By Preston Pouteaux
Last week I began by discussing the “Pastor Next Door” metric, which resets the current paradigm of what it means to be a pastor. Today, I want to get into rethinking how we measure pastoral success.
The pastors and leaders we want and need are those who have learned to be loving neighbours, to sit long around meals, and create space for making their neighbourhood beautiful.
Every year, when my honeybees emerge from a long cold Alberta winter, and the garden is springing back to life, I take my cue and dial back my office work for the church. I get out. I reconnect with neighbours, host barbecues, dig in the garden, spend afternoons walking through my neighbourhood, and find every excuse to be with the people around me.
We throw block parties with the new and old friends on our street, and with the kids we create lively, old-fashioned soapbox-car races down the only hill in our neighbourhood. It’s in these warm summer days that I feel like a pastor. It’s on the porch with neighbours, bees swooping past, dirt under our nails, in ripped jeans, that I see again the pace and posture of the pastoral calling.
In my context, my work is measured not by how many programs I can keep running or how big our next event could be. Our leadership team genuinely celebrates when we’re in the neighbourhood, being present and attentive. My preaching is shaped by experiences in my neighbourhood, my pastoral care is informed by the issues facing our small city, and my own family life is shaped by how we engage with other busy families in our community. As we place value on how engaged our pastors are in their neighbourhoods, we don’t lose productivity or efficiency, as some might contend. Something better is happening.
Just the other day, in the ice cream shop, a mother recognized me and wanted to chat. In the tattoo shop I discovered I knew almost everyone working there. The barbers are our friends, and the people who run the general store wanted some help with an idea they had. My next door neighbour offers business services to a church member who built my deck, and the friend who built my deck plays in a band along with my other neighbour on Thursday nights.
The intricate mix of friendships and neighbourhood connections start to look less like a program and calendar of events, and more like a network, a community, and a church. It is in these places of interpersonal relationships, in the shared joys and sorrows, anger and rest, where we as pastors are being called to reside. It’s here that we notice, almost as a surprise, that our church is growing, that people are coming to live like Jesus, and (who would have guessed) they’re also finding that they, too, want to love their neighbours. What is modeled in the life of the pastor, and in church leaders, often informs the shapes and contours of the community they serve.
The “Pastor Next Door” metric asks deep questions of us and our trust in Jesus: Are we willing to reside in the ambiguities and mysteries of God’s work in the places where we live? Are we willing to trust the often invisible hand of God, alive and at work always, right where we wake up every morning?
Could you be the “Pastor Next Door?”