Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feeling and display rules for pastors

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on feeling and display rules, it occurs to me that being a pastor with a lot of these rules.

Feeling rules are emotions that pastors are supposed to feel. Maybe joy? Love for the lost?

Display rules: Emotions that pastors are supposed to display, even if they are not feeling them. Maybe interest in people telling them about their lives?

What do you think? Do pastors have a lot of these rules? If so, what are they?


Daniel Clark said...

One key display rule, in some churches, would be showing the joy and peace of a re-born life.

Might it actually be that one cause of ministerial burnout is the inability to attain the standards of display and feelign rules?

Brandon H. said...

I think pastors are held to certain rules as expectations--but this shouldn't necessarily be the case. In fact, they are often held to much higher standards of rules like this--but aren't they only human, too?

I think I would give a yes to Dan's question above. Following such rules and the high standards expected (emphasis on the expectations!) is no doubt difficult for pastors, and certainly is a contributing factor to ministerial burnout.

Anonymous said...

I think there are often strong rules governing display rules for pastors. Unfortunately, they are also quite different depending on who we are talking to. Some of the more common ones include:
1. Happily adhere to a lower standard of living than congregants.
2. In general, be happy.
3. Humbly accept critiques, jokes about our profession, and complaints about differences between our preferences (worship, teaching, etc.) and a congregant's preferences.

I think it is critical for elders and deacons to take a strong role in educating the rest of the congregation in treating pastors with respect and honor, demonstrating support for them, following their leadership with wisdom, giving them the space to be ordinary friends and followers of Jesus, etc. (This does not mean mindless following, never critiquing them, or placing them on a different kind of pedestal).

This is also part of good pastoral leadership, in terms of setting good expectations, and challenging people to live up to them. We have to take primary responsibility for creating nurturing, hospitable communities (and actively working against and refusing to give into toxic expectations). We need to gently and prayerfully educate church members, with the foundation of God's Word as our guide, on how the church is to be ordered, and take responsibility for setting forth an attractive vision for the sociological rules of that community (the beatitudes are a great place to start).

Brad Wright said...

That's a good point, Daniel. I hadn't thought about how these rules could be linked to burn out... they certainly add a lot more work to the job.

Brandon, this is something you've seen firsthand, no?

Anon, you have some really good ideas about what should be done in churches. I think the rule of, in general, being happy is at the core of the feeling rules for pastors.

Anonymous said...

It seems that one general emotional rule for pastors is that they are to show compassion/sympathy. It doesn't matter if the person has brought all their trouble on themselves or refuses to do basic things to help themselves. The rule is pastors are supposed to care and continue to care about the level of suffering experienced by others.
Which in the long run leads to compassion fatigue.

Chuck said...

fascinating observation. i'd be interested in a couple bibliographic references for exploring further, if you have.

what i notice beyond feeling and display rules for pastors at the level of personal interaction, are feeling and display rules for sermons, that sermons are increasingly evaluated by the pastor's display of feelings, but even more, through that means, by the feelings which the sermon calls forth in the listeners.

that sermons are increasingly predominately feeling events. and that the feelings sought are overwhelmingly light positive. like a 'feel-good' movie in the romantic comedy or inspirational sports genre. which may help to explain why movie clips and human interest stories are replacing interaction with the biblical text, which, apart from Jesus stories in the early portions of the gospels, are seemingly not predominately about light positive feelings.

Brad Wright said...


That's really interesting about emotions in sermons. Maybe pastors should go to acting school as well as seminary?

As far as references, the seminal book in this area is "The Managed Heart" by Arlie Hochschild. She looks at emotion work done by flight attendants.

Thank you for your comment.