I had an appointment with a new doctor this week. I get a new doctor every year, apparently -- ever since moving back to the Twin Cities my doctors keep moving away after a year of me. (Maybe I shouldn't take it personally.) So last time I was in my clinic I asked a staff person: give me the name of a female doctor who has been here awhile.
And so my appointment. I was thrilled with her, and hope I get to keep working with her. She listened well, wasn't judgmental, seemed smart and on top of things and all that. But I also realized that (beyond the hope that I might get to keep one doctor for awhile) I was comfortable with her because she was so much like me. Startlingly like me, actually: same gender, race, age, marital and parenting status. And not too skinny. Just made the whole thing easier because there were so few cultural gaps to jump.
So, whew, found good doctor.
But, hmm, raises an issue about pastoring.
I am having a great time at my current church partly, I know, because I hit my demographic so squarely. I'm pastoring people who are mostly my race, more often than not my gender and surprisingly my age. Many, many people are at the same stage of parenting I am. Many are happily married. Our education is so similar I even went to school with a bunch of them. I can toss out a cultural reference in my sermons and forty people nod their heads at me. It's just a little easier.
But I love being pastor to people of all ages, men and women, and people of different races and backgrounds. I'm a pretty common demographic in my church but the variety is great fun too. Each Sunday we have folks ranging from 0-90 something. We represent four races, different economic and educational backgrounds, and different sexual orientations. That makes for a good community and wonderful ministry.
Pastor Rich and I feel it is really important to have variety on the pastoral staff if possible, and we are glad to work together representing two generations and both genders.
But I've been thinking about my comfort with my doctors, and wondering if it is hard for folks who are different than me to get used to me as a pastor. I bet many of us wish the pastor looked a little like us, thought like us, was like us. I can hit it some times but not for everyone, ever.
I think we probably have to listen to each other a little more carefully, work to keep assumptions at bay, and develop trust over time. In preaching I have to try and step outside my usual references to include a variety of generations and both genders (although I stink at sports analogies.) We might think we just walk in the door and are "pastor" but really the whole relationship takes time, experience, and trust. Just like doctors.