Many of those who seek to engage clergy on behalf of Scouting do not understand what the clergy's actual role in the religious institution they lead is. This leads them to seek from the clergy support or services that the clergyperson is unable or disinclined to give.
A. So, what do clergy actually do?
Clergy are incredibly busy. The average full-time clergyperson working in the local church may put in 50-60 hours per week doing ministry. Pastors of small congregations may be "part-time," but that just means they're doing another job on top of their pastoral work.
Clergy work most evenings and weekends, since that is when their members are most available to be worked with. It is also a typical expectation that they spend some time in set office hours, as well as doing work through the day. What could take up so much time?
Conducting worship takes up a significant chunk of time, at least one day a week; however, preparing for that hour or so of worship may take several hours of sermon preparation, choir practice, and office work.
Pastoring the faithful takes up a lot of time. There are calls to be made at hospitals, nursing homes, residences, and sometimes jails. Some persons ask for counseling in the pastor's office. Weddings and funerals are very labor-intensive, though hard to predict.
Teaching the faith is an important part of the clergyperson's duties. The clergyperson may lead one or more Bible studies, teach a regular class in the Sunday/Sabbath School, do an annual confirmation class. In addition, the pastor will often lead or assist in various retreats over the course of the year.
Administration is a never-ending job. There are reports required by the clergyperson's denomination to fill out, church and community committee meetings to attend, newsletters and liturgies and other documents to produce. Answering phone and e-mail messages is a daily chore.
Many denominations require the clergyperson to do a certain amount of Continuing Education every year. This includes things like professional reading, courses and seminars, trips and tours, denominational meetings. And, of course, the clergyperson is expected to keep up the routines of piety expected for an active adherent to his religious tradition (personal prayer, meditation, devotional study).
B. The influence of the clergy goes beyond their actual duties.
Clergy help define goals for their religious institutions. If they're for it, the chance of the congregation pursuing it increases significantly.
One the main functions of leaders -- both clergy and lay -- is giving permission (or withholding it). Clergy can't be expected to lead every new program, but if they (and the congregation's board or council) approve the program, then the leaders of that program have the chance to succeed.
Along with defining goals and giving permission, the clergy validate others' ministries by giving their blessing, talking up the leadership of others, giving recognition, steering people to the programs.
In these ways, the clergy act as the doorkeepers of the congregation. They may not personally do much with the Scouting program, but their support matters a great deal.
C. Understanding the role of clergy equips those who approach the clergy on behalf of Scouting.
Council or District leaders approaching local clergy to start a new unit or do something for Scouting need to understand how busy the clergyperson is. They also need to understand that people are dropping in on them every week, phoning them every day, trying to sell them something or solicit their involvement in or support for a cause. Cold-calling on clergy is a tough row to hoe; unless you are very good, you will come across as just one more "I've got the miracle program for you" pitchman.
It may take time to cultivate a relationship with the clergyperson. Don't be too aggressive; invite them to something fun or drop them off a patch before you try to sell them something; approach them through a member of their congregation or a trusted colleague. Come to their church bazaar or cantata or something (this shows an interest in the success of their congregation, as well as giving you a chance to chat them up informally).
After you have made an appointment for a meeting, be on time. Be clear in your expectations; you want their blessing, and you want some names to call. If you're troubleshooting a problem, you may want them to initiate contact with someone and follow up on it. After the meeting, send a thank-you note.
Members of the congregation already have a relationship with the clergy staff of their church. They can't make the clergy less busy, but their request for a meeting will likely be honored more quickly and easily. It should be noted here that active members whom the clergyperson sees in worship and other parish gatherings regularly will get a whole lot more cooperation than inactive members who show more interest in Scouting than in the faith community.
Denominational leaders soon learn than spam e-mails and mass mailings have limited value. Clergy are overwhelmed with such materials, much of which ends up being deleted or thrown in their wastebaskets. Denominational leaders need respected intermediaries, such as clergy colleagues and clergy supervisors (bishops, superintendents, etc.) to get their message listened to.