Friday, March 25, 2011

Circles of Support…

I probably spent more time last weekend watching college basketball than sleeping. And that’s just fine with me. It’s March Madness time, of course- the annual tournament for NCAA college basketball to which people all over the country tune in. Back in Lexington, KY, where I pastored before Plymouth and home to the University of Kentucky Wildcats, these three weekends are almost sacred. For some Wildcats followers, basketball is a religious experience with March Madness the pinnacle of worship, so to speak. I’m not that kind of fan. But I do love it and watch as many games as possible.

Anyway, I wonder if, for even non-fans, you’ve ever noticed something true about all basketball teams? The suits on the bench. To clarify lingo, “the bench” in basketball is the row of chairs on the sideline where players (who aren’t playing) and coaches sit. The suits I refer to are the inevitable grouping of gentlemen or ladies in business attire, apparently required professionally to don more stuffy garments than the sweat suits bench-sitting players prefer. These are, presumably, assistant coaches, statisticians, trainers or work-study student gofers that just like being near the team. Every team has a cadre of suits on the bench. Always the head coach, but never just the head coach.

You ever wonder exactly what the not-the-head-coach suits on the bench do? During practice, you assume the coach decides what to practice and why. During games, the coach decides substitutions or what plays to run. What else could a 14-person basketball team need for all those other suits? Apparently lots, since every team’s got them, some even exceeding the number of uniformed players.

Well, I imagine we could talk endlessly about the suits’ functions. But one in particular seems relevant to our church- their support and advisory role. The head coach, who’s ultimately responsible for strategy, training techniques, what color tie to wear, probably should never decide things alone. Gathering folk to think through problems, hear different perspectives, act as conduits for the players, probably increases the coach’s effectiveness. Maybe one or two wonderful coaches operate as lone wolves. But most of us are wired to need help!

I mention this as a (very!) rough analogy to something within our church you may not know about- The Pastoral Relations Team. In short, the PRT is a small group of folk who support and advise the pastor in her/his (my!) pastoral duties. We’ve had PRTs on and off over the years, I’m told. It took about 18 months to get one off the ground for me, and we’re still working out kinks. But a PRT’s basic goal is to listen to the joys and concerns of my job as I see them, help me and the whole church set effective time boundaries and professional expectations, and importantly, serve as another means of communication between the congregation and its pastoral leadership. Unlike suits on the bench, they rarely help teach ‘skills and strategies’! But they really help me, and I think they can help you too.

Which is why I bring this up. #1- I want you to know there’re folk to turn to (besides me) with your ideas, comments, hopes or frustrations for your pastor. They are, currently, Becky Bell, Tom Jarvi, Mike Barnes and Steve Weaver. If you have feedback, PLEASE say something so we can live together more faithfully into the wonderful call God has for us. #2- Soon, they’ll be asking for specific feedback regarding your pastoral and church priorities, so they can help me reshape time management practices, expectations and opportunities. And I didn’t want that to come out of the blue.

But mostly, I wanted you to know that this in another way our church helps me serve you in our common vision to become a beacon of Christian openness and service in the NW suburbs. We won’t get there, I believe, if I don’t have circles of support listening to me, challenging me, praying for and assessing with me, not to mention providing everyone another communication channel. For that work, I am very grateful. No lone wolves in this church! Especially not the pastor.

Grace and Peace,


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