The Pastors Manifesto by Rowland Croucher

A ‘profession’ is a group of people engaged in an occupation or calling whose competency depends upon specialised

knowledge. A pastor’s ‘specialised knowledge’ is theology – knowledge of/about God. So their professionalism is enhanced

by disciplined and prayerful reflection on how Christian faith impacts specific situations

in the lives of people.

Pastors and other preachers shall therefore give sufficient time to reading, prayer and theological study so that their spiritual wells do not run dry.

Ministering ‘professionally’ means pastors and leaders will offer the best quality care, leadership of worship and preaching of

which they are capable; appropriately dealing with emotional and spiritual needs; being sensitive to people’s different social

contexts and cultures; following recognised and acknowledged modes of working in specialist areas such as bereavement,

trauma and suicide; practising ‘professional humility’ in terms of referring people to others with greater expertise; and being

sensitive to the needs and vulnerability of children and young people.

Pastors are ‘professionals’ in a different sense from which, for example, medical practitioners and

lawyers are professionals. (Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 1656, believed that the pastor was

‘counsellor for their souls, just as a lawyer was counsellor for their estates and a physician for their

bodies’). The latter two groups dispense ‘expertise’ to relatively passive recipients, and formulate

standards of practice independently of their clients. Pastors, on the other hand, minister as part of the

whole church – and are responsible to church bodies in which their ‘clients’ have a voice. Nevertheless

the central moral choice for pastors is the same as that for all professional persons: will I be an

empowerer of others, or an exploiter?

Opened old book in warm tintThus pastors and other leaders:

* have a responsibility to maintain high standards

of knowledge and skills in all the areas of ministry

relevant to their placement. This responsibility

requires that they undertake continuing

education, experience, professional consultation

and spiritual growth to increase their effectiveness.

(However, pastors and others will be wary of the modern trend to attend courses principally to ‘amass credentials’!).
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* shall not misrepresent their competence,

qualifications, training or experience or offer to

undertake and or engage in work beyond their

professional competence; in these situations

they shall make appropriate referrals.

* if they are forced by circumstances to provide care beyond their normal competence they shall discuss this

with their supervisor; seek guidance from a person with appropriate experience; and/or where warranted, seek opportunities

to develop appropriate skills.

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* while generally ‘autonomous’ in terms of the

control of their time, shall manage their time well

– seeking a proper balance between personal

obligations, church duties, family responsibilities.

* they will avoid being ‘overbusy’, ‘hyper-conscientious’

monopolisers of ministerial functions or roles: this

lack of true professionalism is sometimes a result of insecurity, or a need to create dependency.

* when making difficult ethical/moral decisions, shall consider the sometimes competing demands of

Christian veracity/truthfulness on the one hand,  and avoiding harm to people on the other.

* shall not engage in sexual relationships with people in their professional pastoral care.

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* have a moral and spiritual commitment to truthfulness, and shall not

plagiarise another’s ideas but will acknowledge sources for preaching

and writing material.

* will organise and administer their work conscientiously, remembering

that living in a covenant relationship with God and others means that we

keep our promises.

* shall encourage the church rather than disparaging it, and carefully distinguish ‘silence as lying’ from ‘silence as prudence’.

They shall neither exchange nor tolerate scandalous, malicious or inaccurate information with or about other persons.

* when giving references/recommendations shall discuss with the person concerned any reservations, and perhaps withdraw

their name if appropriate. (‘Recommend unto others as youwould have them recommend unto you!’)

* have a responsibility to provide unbiased pastoral care to those with whom they disagree, and to consult their supervisor in

relation to such  situations.

* shall not proselytise members of other churches, and except in emergencies shall not render  pastoral service to a member

of another congregation or occupy another pulpit without  consulting the pastor(s) / leaders of that church.

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* recognise the power that is inherent in their role,

and that it can be used for good or for harm to

others. They must learn non-abusive uses of this

power, and develop a commitment to justice (the

right use of power).

* not dominate, but be instruments of liberation for

others to live more fully the lives God intended for them.

They will ‘empower’ others for ministry – rather than monopolising most public-ministry

prerogatives, for example, thereby denying others such a ministry. The Latin expression puts it well:

‘Do ut des’ (‘I give that you may give’).

Rowland Croucher

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