Pastors or CEO’s as Rabbis?

There has been a trend in the last 7-8 years to encourage Orthodox rabbis to be CEO’s of the congregation, get an MBA, learn how to control boards and build the metrics of your congregation. On the other hand, many of those who become pulpit rabbis in prior years who survived were “nice guys” they served as chaplains, visited the sick, counseled families, and maintained the status quo. The first group seeks power and eats smaller people for breakfast and the latter group is there as a family friend. Neither group seeks innovations in Judaism or Torah. They are two different sets of skills. In the recent Christianity Today, the major Evangelical magazine, one of the editors penned a nice push-back. Best line: “many clergy are fascinated with the idea that they can be leaders and entrepreneurs. These are the people our culture admires most”

Why We Need More ‘Chaplains’ and Fewer Leaders
What’s a pastor for?
Mark Galli | posted 12/01/2011 10:41AM

In my email recently came another list of suggestions on how to tell if your church is healthy. The warning signs of a sick church were lack of outreach ministries, increasing dropout rate, church conflict, little corporate prayer, and finally, the pastor has become a chaplain.
It’s becoming increasingly common to infer that when a pastor becomes a “chaplain,” the church is in trouble.

A Chaplain pastor is “wired for peace, harmony, and pastoral care. This is the type of pastor that has been produced by seminaries for several decades, though a few … a very few … seminaries are retooling. Chaplain pastors eschew change and value status quo. They don’t want to stir the waters; rather, they want to bring healing to hurting souls.” And if that weren’t bad enough, “Chaplain pastors don’t grow churches. In fact, a Chaplain pastor will hasten a congregation’s demise because they tend to focus on those within the congregation rather than in bringing new converts….”

We find ourselves in an odd period of church history when many people have become so used to large, impersonal institutions that they want that in their church as well.

A chaplain at a hospital or in the military is clearly not the highest ranking member of the institution, clearly not the person in charge of running things. The chaplain’s job is defined by service—service to the institution’s needs and goals, service to the individuals who come for spiritual help. The chaplain prays for people in distress, administers sacraments to those in need, leads worship for those desperate for God. In short, the chaplain is at the beck and call of those who are hurting for God. He’s not his own man.

There’s no mistaking a chaplain for an entrepreneurial leader, a catalyst for growth. No, the chaplain is unmistakably a servant.
In an increasingly secular, capitalist culture, it’s understandable that so many clergy are fascinated with the idea that they can be leaders and entrepreneurs. These are the people our culture admires most

When I was a pastor, I felt I gained more credibility with my church board—composed of mostly business people—when I could wax eloquent about the church’s “decadal growth” and the need to “target a young demographic” and create “revenue models” that would “ensure long-term stability” for the church.
Such is the culture we live in, where successful business people seem to enjoy really important work, and pastors, if they are not careful, will be chaplains, mere servants.
* * *
Eugene Peterson put it this way in The Contemplative Pastor: “The primary language of the cure of souls … is conversation and prayer. Being a pastor means learning to use language in which personal uniqueness is enhanced and individual sanctity recognized and respected. It is a language that is unhurried, unforced, unexcited—the leisurely language of friends and lovers, which is also the language of prayer.”

But the times I remember most, the times when my troubled soul has been most deeply affected and moved—outside of preaching and receiving the sacraments—have been when my pastor acted like a chaplain. When he pulled me aside in the narthex, put his arm around me, and prayed with me about some matter. When he visited me in the hospital. When in unhurried conversation I felt less alone, because I knew in a deeper way that God was present.
Some say that pastoral moments like these are like germs, and if we let such moments take over, they’ll make the church sick. I beg to differ. During such moments, the church is never more healthy. Read the Rest Here.

Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today. He also blogs at http://www.markgalli.com.

6 responses to “Pastors or CEO’s as Rabbis?

  1. I think that in some of the big kiruv organizations, like Aish HaTorah, the “corporate” mind-set is the dominant one. Aish is all about binging people in by using the up-to-date business models, as if the people Aish seeks to bring close to Hashem are consumers.

  2. The training for a rabbi all but demands striving for the CEO type position. With rabbinical schools running 5 – 6 years and tuition putting grads into debt to the tune of six figures who can afford to be suffering servant? To be sure, the on-demand role of chaplain has its place but the question needs to be asked: is rabbinic training appropriate or necessary? Why not have a social worker or psychologist with additional pastoral or chaplaincy training serve in these roles? I think one reason we don’t do this is because we’ve allowed the position of rabbi to take on more and more of the appearances and functions of the Christian minister/pastor. For them, after all, the idea of being a servant is essential to their identity and theology! Howard

  3. I think the real question is whether the rabbi is serving an existing community, or building a new community. When rabbis were hired by existing Jewish communities, a pastoral model (or the Jewish equivalent: the lamdan model) sufficed. When Jewish communities aren’t self-sustaining, you need a ceo model.

    My question is whether the shift at YU reflects a real perceived need with the Modern Orthodox commnity, or rather a competitive response to the successful CEO models of Chabad and Aish.

  4. “There has been a trend in the last 7-8 years to encourage Orthodox rabbis to be CEO’s of the congregation, get an MBA, learn how to control boards and build the metrics of your congregation.”

    I’m in the fourth (and normally the last) year of YU-RIETS’ s’mikha program. I haven’t seen *any* signs of this trend reflected in the content of its professional rabbinics classes.

  5. “The training for a rabbi all but demands striving for the CEO type position. With rabbinical schools running 5 – 6 years and tuition putting grads into debt to the tune of six figures who can afford to be suffering servant?”

    At the moment, enrollment in the four year s’mikha program at YU-RIETS is fully underwritten. The only cost to the student is a registration fee of $270 per semester.

  6. Okay, corrected, then it is the progressive Jewish rabbinical schools that are so expensive.

    H

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