CEO or Physician?

stethoscopeI’m working on a long article. Here is a short excerpt. What do you think is the best metaphor for a local pastor?

There are a couple of occupational metaphors for someone going into a full time ministry career. The rise of the mega church over the past 25 years has led some to equate the lead parson as the “CEO” of the local house of worship. One potential problem of this metaphor is the primary ‘work’ of a faith leader doesn’t have anything to do with that of a CEO. Eugene Peterson says “The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.”   A better metaphor might be faith leader as Physician of the Soul. The origin of that saying goes back hundreds of years, probably predating a famous sermon by George Whitefield in the mid 1700s. The phrase is taken from Jesus famous retort to those questioning the company with which he chose to keep “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.”

The primary work of a faith leader is to tend to the spiritual health of those in their care. For that reason I really like the analogy of faith leader as a physician of the soul. My proposal is this: The way the medical profession educates physicians is a good example for how we should be educating occupational ministers.

Apprenticed Learning

francois bonvinFor most of human history the way to learn a craft was to work side by side in an apprenticed model. From Rabbi’s to blacksmiths, this model of learning has been used to transmit some portion of a lifetime of knowledge from one generation to another.

In today’s society, the written word (books, blogs, etc.) and organized education (grade school, trade school, graduate school) have taken a primary role in the passing on of institutional knowledge. There are even really good books written about how to organize your institution in a way where this knowledge can be passed in a written manner so employees bring as little creativity to their jobs as possible. Almost every organization of any significant size has written job descriptions for every position – and employees wandering too far outside those descriptions will find themselves looking for new organizations. This is the definition of a factory, even if every job in the organization is a white collar job.

But in a post factory world, there is a groundswell back toward the way of an artist. This model of apprenticed learning is at the heart of our Ministry Residency Program, which is modeled after the medical residencies in which future physicians participate.

It may even be helpful to think through occupational ministry in the context of another career. Many large churches consider the lead pastor a CEO, and in many ways the carry the responsibilities for a staff, building, budget, and planning. But I think that comparison emphasizes the business side of a church too much. My favorite metaphor for occupational ministry I’ve found so far is this: The physician of the soul.

To become a qualified ‘physician of the soul’, it makes sense to put the time in learning under the tutelage of a qualified mentor.

BONUS: Several years ago Tim Ferris blog had a guest posting by Robert Greene. He posted a six part series with autobiographies of famous people who used some form of an apprenticed model of learning toward their life work. Here are those links:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

Lessons from Medical Residency

stethoscopeI attended a Residency Summit last week and left with some great ideas, an appreciation of public transportation, and a Cubs victory in a play-in game.

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from Dr. Greg Ozark. Dr. Ozark has led medical residents for 15 years at Loyola Medical Center and he came to share lessons from the medical world that we could apply to our Theological Residencies, and specifically to our Ministry Residency Program.

Perhaps the most valuable observation I gathered was this. A medical doctor will go through 4 years of undergrad, then 4 years of medical school. The first two years of medical school are spent in intensive book learning building their medical knowledge.

After two years of intensive study we have, in Dr. Ozark’s words, “a highly qualified paper weight”. Thus begins the final two years of med school – medical knowledge combined with clinicals. Clinical skills – actually working with patients – are radically different from just having the head knowledge of how to practice medicine. Clinical work is defined as pertaining to a clinic or to the bedside; pertaining to or founded on actual observation and treatment of patients, as distinguished from theoretical or experimental” (emphasis mine). Clinical work can’t be tested with a written test, instead Dr. Ozark outlined their intensive process of peer evaluation of 6 core competencies measured with 1-5 grade milestones.

One of the major motivations behind the Ministry Residency Program here at Denver Seminary was an understanding that “Theological Education” needed to be combined with actual hands on “Ministry” work. Just like a med student needs a comprehensive baseline of knowledge, you need a solid theological foundation to practice occupation ministry. But a theological education by itself is insufficient to do ministry. You have to get into the field and begin to ‘get your hands dirty’.
We have a hope that your ministry ‘clinicals’ are the actual practicing of ministry with careful observation and feedback from qualified mentors.

Personal Finance Lessons

slideAdam Nash is an active member in Silicon Valley’s tech scene. He has given this presentation to a number of major tech firms – specifically addressing engineers.

While you might be thinking ‘I’m wired as differently as possible from an engineer’, I believe you’ll find great value in this simple walk through personal finance.

One of the most important things to take away: Always understand and remember your personal bias. In other words, know what you don’t know. Nash points out that engineers are at greater risk because they think they are rational but in reality they are not. His talk focuses on these main areas:

  • You Are Not Rational (Behavioral Finance)
  • Liquidity is Undervalued (Emergency Fund)
  • Cash Flow Matters (Spend less than you Earn)
  • The Magic of Compounding (Investment Returns & Debt Disasters)
  • Good Investing is Boring (Asset Allocation)

Nash spends over half the time talking through the first subject – Behavioral Finance. I strongly believe this is the right balance – personal finance theory and strategies are very simple – changing personal behavior is not.