I was reading again Henri Nouwen’s classic, “The Wounded Healer.” His introduction mentions the need for a more relevant version of the old Minister’s Manual. The old ones were a sort of “how to” guide or “Ministry for Dummies” approach to local church functions. They were a very practical and helpful resource for younger pastors just getting started.
Traditional ministerial handbooks included sections on
How to perform a wedding,
Conducting funeral services,
Administering the sacraments and so on.
Back in the day, a pastor could navigate his way through a variety of ministry situations with the aid of a good Ministers Manual. I have 2 or 3 on my shelf and they are collecting dust.
Today’s pastors certainly need to know the things expounded upon in these Manuals. But wow, has ministry ever changed!
I would suggest the need for an updated Minister’s Manual. But the chapter titles have to change to reflect real life situations that pastors face in a post/Christian culture. Some of the ideas below are an attempt at humor; some are more poignant. Some will only be grasped by pastors serving in a local church setting. But they all are a commentary on how the world and, therefore, ministry has changed.
Modern ministry manual:
Chapter 1: When to call the cops, when to run for cover.
Ch. 2: Addictions: Everybody’s Got ‘Em.
Ch. 3: Breaking up a Fight at a Funeral.
Ch. 4: Kevlar, the Pastors Best Friend.
Ch. 5: Mental Illness: The New Normal.
Ch. 6: How to Tell the Difference Between Crack and Heroin.
Ch. 7: Is that Elder Packing Heat?
Ch. 8: The Tatooathon Youth Fundraiser
Ch. 9: The New and Improved Bullet Proof Pulpit.
Ch. 10: How to Preach a Sermon Without Offending Everyone.
Ch. 11: Xanax, a Pastor’s Best Friend.
Ch. 12: Yes, it’s a “Please Me” Culture; Now Get On With It
Ch. 13: When Your Board has Your Back, but they’re All Carrying Daggers.
Ch. 14: How much is too much therapy?
Ch. 15: Just Say “No” to Talking to the Opposite Sex (and to some of the same sex.)
Ch. 16: “Don’t take it personal but I hate your preaching!”
Ch. 17: Keep your hands out of the Offering Plate!
Ch. 18: Why You Keep an attorney on Retainer.
Ch. 19: Can I Write Off my Punching Bag?
Ch. 20: How to Baptize Cats Without Losing a Eye.
Ch. 21: 3 Points and a Tear-Jerking Illustration in 15 Minutes or Less.
Ch. 22: Think you can Make at least One Person Happy? Think Again.
Ch. 23; How to preach like Andy, Joel and T.D. and still be True to Yourself.
Ch. 24: How to Compete with Youth Sports, nice weather, bad weather, the beach, the boat, sickness, health and a thousand other things that keep people out of church.
Ch. 25; Leading People who Never Go Anywhere.
Ch. 26: When to empty your hate mail email folder.
Ch. 27: How to include every possible music genre in every worship service without anyone complaining.
Ch. 28 Yes, chronic insomnia is perfectly normal for Pastors.
Ch. 29: “Meat of the Word” Smoothies.
Ch. 30: Why people don’t believe it when you say, “your best days are ahead!”
Ch. 31 Preach the Gospel even if they kill you for it. And they might.
You get the idea. Ministry is different today than it’s ever been before. That’s because the world is different than it’s ever been before. I don’t think it’s necessarily harder than before. Recall, there have been Christian martyrs for 2,000 years. But for sure, these are unique times. Some of us are waiting for everything thing to get back to normal. My advice? Don’t hold your breath; it’s not going back.
You are called to this moment.
God is faithful and He will come through. We don’t know for sure what that means but we know He will come through.
Hang tough modern pastor!
What do you think? Do I have a new Ministers Manual in the works?