Every church needs a Pastor Interpreter, someone who is seen by staff and members as the one who knows and can translate what the Pastor said, meant, thinks, or wants accomplished. In other words, someone who can interpret to others on behalf of the Pastor.
The likely candidates for this role is the Pastor’s Administrative Assistant, Executive Pastor, or Associate Pastor. These are the positions that typically work most closely with the Pastor, often over a number of years, and are in the best position to interpret his thoughts, wishes, and behaviors to the staff and congregation.
Why Is a Pastor Interpreter Necessary?
The need for a Pastor Interpreter typically develops due to four circumstances that arise in virtually every church.
- Accessibility. Most Pastors have a full schedule and many prefer to study and prepare for sermons from home. Many times the Pastor is not available at the time someone needs access to him. In these situations a Pastor Interpreter is necessary for responding to questions and providing the information necessary to keep initiatives moving forward in a timely manner.
- Communication Style: Often Pastors speak in visionary or abstract language. They may share ideas and thoughts without connecting the dots or clarifying next steps. A Pastor Interpreter can provide much needed context and clarity, and can translate what the Pastor has said into concrete action steps for those tasked with implementation.
- Information Flow: In many churches today there is simply too much information that needs to be shared for the Pastor to communicate it all effectively. It may become necessary for a Communications Team to serve as the Pastor Interpreter using the website, brochures, church bulletin, etc. Or, the Elder or Deacon Board may interpret the Pastor’s message to the congregation in Business and Committee Meetings and in hallway and parking lot conversations.
- Fear. The power of the Pastor’s title and office can be intimidating. People are fearful of “looking stupid” or wasting the Pastor’s time with their question, comment, or concern. The Pastor Interpreter can provide staff and members a safe place to share their thoughts and get the information they need without a meeting with the Pastor.
Pastor Interpreter Problems to Watch For
There are four primary problems that can result from having a Pastor Interpreter.
- Misinterpretation. If the Pastor Interpreter fails to fully understand the Pastor’s position and interprets it incorrectly, then staff and members may take the wrong actions.
- Misrepresentation: If the Pastor Interpreter attempts to represent the Pastor in areas they have not talked about, it can result in a mischaracterization of the Pastor’s position.
- Loss of Control: If the Pastor Interpreter starts giving their own orders, it may leave others with the impression they are the Pastor’s orders.
- Loss of Influence: With a Pastor Interpreter the Pastor may lose some direct influence over the operations and ministries of the church to the Boss Interpreter.
Pastor Interpreter Best Practices
Pastors should recognize that a Pastor Interpreter will most likely immerge by default whether they are designated as such or not. So, it is wise to put the Pastor Interpreter in the best possible situation to succeed by following these best practices.
- Identify the Best Person for the Job: The Pastor should select the person who he trusts and feels has the best understanding of what he wants done. In many cases it may be two people, such as an Administrative Assistant and an Executive Pastor, who speak for the pastor in different situations, with different people, and around different topics or information.
- Inform the Staff, Leadership, and Congregation: The Pastor should let everyone in the church know who the Pastor Interpreter is and the purpose of the position. It increases the likelihood people will go through the Pastor Interpreter if they understand the rationale and who has been designated.
- Provide Information: The Pastor should keep his interpreter informed so that they can accurately share the Pastor’s wishes. The more information a Pastor Interpreter has, the more likely they are to accurately represent the Pastor’s voice.
- Replication: Finally, by effectively modeling the Pastor Interpreter role, it encourages other ministers to designate their own interpreter, thereby increasing communication throughout the organization.
Posted on May 1, 2018