MAHONING VALLEY DISTRICT
At a recent GBHEM conference, researcher Dr. Matt Bloom shared that healthy and resilient clergy have both a backstage support crew and offstage time. What does he mean?
If clergy life were theater, the audience is both the congregation and the community. Clergy are onstage a lot: leading worship and preaching, teaching and small group ministry, running meetings, being out and about in the community in various ways as a
clergyperson. We love (most of) it, or we wouldn’t be clergy. Just like actors and actresses, we spend a lot of time preparing for those onstage moments.
But we need a backstage support crew. The backstage crew helps us practice, rehearse, and improvise for the front stage. These are people we can celebrate with when an event goes really well, when we can see the seeds we planted bear fruit, when the Holy Spirit works through us to bring exactly the sermon needed. These are also people who can encourage us on the day we wish no one had heard that sermon, or no one showed up to the event, or no one is saying “yes” to being SPR chairperson. The backstage crew can also help us practice for the conversation about LGTBQ individuals and the church, or having to let a staff member go. We might have a couple of backstage crews, just as a theater has different crews for lights, props, and costumes. If we have a church staff, that might be one place where we process what’s going on. Our clergy friends will “get it” like no one else. Our non-clergy friends can remind us of the non-clergy perspective and offer the skills and wisdom of their life experiences. It is backstage time if we can be fully who we are as clergy, mutually care for each other, and prepare together for being onstage.
Offstage time matters, too. Offstage time is when we disconnect and remember who we are apart from being clergy. This may mean turning off or putting away our phones for a while! It definitely means doing activities we enjoy, simply for the sake of enjoying them and who God created us to be. (If you’re doing it to meet people to invite them to church, it doesn’t count as offstage.) Offstage time sometimes involves people we love, who accept us as we are; and sometimes it is time in solitude with God. We need some offstage time every day, as well as our weekly Sabbath. (Am I the only who has noticed that our conference has a culture of talking about how important our day off is while also having a bragging contest of who’s gone the longest without one?)
Lent is always an extra busy time for clergy, as we seek to help people prepare their hearts for the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. As you go through this next month, I encourage the clergy to notice our time; whether we have enough backstage and offstage time to renew us for the frontstage time. I encourage laity to apply the same principles to your own lives, and also to encourage your clergy to develop their backstage crew and offstage time. Why? So that while we await the eternal life Christ offers, we might also enjoy the abundant life Christ offers us now!
The Mahoning Valley District Office:
Rev. Abby Auman
4580 Canfield Rd, PO Box 11260 Youngstown OH 44511
Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
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