A couple of months ago I met with a retiring pastor, just to get caught up with one another. At one point as he was talking about wanting to help develop and form new ministers he said one of the simplest and perhaps most profound statements about being a pastor that I have ever heard.1
A pastor must first and foremost love their people.
I was reflecting upon that because I was thinking about all the pastors I know who not only do not love their people, but do not care one whit about them. Sure, if you have a large staff you can have clergy dedicated to this and that, hospital visitation, youth, college ministry, etc. but everyone should have at their core and love for the people they serve. Instead what I often hear from my colleagues, especially when we get together for meetings, is utter contempt for their congregants. Seems quite the wrong way round.
Aside: I do not like the possessive nature of the phrase “my people.” We are in community together.
I find this too with academic administrators. While there is not the same sense of mission and calling, usually, if we are in charge of students, we ought to have the same care and concern for them. Of course we can extend that to any leadership role and our responsibility towards the staff who report to us. I am fortunate that more often than not, in fact, more often than with clergy it seems, the academic administrators that I work with do care and care deeply about our students. While the faculty senate, for example, comes under criticism for being completely self-absorbed (and can be a bureaucratic mess) I can tell you that the vast majority of their efforts are motivated by a genuine desire to help students and make sure we are providing them with all they deserve.
“Let us love one another” was never meant to be an easy command to follow, but we certainly should never forget that it is the first and last order of business for all.