I Don’t Have a Big Leather Chair

by | May 20, 2015 | Reflections Blog | 0 comments

At the beginning of May Tom Cramer and I attended a GA-hosted training week for new presbytery-level staff leaders. The ambiguity of the term “staff leader” is significant. Once available exclusively to “Executive Presbyters,” the training program has adjusted in recent years to the expansion of titles.

Our cohort, for instance, has not only an Executive Presbyter, but also three Transitional Executives, a Resource Presbyter, a Presbytery Shepherd, and two particularly mysterious “Leaders” from Los Ranchos. One of the program’s instructors sought to simplify the confusion by collecting us all under the heading of “the person who sits in the big leather chair.”

Even her description, however, betrays an assumption that may no longer hold. Rather, the varying names point to a growing variety of presbyteries’ expectations. Fewer presbyteries are looking for a single person to be “in charge.”

It’s significant, then, that neither Tom nor I have a big leather chair. Work with me here.

My chair is not a symbol of organizational status and power. It’s plain and black and doesn’t attract much attention.

But neither is it just any old chair. People who know ergonomic task chairs would recognize its quality. Note the features:

Hydraulic Seat Base: It supports my body just enough to let me work undistracted.

Steel Casters: It rolls with speed and stability from one place to another, keeping before me the work I must do next.

Adjustable Armrests: It lifts up my arms to the task at hand, reminding me of what Aaron and Hur did for Moses in Exodus 17.

Lumbar Support: It pushes back against my unhealthy inclination to slouch.

In other words, my chair is a highly versatile, highly technical instrument, resulting from years of development and perfectly suited to helping me do my work as effectively as I can. It is rather expensive, but the cost is worth it.

I want to do for Los Ranchos what my chair does for me. I want Los Ranchos to be for our congregations and pastors what my chair is for me. If I’m not making sense, go back and reread from “Work with me here,” but this time insert “Forrest” or “Tom” or “Los Ranchos” in the place of “the chair.”

It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about chairs, or the people who occupy them, or the body those people serve. The point is the same. We are better off, not with overstuffed status symbols, but with highly tuned units that respond and adjust to allow our work to go forward as effectively as possible.

I am grateful for the wisdom of a previous generation of Executive Presbyters. I am especially grateful for their efforts to help Tom and me do our work well.

But I’d say that my task chair is far more suited to the challenges now facing the Presbytery than the traditional big leather chair. I hope one day to say the same for the chair’s occupant as well.