Monday, February 4, 2013

Churches with Reactive Attachment Disorder

I just finished an interesting conversation with Treasurer, who was also on the search committee that called me to this congregation.  He has a friend who has been in to talk to me several times about his belief that the congregation desperately needs a vision statement.  I have agreed with him, and told him that we would be writing one, but the time wasn't right yet.  When he last was in to see me in November, I told him that the board had agreed that 2013 would be the year in which we developed a new vision statement. 

Treasurer has been frustrated because Friend continued to complain about lack of vision, and didn't seem to be reassured by my comments.  Yesterday's sermon was focusing on the church as the body of Christ with the responsibility for carrying out Christ's mission, which he stated when he read from Isaiah in Nazareth in Luke 4.  I talked about all of us having gifts to contribute to the body of Christ, and our need to discern what it is God is calling us to do. 

This morning our website/social media coordinator asked me for the two questions I charged the congregation to ponder in their prayer time this week so she could post them to our facebook page.  She had really liked the sermon.  Today Treasurer that his friend was happy that I had said we would be working on discerning God's call to us this year as we write a vision statement.  That seemed finally to convince him.

Treasurer was frustrated, though, because my assurance we would do it at the right time had always been enough for him, and he just couldn't understand why they weren't for his friend. 

Just like children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, congregations that have had difficulty with previous pastors find it hard to trust.  They will test the new pastor, and just just as the adoptive parent of a RAD child needs to respond with love in the face of testing and acting out, the pastor needs to respond with love in the face of testing and acting out.  Treasurer had enough experience with me that he trusted me and my reassurances were enough.  His friend did not.  I had to earn his trust, and he tested me as he came in with his list of complaints about what was wrong with the church.  Each time I listened to him and responded calmly, hearing him out and agreeing with many of his points.  He didn't quite trust/believe me until I publicly stated in yesterday's sermon that we would be focusing on vision this year.  This month's newsletter came out Friday, and it mentioned vision in several places, as well. 

I am amazed how much I have learned about being the pastor of a congregation with a history of conflict from being Daughter's parent.  I knew that there was a lack of trust for pastors in this congregation.  After a long term, well loved founding pastor there had been a difficult interim, challenges with the second pastor that led to his dismissal, and a long-term interim who had alienated a number of leaders.  I knew that I would have to earn trust.  I believed that to try to write a vision statement before there was trust would be a disaster.  In November I asked the board if they thought we had built enough trust to address vision this year.  They said yes.  By publicly talking about it yesterday, I think I earned a little trust from Treasurer's friend. 

Treasurer was still frustrated by his friend's attitude this morning, but I think after I explained the trust issues in Reactive Attachment Disorder, he had more understanding of what is behind his friend's doubts. 

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