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Ministry Loves Company: A Survival Guide for Pastors.

Ministry Loves Company: A Survival Guide for Pastors. By John Galloway Jr. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003. xiv and 168 pages. Paper. $17.95.

Galloway, a Presbyterian pastor, writes this book in response to the "we/they language" and "over-againstness" he is hearing and experiencing among parish clergy colleagues. He reminds clergy, "Our calling is an exciting place to be" (p. 4), and develops a realistic model for learning to appreciate congregations and their members.

Section One, "Coming to Town," opens with a comparison of a pastor's coming to a congregation with the image of an extended family's reunion in which pastor is not a member but rather the facilitator for the event. In order to work effectively, there are traditions, stories, secrets, and a family history to learn. To do this pastors must learn "focused laziness" and that it is never "my church." Practicing humility, patient listening, and appreciation will allow us "to have ears with which to hear" and learn. Pastors who do these practices well are "able to unleash the latent vision at the heart [of the congregation]" (p. 34). Galloway does not provide a detailed visioning process but, rather, helpful parameters and measures of effective visioning in the life of a congregation. Of course, this is done remembering that it is God, not congregation members, to whom we are ultimately accountable. Galloway has some very real examples of working on this struggle to change congregational attitudes. Yet doing so and developing a congregation that can discern, articulate, and work on that which is a priority rather than merely important will snag members' passions and commitment and develop a missional congregation.

The third section looks at hospitality from the unusual vantage points of numbers, administration, parking, and competition. We need to expect and organize congregations for growth: "success is not a mark of failure and failure is not a sign of integrity" (p. 65). We need to reimage administration as a tool enabling successful ministry. Although pastors have come to act as if it is inappropriate to acknowledge competition between churches, it is at the core of our culture. So, know what neighboring churches of all denominations are doing that is effective discipleship.

The fourth section on conflict is realistic. Galloway reminds us that much church conflict is "turf war," arguments over who gets space, supplies, people power, and pastor's attention. We need to assume we will disagree. We need to spend time figuring out how to address this core issue and not continuously smooth ruffled feathers. Pastors need to acknowledge their mistakes but stay focused enough to not take all conflict personally. Thankfully, Galloway does not give us another new theory of how to do self-care in the midst of congregational conflict. He does remind us that conflict is a powerful teaching moment when we need to be even more focused on our pastoral call for gospel preaching, teaching, and visitation.

In the final section on commitment, Galloway challenges, "Let's face it. Many persons who have publicly said that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior have a deeper commitment to golf or soccer" (p. 129). This makes stewardship and discipleship the most controversial issues we will face. Pastors need to hit stewardship head on, setting a good personal example and continuously uplifting the need for all congregations to be about local and community missions. The mission budget needs to be set in advance of congregational meetings and is not flexible. Without missions a congregation is dead.

Galloway concludes with a poignant personal story that reminds us "Ours is a profession where we too often are the issue or we make ourselves the issue. We forget that we have been called to be fools for Christ" (p. 168).

This book has wisdom for all pastors--beginning, those beginning at a new site, old timers, and denominational/seminary personnel. This wisdom is presented anecdotally, with humor and, at times, sarcasm but never cynicism. Although there is little new information or data, this book is an excellent way to be guided and reenergized in ministry. Galloway includes some well-deserved critique of seminary training and the church placement process.

Connie Kleingartner

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
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Author:Kleingartner, Connie
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:697
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