I pastor in a rural context where I’m called ‘Pastor’ more than my actual name. It’s almost like my identity. But I tend not to insist (or expect) everyone to use the title of ‘Pastor’. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using the title; and for most, it’s simply a way to show respect. I don’t disregard that. I just simply value relationships over a title.
When I was a boy, I dreamed of becoming a pastor. I guess with that, came the title and honor. From a child’s perspective that might have been where my dreamed stopped. But as I actually embrace the pastoral call, I’m realizing being awarded the title really isn’t that important.
There’s a whole lot more to pastoring than the title. And there’s a whole lot more to me than pastoring. There’s a whole lot more to #pastoring than the title. And there’s a whole lot more to me than pastoring. Click To Tweet
I’ve chosen to respond to both those who use the title, and to those who don’t. I don’t hide from my calling and I certainly don’t lie about what I do in the community, but they aren’t usually the first words out of my mouth either. We have to remember that we live in a pluralistic world. Most people don’t view clergy like generations before us.
I want to share ten reasons why I don’t ask people (especially those outside of my local church) to call me ‘pastor’. Hopefully this will help you, wherever you are in your journey, to realize that relationships are more valuable than a title.
1. Pastoring is what I do, not who I am.
First and foremost, my name is Andrew Holm. I am a sinner, saved by grace. I find my identity in Christ and therefore I am a child of God. My identity isn’t pastor, my identity is in Christ. Pastoring is the call on my life.
2. Relationships are powerful, titles aren’t.
I would rather build a relationship with someone than a distant connection. We can quite often allow titles to get in the way of authentic relationship building. Why? Because we feel like we have to act different around the ‘pastor.’
3. I’m not everyone’s pastor.
I pastor in a community of about 6000 people. I pastor about 100 of them. That means there are 5900 other people in my community that I don’t pastor. Yes, many respect what we do, but I shouldn’t expect them to recognize me as pastor.
4. It doesn’t always mean respect.
There are several ways we can show respect. Just by using the title ‘pastor’ doesn’t mean respect is given. Truth be told, we respect people with things like the tone of our voice, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and simply being kind. Of course there are many other ways, but you get the picture.
5. I’m a different pastor, not a previous pastor.
Sometimes a prior experience with a previous pastor (good or bad) can impact future relationships. The good news: I’m not the previous pastor. The bad news: I’m not the previous pastor. I offer something different, and I wouldn’t want the past to impact our relationship.
6. So that people are ‘normal’ around me.
It’s already bad enough sometimes. Many will ‘watch their language’ or apologize when they don’t. When I introduce myself as ‘pastor’ people aren’t the same around me. I would rather them meet Andrew, and realize that I pastor.
7. It helps people lower their guard.
Using the title can sound very ‘I’m better than you.’ I don’t insist on the title, because I want people to engage in normal conversation, and not just small chat about the weather.
8. It avoids making people feel small.
Just because I pastor, doesn’t mean I’m not a sinner. We’re all sinners. God’s grace saves us through faith, but we’re all still very imperfect. The only difference for those who pastor, is the responsibility of teaching and leading. I certainly don’t want to give the impression that others are beneath me.
9. It removes the pedestal.
Many put the ‘pastor’ on a pedestal above everyone else. I realize I’m not perfect, so I’d rather not encourage people to put me somewhere I don’t belong. That will only end in disappointment.
10. It gives me a break.
Pastoring is a life-long calling, I get that. But sometimes it’s nice just being Andrew. My responsibility is never lowered, but there are times when I need to focus on how God is forming me and not just how God is forming others.
I don’t stop people from calling me pastor. Neither do I assume they don’t respect me, if they don’t. I just prefer people get to know me as Andrew, and that I pastor Bethel Bay Roberts.
I also realize that avoiding a title will not fully lead to these ten outcomes, but it can help. It’s about relationships and growing together as we worship, love and serve.
Some of my parishioners choose to use my first name…
Pastoring is all about #relationships — let's not let a title get in the way. #ministry #discipleship Click To TweetI only have one rule: You can use my first name as long as, when it’s time for me to pastor you, you give me the right to pastor you. If our friendship will get in the way, train yourself to use the title.
Within discipleship, the title of pastor is a function and a necessary part of growth. Outside of that, pastoring is all about relationships — let’s not let a title get in the way.
How do you address your pastor? Have you asked your pastor how they would like to addressed? How do you introduce your pastor in public?
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