Thursday, November 4, 2010

Needs, Wants, and Self-Assessments

"And she says 'Your debutante just knows what you need/ but I know what you want'" - Bob Dylan, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

As a Circuit Counselor, I now get to oversee a vacant congregation's self-evaluation which is considered to be a vital process of calling a pastor. This fills me with great trepidation. Why?

We tend to confuse the idea of "Need" with "Want". If a person is asked, "What does this congregation need", the answer you will hear is often what that person "wants". "We need ______" is quite often simply a way of saying, "I want _____".

This is partially because we live in a society that is highly focused on advertising - on convincing you that you *need* product X, that product Y just won't do when you can have product X. This is something that is attached to virtually every form of popular entertainment we have -- TV commercials, product placement in movies and video games, adverts in magazines. And of course, our choices in entertainment are high based upon advertising.

"Now there are seven kinds of Coke/500 kinds of cigarettes/ This freedom of choice in the USA drives everybody crazy" - X, See How We Are

And in this advertising culture, we think in terms of choosing what we want. That becomes the question - what do you want? And it is a dastardly question. Shall I lament here the parent who asks their 5 year old if they "want" to go to Church? And I worry how this plays out in terms of the call.

The purpose of a call meeting is not to try and get the Pastor you "want" - not to treat the calling of a pastor as a means of trying to shape and make the Church into what you want (and God help you if a congregation gets a pastor who thinks he ought to shape the congregation into what he "wants" the congregation to be!) - but I fear that these are the dynamics we fall into.

I think what I am going to do is show the Elders there one self-evaluation tool that just ranks how important a list of 30 things are... that's not too bad.

But I'm also going to give them a blank SET (Pastor's "Self Evaluation Tool") and ask how the congregation as a whole would answer it... that gives them a base line to evaluate the SETs they will see - that seems more objective about what a man will "preach" and "teach" rather than who the guy happens to be.

Thoughts? Advice?


Bror Erickson said...

So you are a circuit counselor too now eh? Fun job. And yeah, congregations and this self evaluation. What they need is a pastor faithful to the word who preaches gospel and administers the sacrament and is not averse to visitation. But explaining that needs to be done with care.

Mike Baker said...

"I need ____." helps us get what we want because it creates the illusion of urgency so that there is no longer really a choice. If I truly need something then alternatives are pretty much out of the question and considering them is a waste of time.

I this way, defining things in terms of need protects us from having to discern things deeply. If I "need" something then it can't possibly be a result of gluttony, greed, envy, or lust. It is a way of making an internal impulse into an external (and largely irresistable) demand.

These excuses go beyond the realm of sin an ethics. When it comes to decision making, framing something as a need makes one option a forgone conclusion rather than considering it one among many choices. These kinds of "needs" help us to control our environment when we interact with others. They help us protect our future from the possibilty of unwelcome change or unforseen circumstances.