The Horizontal Church at Work

Where do pastors go for counsel?

Working for many years as a lay professional with various denominations, I often heard pastors complain of isolation. They are accustomed to being the “go to” people for advice. They rely solely on their training and their professional connections as sounding boards when the going gets tough. The possibilities are narrowed by who they know and the official positions of their denominations.

Pastors have their networks—peers, the monthly ministerium meeting, workshops and retreats, consultants, and in many ministry traditions, their families. Today there are online possibilities, but the church isn’t quick to the gate in adopting social technology.

All of these can be helpful, but they are vestiges of the vertical church. The advice received is all from peers with similar interests, experience, and training.

Yesterday, our congregation witnessed the horizontal church in action.

We had our usual Sunday morning coffee fellowship. We’ve been meeting like this for about five years and have deepened our relationships.

We sat at a round table with our pastor. The conversation was all casual—updates on our weekly activities.

And then an unusual thing happened. Our pastor shared a concern about his work as a pastor.

How often, I wonder, do pastors come to lay people for advice? How often are lay people truly welcomed to chime in?

We aren’t an official committee by any means, but collectively we have a lot of experience! Our pastor asked each of us individually for our opinions. Each of us gave our pastor our separate views, which represented our differing life experiences. The lay people were in agreement that the path he should take was obvious to us.

Our pastor seemed to be relieved and truly grateful for our input.

There is a lot of wisdom and talent sitting in the pews that is often untapped. I call it The Horizontal Church.