Smith, Mandy. The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry. Downers Grove: IVP, 2015.
The Vulnerable Pastor reflects the personal journey of the author as she navigates her role as lead pastor of a church in Cincinnati. If you struggle with egalitarianism, this book will stretch you. However, regardless of gender, if you feel like a failure, inadequate, an underdog, an introvert, an outsider, empty or weak, this book is for you! The popularity of Brene Brown’s research and speaking on the broad topic of vulnerability has laid the foundation for this book that narrows the discussion of vulnerability to the pastorate. The Vulnerable Pastor is a biblically based version of Golman’s self-awareness section in his work on emotional intelligence.
The book is divided into three sections. Part one challenges pastors to “get over yourself.” I deeply appreciated the focus on the psalms of lament in this section. Too often church leadership focus on the happy-clappy life and fails to validate or embrace lament. Part two encourages the reader to be “true to yourself.” Part three suggests practical ways to “practice in public.” Vulnerability in leadership seems oxymoronic and counterintuitive. Yet it is life-giving and ministry-sustaining for leaders who embrace it. However, the hidden ‘landmine’ in this conversation is the temptation to acquiesce to a worthless leader-lump not worth following. Smith addresses this concern, as well as what she calls the tension between a “slave-driver God” and a “Santa Clause God.” The book is peppered with “Reflect” questions, “Practice” suggestions and “Exercises” that will help pastors move toward that uncomfortable place of vulnerability.