Congratulations, you have acquired a new clergyperson. To get maximum performance and many years of useful service out of your religious professional, you must provide careful maintenance and follow this manual.
1. Your religious professional needs to be well oiled and prepared. Sermons most often come from prayer, reading, study and staring out the window. Allow room for these activities.
2. If your clergyperson comes in a family model, do not put too much tension on this attachment. Your religious professional will rely especially on the spouse to clean out the usual buildup of anger, confusion and stress.
3. If your clergyperson comes with children attachments, allow room for the children to act out and rebel like all children.
4. Frequent oiling and healing balm will improve the life of your clergyperson. Watch for stress buildup between funerals, divorces, baptisms and weddings. Though your clergyperson has been hand tooled to handle issues of life and death in the same hour, you will extend the life of the relationship by paying attention to this.
5. Do not allow excessive heat buildup by forcing your religious professional to be a mind reader. This often results in meltdown and can void the warranty.
6. Follow all scheduled maintenance instructions. These include constructive feedback, regular days off and sabbatical leave. This will result in longer life for the original cutting edge that came as part of your religious professional's standard equipment.
7. Religious professionals come in a variety of models and types. If you encounter difficulties, consider whether you have selected the right model for the job you want done. For help, consult the original manufacturer/seminary.
8. Much of this manual also applies to directors of religious education, organists, choir directors and church secretaries.
9. For maximum performance, remember that religious professionals like to be invited to New Year's and Christmas parties.
10. Do not remove the denominational plug. Many religious professionals have taken an oath not to short circuit their commitment to the larger faith community. Removal of denominational/larger faith connector in some models can result either in fire or fire going out.
11. Make sure all parts are in working order. In many models there tends to be a high buildup of tension from internal pressure to save the world, make every one happy and avoid all conflict. Do not apply external pressure to these areas.
12. Do not wind too tightly or run for excessive periods of time. Repeated weeks without days off will void the warranty. As well, repeated 60-hour work weeks will result in slowed performance or meltdown.
14. Develop a good theology of stewardship and finances in your congregation. Most clergy models do not come well-equipped to talk about money in a time when more and more faith communities need to talk about money.
15. When encountering difficulties, avoid the temptation to immediately replace with a newer model. Minor adjustments will often lead to years of service.
We hope that your religious professional will help provide you the growth and relationship to God you are seeking. Please fill out and return the warranty card.
The Rev. Craig MacCreary is pastor of South Congregational UCC in Newport, N.H. His work has appeared in The Washington Post and on National Public Radio.