January 2009
Ministry of Wardens

Let’s hear it from the other side

Question: What are five best traits for a rector to have?

How about: inspirational, organized, a great multi-tasker, outstanding people skills, and a good delegator? And underscore that with humility.

My selfish side would like a rector that solves every problem before it gets to me, and makes me look good with very little effort on my part. I would like a rector who is good at everything, all the time, inspirational from the pulpit, infinitely patient in every circumstance, jovial at all times, and loved by all at all times. And oh, did I mention that he should be technologically savvy so he can rocket our parish into the 21st century, while being a financial wizard who can always make the budget balance?

I am a self-employed entrepreneur who prides himself at being the ultimate generalist — I am pretty decent at just about everything I need to do, but not really great at anything. A rector needs to be a good generalist, too. My rector often says that “if it was just the Sunday morning stuff, my job would be easy.” The rest of the week in parish life, the things that lay the groundwork for a great worship experience on Sunday, are perhaps more difficult, and often more critical to the long-term health of the parish.

With this in mind, I will start my wish list with Sunday services and work from there, and I will try to keep it obtainable, lest we get confused and start to think we are building the Bionic Rector:

1) Inspirational: Clearly, producing a Sunday service that moves and inspires the congregation is a great place to start. You do not want your rector to be a dud from the pulpit, and if I understand my fellow Episcopalians, I believe we all appreciate a good show on Sunday. The rector has to be able to deliver a good and consistent product on Sunday. This is job #1.

2) Organized: By this, I mean organized enough to be effective. I am a project manager by trade, and I have met two types of effective project managers — those with a meticulous desk, and those with desks that might qualify for Federal disaster relief.

So when I say organized, I am talking more about the results than the method. It is important that in the attempt to stay organized that one does not become a control freak. The rector needs to be a good conductor of the orchestra and avoid the role of the one-man vaudeville band.

3) A good multi-tasker: the rector, like the business entrepreneur, has to be the consummate juggler. The key to successful juggling is to be selective about how many balls you attempt to keep in the air at one time. Another key is to always keep priorities in mind when managing personal and parish time, talent, and treasure.

Avoiding perfectionism is critical — the rector’s job can be all consuming and then some. Sometimes you need to lower the bar. We have borrowed a phrase from business that we use a lot in our vestry meetings to keep us on track: “Good enough, proceed on.”

4) Outstanding people skills: the rector needs to be a peacemaker, leader, motivator, spiritual guide, communicator, counselor, and negotiator, while possessing patience, wisdom, and perspective. The biggest trap is becoming a people pleaser. No one is going to be perfect at this. At the end of the day, if the rector has been a good example of a spiritual work in progress, and allows himself to be accessible, personable, yet still in charge, he has done all he can.

5) A good delegator: this ties in with organization, multi-tasking, and people skills. To move the community forward, the rector must motivate and empower people to move their own missions, and the mission of the community, forward. Letting people run with their own ideas, so long as they check in and get proper sign-off, is critical.

The one trait I would like to infuse all these other attributes with is the key to having it all come together — Humility. From this most basic (and most difficult) spiritual trait will naturally flow many of the other traits needed to lead a spiritual community. From humility will flow the basic message a community needs to hear from the rector — “I am not in charge. God is. All is well. Rejoice.”

Jay Nord is the senior warden of St. Martin’s by-the-Lake Church in Minnetonka Beach, Minnesota.

This article is part of the January 2009 Vestry Papers issue on Ministry of Wardens