There's a small part of me--a small, petty, resentful, peccatory part of me--that thinks the worst possible thing you can do to a person is to hire him or her onto the staff of a church.
I don't have that thought at all times; far from it, actually. In my more idealistic moments I think it's probably a privilege to serve a faith community in such a formal capacity. But there are days when I observe the challenges that church staff endure, and I wonder what they did wrong in a previous life. And I don't even believe in that sort of thing.
I used to attend a church whose pastor spoke very openly about his view that, if you want something done, you should ask a busy person. That pastor oversaw a congregation full of very busy people, for which he was largely responsible. Burnout ensued on a grand scale--the kind of burnout people seek therapy for, the kind of burnout people oust pastors over. I left that church suspicious of such a rather rosily presented paradigm.
Since then I've wondered, in my smaller moments, whether that pastor's strategy was simply pre-emptive self-protection. I've occasionally encountered the opposite extreme: if you want something done, you should ask a pastor, or a youth director, or a church secretary, or anyone with an in-box at your place of worship. No church activity, under this model, should take place without the watchful oversight of church personnel; no event should pass, no prayer should be uttered, without the explicit "Amen" of a person of the cloth. The result, I suspect, is similar: burnout on a grand scale. And so I'm suspicious of such a superficially devout paradigm.
One thing I notice about both poles of this continuum is the hidden clause of the contention: "If you want something done (and you don't want to do it yourself) ask . . ."
Now, I'm sure churches aren't the sole domain of this sanctified sneakiness. There's a sense, in fact, in which it's a basic principle of leadership:
(1) Identify what you want.
(2) Identify what you're not willing to do about it.
(4) Repeat 1-3.
It may even be elemental to the human condition. But there's something small, petty, peccatory in such a model when laid out so starkly.
There's a power dynamic in play: to delegate is the privilege of the enfranchised, not the disenfranchised. The weak serve the strong; the strong target the weak. That's social Darwinism in a nutshell. Churches are not immune to such power dynamics, and for that reason at least churches--from the staff to the laity, from the elder to the newer--are called to an ethic of service, something like
(1) Identify what is needed.
(2) Identify what you're capable of doing about it.
(3) Do it.
(4) Repeat 1-3.
In my more idealistic moments I might call that leadership, but I'll be honest: it's midnight and I'm in a bad mood.
I've also recently been gently chastened about leadership being a virtue to which far too many people aspire. By the simple rules of capitalism, tyranny and other such elemental forces, it's clear that most people cannot lead; most people must follow. By the simple example of Jesus, however, it's clear that all people--even the Lord of heaven and earth--can serve. And so, in those moments when I am feeling particularly paradoxical--simultaneously snarky and saintly--I pray, "My kingdom for a kingdom of servants!"
I'm going to need a good night's sleep to figure out what that even means.