aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

still more clergy scoutin'

V. The struggles of the clergy

A. Isolation

In addition to the many professional demands placed upon the clergy, the clergy are also subject to an isolation that is characteristic of their calling. Some of this may be due to their personalities. Many are introverts (surprising to many who see them only with their public face on). Many are also "Lone Ranger" types in their work styles.

But clergy isolation comes from more sources than that. Clergy move frequently. They are often the only one engaged in their professional pursuit in their place of work. They must be emotionally and professionally available to others almost 24/7, yet they have almost no one to whom they can resort when they feel low or damaged. They may consider their parishioners friends, and vice versa, but there are significant barriers to equal sharing in their relationships. Many clergy report that they do not have a single friend outside of their spouse. Many clergy are not in any sort of regular supportive relationship even with other clergy.

Clergy also deal with an incredible amount of criticism. Most of this comes from parishioners, one way or another, though some comes from other clergy and denominational leaders. Their best is often not seen as good enough. Dysfunctional parishes ("clergy-killer churches") are distressingly common. Many clergy suffer from low self-esteem. In order to meet the demands of their work, many spend little time with their families.

Emotionally isolated as many of them are, weighed upon by many demands (reasonable and unreasonable), often underpaid, frequently afflicted with work guilt, clergy often report a feeling of being stuck. They can't see options other than hunkering down and soldiering on.

Scouting can be seen as more to do, more expectations to be met. Scouting ministry often gets very little credit from those who review the clergyperson's work (formally or informally). These things militate against the clergy's involvement in Scouting. At the same time, clergy Scouters often find in their Scouting participation rewards and relationships unburdened by the demands of parish work. Some value Scouting precisely because they don't have to be everyone's pastor, though many also struggle with work guilt for doing Scouting instead of one more thing shouting for attention elsewhere. Others also find that being one of the few clergy Scouters in the room means they are always in demand for certain types of leadership, so Scouting gives them recognition they don't get in their paying jobs.

B. Barriers to participation in Scouting

The first barrier to clergy participating in Scouting is time. The clergy's calendar is full. Most Scouting activities beyond unit meetings are on weekends, which are high demand time for the clergy. Most Woodbadge courses, for instance, are now done in two weekends rather than a single week. That is a very attractive option to laypersons, most of whom work Monday through Friday and don't have to take time off to attend training that way. But the case is very different for clergy, for whom two weekends means two Sundays out of the pulpit, with all the hassle and work guilt that entails.

Scouting can also be a very expensive pursuit, and the clergy are, as a group, underpaid in comparison to many professions. Participating in Scouting activities and serving on committees and event staffs beyond the local church represents a lot of carefully calibrated choices for many clergy, and may decrease their participation even when time constraints can be managed.

C. Understanding the struggles of the clergy equips those who approach the clergy on behalf of Scouting.

Council and District Scouters who wish to involve more clergy in the life of their groups need to be aware of the needs of the clergy they deal with. Seeing clergy as fellow Scouters and giving them a place to belong is as important as seeing them as sales prospects. Meeting the emotional needs of the clergy makes them more likely to do other things for you. There are many similarities between professional Scouting and the clergy, as careers. Cultivating relationships with the clergy can be personally rewarding for both sides, as well as opening up possibilities for recruiting leadership and planting new units. Picking convenient times and dates and making events affordable will go far to reducing barriers to clergy involvement.

Scouters in the local church can help involve their spiritual leaders in Scouting by running interference for them where it counts: in the counsels of their religious body. Make sure that Scouting ministry is treated with equal dignity as other forms of youth ministry. Suggest Scouting training as part of the pastor's continuing education routine. See that time off is given to make possible the clergy's participation in big events, such as high adventure trips and camp and jamboree chaplaincies. Remember the clergy when nominating persons for Scouting and denominational recognitions.

Denominational leaders can support the clergy by providing them a set of relationships which are personally fulfilling as well as advancing denominational goals. By sharing leadership, denominational leaders can give clergy with the gifts for Scouting ministry a chance to gain recognition beside those clergy who achieve positions of importance in other venues within their religious organizations.

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