If you are a UCC clergy member like me, you most likely participate in one or multiple clergy Facebook groups. There, our peers share the ups and downs they experience in our profession. Some days, pastors feel validated, enjoy meaningful ministries, and profound relationships. On days like these, we share articles that highlight the good times in ministry: Did you know that “Pastor” is among the top 25 careers for women? Then there are also times when meaningless meetings take over the schedule, financial constraints become stressful, and COVID causes contention in the congregation. That’s when we share articles that highlight the hard times in ministry: Are you surprised that 38% of U.S. Pastors Have Thought About Quitting Full-Time Ministry?
Yes, on some days, everything is awesome and yes, on some days, it feels like the world is coming to an end. And sometimes there are not a full 24 hours between those extremes. Most of clergy life, like in any other profession happens in the gray zone between the highs and the lows. Reality is complex. And of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a game-changer in so many ways: It added stressors and birthed opportunities.
The simple, well-intended question “How are you doing, pastor?” is not easy to answer. Even job satisfaction is not easy to measure in ministry. Most of the time, the question is not “Do I like my job?” because ultimately we don’t choose our jobs but God calls us into various ministry settings. Then the question is more like how do you bloom where you are planted. So eventually, I want to propose to use metrics of what the business world calls “employee engagement metrics” as a tool for clergy self-reflection. The list below includes translations into generic local church settings:
- Absenteeism: Do I start more workdays full of anticipation than dread?
- Parishioner safety incidents: Do I maintain healthy boundaries in ministries?
- Turnover: Do staff have a desire to leave?
- Shrinkage (theft): Do I devote more time to personal projects than actual work?
- Safety incidents (accidents): Do I make sure that everybody has the resources to safely do their ministry?
- Quality (defects): Am I engaged in upkeep and technology so that the church produces a high quality experience?
- Customer loyalty/engagement: Do more people leave the church than join?
- Productivity (sales): Do I make sure that newcomers receive an engaging welcome?
- Profitability: Is the current budget sustainable over the next five years?
While these questions are good for the day-to-day check-in with yourself, an institutional-level assessment can benefit from questions of the Gallup’s engagement survey. The list below includes church bodies that could action each item:
- I know what is expected of me at work. (Pastor relations committee)
- I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. (Church council)
- At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. (Pastor relations committee)
- In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. (Pastor relations committee)
- My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. (Committee on ministry, Association and Conference Staff)
- There is someone at work who encourages my development.(Committee on ministry, Association and Conference Staff)
- At work, my opinions seem to count. (Church council)
- The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important. (Pastor relations committee)
- My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. (Staff)
- I have a best friend at work. (Clergy cluster)
- In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress. (Pastor relations committee)
- This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. (Pastor relations committee)
The simple, well-intended question “How are you doing, pastor?” needs a lot of parsing. A quick answer in passing can only address one or two items that pertain to employee engagement. But hopefully, this more detailed look at what clergy persons are dealing with can be helpful for congregations, pastor relations committees, church councils, committees on ministry, and ultimately pastors themselves. Hopefully, you feel empowered to answer more than a simple, “I’m doing well, thanks!”