master what it means to be an administrator lest he or she fail miserably in caring for a flock. Unless one is a traveling evangelist (and possibly even then) church administration is an integral part of every pastor’s ministry.

It may be more personally rewarding to visit hospitals, officiate at weddings, serve as chaplain for the police or fire department, etc., but thinking through church budgets, recruiting and equipping people for ministry, establishing and sustaining church committees and ensuring the church building isn’t crumbling is very much a part of ministry; the person who avoids this or gives it short shrift is doomed to failure.

My imaginary conversation with this photographer had been more than a little self righteous, as if I were telling her, “I’m too busy and important to sit behind a desk. That’s for lesser people.”

Frankly, my imaginary conversation should have included these words: “Even though the desk photo may not be dramatic, it will honestly convey that this pastor spends a lot of time writing sermons, preparing for Bible studies and relating to people from a telephone at some desk.”

Maybe most pastors fancy themselves to be on the front line, leading some charge or other most of their time, but I suspect many of us spend a great deal of time if not chained to a desk, at least engaged in some form of administration. And that’s not such a bad thing when it comes to maintaining the spiritual health of a congregation.

Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at creede@wesleymonumental.org.