by Thomas McKenzie with Tish Harrison Warren.
This series is an ongoing Q&A between about ordained ministry. The introduction is here. Here is a link to all of the series as it rolls out.
Tish Warren: Should a pastor talk about his/her financial life or sex life or marital struggles publicly ever?
Thomas McKenzie: I think you can talk about struggles, but you should be fairly general. I think it’s OK to tweet “my transmission went out, and the $ is stressing me out!” That is fair, that is human. It isn’t fair to get up on Sunday and say “hey church, I could really use help with my car, anyone want to send in a love offering?” Sex? Even more so. “I love my wife and we have a great relationship” or “my husband and I sometimes struggle to make sure our needs are met” are good, human, general statements. Specific sex statements? No way. That’s just inappropriate for anyone to do in public.
Pastoral leadership requires weakness. Real weakness, including the confession of real sin. However, pastoral leadership does not ask the congregation or the public to care for your deepest emotional hurts. The congregation is not your friend or your therapist. It can be a weird line to walk, and you’ll probably screw it up. That’s OK.
Tish Warren: I’ve heard from some clergy say that you can’t or shouldn’t be close friends with parishioners. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
Thomas McKenzie: My three best friends go to our church. However, they became my friends first, we were friends for years, and then they started coming to our church. So far, it has worked out very well. On the other hand, my wife and I lost a friendship with a couple that was very close to us. This couple was part of our church, and I think that church issues fed the breakdown. Continue reading