Professionalism Isn’t The Problem

I talked with someone yesterday who is starting a new worshiping community and who is doing some serious spade work on a collaborative leadership structure to create a climate for “organic” forms of community to emerge and grow. It sounds exciting.

A word popped up in our conversation that represents what this new worshiping community does NOT want to be: professional. That’s mostly about the leader. He doesn’t want this community to just be his job, but rather something that integrates the whole of his, his family’s, and the community participants’ lives. Nobody will be punching a clock.

There’s a yearning here for life in community striving after a purpose. I love that.

But I wonder if the opposite of this is necessarily professionalism. Isn’t professionalism–and its attendant concern for boundaries–an asset in the pursuit of authentic, life-encompassing, community. Don’t communities need leaders who approach their work with standards of ethics and excellence?

I think we’re reacting instead to a certain kind of professionalism, that of the mid-20th century company or organization, where the leaders sit in offices and produce products for members to consume, and where participants are drawn by the quality of those products, which, in the church, means sermons, choir anthems, and youth programs.

Maybe we don’t need to ditch professionalism in ministry but to swap it out for professionalism of another sort, like that of a community organizer, who diligently connects with a broad-base of people and groups in an “organic” relational way in order to live toward shared purposes.

Let’s not tar professionalism in church leadership. Let’s redeem it instead.

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