Is your pastor “a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand”? (According to Google just now, that’s the definition of an enigma.) I was reminded recently that some people in our culture—maybe many people—still place pastors on a pedestal: a high and lofty, out-of-reach place. Pastors may be considered holy, special, better-than-lay-people, perfect, and/or extra-close-to-God. The truth is: we are regular human beings who felt a strange and wondrous calling from God to serve other humans and teach them about God and Jesus. It’s very likely we had questions for God about that call somewhere along the way. And certainly, there is a lot of responsibility that comes when one answers positively to that call.
I remember when I learned that pastors weren’t just holy, perfect people who lived on some realm higher than the rest of us. I was in 6th grade confirmation class, and one of my pastors told us a story about a time when he had gotten into trouble as a child; the story had something to do with wearing a Superman cape and breaking something… Anyway, I remember wondering then, for the first time, what it would be like for me to be a pastor.
As pastors, we are teachers, leaders, servants, listeners, guides, advice-givers, pray-ers, visionaries, role models, shepherds, sources of hope, builders and fixers. But we are also people, just human people. We can often relate to Adam, Eve, Joseph, Moses, Miriam, Samuel, David, Esther, Ruth, Job, any of the Marys, Joseph, Peter, Thomas, Martha, James, John and all the rest of the characters in the Bible—maybe even more than we’d like to admit. We’ve said and done silly things and stupid things. And while pastors must maintain healthy boundaries and should not be your best friend (or if a pastor is your best friend, then s/he cannot also be your pastor), this doesn’t mean you can’t have a friendly relationship with your pastor and get to know more about her/him as a person.
I think you should always feel free to talk to your pastor about her/his call to ministry and other church/God/Bible related things. But I think you should also be able to learn more about who your pastor is as a person, as another human being created in the image of God, walking next to you in this time and place. And maybe even ask some silly questions… When I first stood before my current congregation, just before they voted to approve me as their Associate Pastor, one of the youth sitting on the front row asked, “Where do you squeeze a tube of toothpaste: at the front, in the middle, or at the end?” As this was a rather formal event and I stood before the congregation in a suit and heels, I heard several gasps in the sanctuary. Someone even called out, “You don’t have to answer that!” Knowing that this question was part of the youth group’s culture and was important to them (I’d answered the same question more than a dozen times at previous youth retreats and events), I explained that it was not a problem and promptly said, “At the end.” After all, I do brush my teeth.
So today, I offer you: 12 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR PASTOR
- What is your favorite thing about living here?
- Who is someone, living or dead, you’d like to meet for lunch (other than Jesus!)?
- If you were not a pastor, what job would you love to do?
- What is your favorite type of food?
- Where is your favorite place to visit? (Why?)
- If you could be any animal, what would you be? (Why?)
- If you wrote a new book, what would it be called?
- What is the silliest thing you’ve done?
- What is your favorite game to play?
- What is your favorite dessert?
- What is your favorite TV series/show?
- If you had a Sunday morning off (gasp!), what would you do?
I think you should consider copying and pasting one of these questions into an email and sending it to your pastor right now. Or invite your pastor to meet for coffee or lunch and ask some of these questions.
And if you are a pastor: I hope you’ll use this as a reminder to not always “talk shop” when you meet up with your colleagues. I think we tend to spend a lot of our free time and/or social life thinking and talking about our churches. That’s not all bad, but we need to remember to nurture our whole selves with other parts of the abundant life God offers.
May we enjoy and nurture fellowship with one another!