The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry, By Mandy Smith
The Vulnerable Pastor
  • Length: 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: September 25, 2015
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4123
  • ISBN: 9780830841233

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Often as pastors we feel like we need to project strength and competency in order to minister effectively. That's why we go to conferences and emulate the latest superstars. But we know we can never live up to those images. Deep down, we know our own limitations, our weaknesses, our faults. We fear that if people knew who we really are, we'd be disqualified from ministry.

Not so. Mandy Smith unpacks the biblical paradox that God's strength is revealed through our human weakness. Transparently describing her pastoral journey, Smith shows how vulnerability shapes ministry, through our spiritual practices and relationships, influencing our preaching, teaching and even the nuts and bolts of the daily schedule. Understanding our human constraints makes our ministry more sustainable and guards us against disillusionment and burnout.

We don't have to have it all together. Recognizing our weakness makes us rely on God, so our weakness can become a ministry resource. God has called you to lead not as a demigod, but as a human, so the world can see that the church is a place for humans like them.

"Mandy Smith has packed a lot of freedom for pastors into her book—freedom from unrealistic expectations of others and those they impose on themselves. The Vulnerable Pastor creates space and freedom for pastors to embrace honestly their own spiritual journey with God, to engage their struggles, doubts, and dark nights of the soul, and to learn and grow along with those they shepherd. The journey Mandy charts carries enormous potential for enriching their own spiritual journeys as well as deepening their ministries to others. Put simply, she pastors the pastor."

Carolyn Custis James, author of Half the Church and Malestrom

"Beautifully written. Irresistibly truthful. The Vulnerable Pastor is a profound reversal of nearly everything you know about being a ministry leader. This book exposes the blind spot that the last one hundred years of copying dog-eat-dog, climb-to-the-top leadership models have missed. Vulnerability is the secret to genuine leadership. If the pastoral vocation is to be revived in the decade to come, this is the first aid kit it will need."

Paul Sparks, coauthor of The New Parish, cofounding director of Parish Collective

"It's hard to be both painfully honest and faith filled at the same time, but Mandy Smith does it. And she shows us how shepherding souls requires honest faith and hope and love, even when some pain is involved."

Marshall Shelley, editor, Leadership Journal

"No kidding: If I could make one new book magically appear on the bedside table of every minister, priest, deacon and elder in North America, The Vulnerable Pastor would be it. Mandy Smith's wise and hopeful book is timely, a much-needed antidote to the influence of macho leadership run amok, which has wrecked so many pastors and churches. It is also timeless, an important reminder that God's power is made perfect in weakness. If you are a pastor, please read this book; if you have a pastor, please read it with them."

John Pattison, coauthor of Slow Church

"To those with the most impossible of 'jobs'—our pastors—comes a great gift: The Vulnerable Pastor. Here, with great care, Mandy Smith manages to reframe what it means to be a pastor and to infuse it with the life of the gospel. I truly tell you that The Vulnerable Pastor resonated with the core of my being. It not only made being a pastor possible again, it made being a pastor wonderful."

David Fitch, B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary, author of Prodigal Christianity

"While many pastors are convinced that limitations and messes in ministry are a curse, Mandy Smith shows us that it's in these spaces that God seems to do his most transformative work. Mandy finds the rare and beautiful balance of raw-yet-hopeful and humble-yet-confident vulnerability, while extending grace to the people who seem to need it most: pastors. In today's ministry culture, fraught with the perception of perfection, Mandy offers pastors refreshing permission to be human. But most refreshing of all, she doesn't just write about her message. She does what the most effective authors do—she lives it too."

J.R. Briggs, pastor, author of Fail and founder of Kairos Partnerships

"'A vulnerable pastor' is often an oxymoron. Mandy Smith is not; she is an example of her own book. She asks the right questions and wrestles with the answers—her honesty is honest. Her voice is like a breath of fresh air in an airtight, stuffy room. This isn't a book just for pastors but for all of us who want to be 'real' with ourselves, others and God."

Ruth Graham, author of In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart

"The landscape is littered with pastors who feel inadequate. I count myself as one of them. According to Mandy Smith, we are on the brink of an infusion of power if we embrace our weaknesses and count them as a gift from God. In the process, we trust the one God to make up the difference between who we feel we are and what our ministry can become."

From the foreword by David Hansen, author of The Art of Pastoring

"Mandy Smith has given us a wonderful guide to pastoral well-being and faithful excellence. She has discovered that our limitations are the womb of possibility and that when we are weak, we are strong in God."

Bruce Epperly, Patheos, December 14, 2015

"Despite the reference to pastoral ministry in its title, this book is one that should be read much more broadly than just by pastors. While especially vital for pastors, it is no less significant when read by laypeople, as it is a poignant reminder of the humanity of our leaders and of the call for each of us to devote ourselves to the work of the Gospel. Smith?s call to live faithfully within the bounds of our humanness will guide us toward a deeper life together that is both more joyful and more sustainable."

Chris Smith, V3 Church Planting Movement, November 18, 2015

"This is a compelling witness for pastors who want to be honest without being self-indulgent. The vulnerable pastor dares to follow the vulnerable God who finds strength in weakness."

Roy Howard, The Presbyterian Outlook, January 11, 2016

"The Vulnerable Pastor is a great book for Christians, and especially pastors, who feel discouraged and ashamed of weaknesses in a culture focused on strength, performance, and having it all together. Smith prophetically calls the church to renounce the idol of strength in leadership and to rely on God's strength in our weakness. The practice of becoming vulnerable is a means by which a new generation of pastors can develop the necessary virtues of courage and humility."

Ty Grigg, Covenant Quarterly, Winter 2016

"Vulnerability in ministry is a too often ignored topic. It doesn't need to be. Smith helps readers see that talking about our limitations isn't just a good idea, it's absolutely essential for healthy kingdom leaders, and what people in the pew so desperately long to see."

J.R. Briggs, Leardership Journal, Winter 2016

"A revolutionary book in the truest of terms, The Vulnerable Pastor is a welcome invitation into a life of ministry that operates within the brokenness of people and calls ministers to recognize their own humanity along the way. This is a humanity that is not offered only to those who recognize their brokenness, but even more so to those who feel overcome by the pressures of a ministry culture that seeks to explain and fix anything that hints of inadequacy. The Vulnerable Pastor, although in many respects a journey of Smith's own realization of her humanity, is also a hand-written letter of invitation for readers to live into their humanity and perceived weaknesses and to allow the movement of the Spirit to work through their unpolished, human selves."

Nathan Smith, Seedbed, January 15, 2016


Foreword by David Hansen
Introduction: God Is an Odd Leader

Part I: Getting Over Ourselves: Vulnerability with God
1. Filled with Emptiness
2. What Makes Us Feel Weak. And What Doesn?t: A Confession
3. Save Me! Vulnerability and Salvation
4. Feeling Exposed: How Vulnerable Pastors Handle Emotions
5. I Need You! How Vulnerable Pastors Pray
6. Letting the Bible Read Us: How Vulnerable Pastors Read the Bible

Part II: Being True to Ourselves: Vulnerability Behind the Scenes
7. Learning to Like the Mess: How Vulnerable Pastors Create Culture
8. Changing the Mold: How Vulnerable Pastors Recognize and Develop Leaders
9. Taking Our Own Sweet Time: How Vulnerable Pastors Use Their Time and Energy
10. Thriving for Others: How Vulnerable Pastors Measure Success

Part III: Practicing in Public: Vulnerability with an Audience
11. Welcome to the Process: How Vulnerable Pastors Teach and Preach
12. The Right Kind of Desperate: How Vulnerable Pastors Engage with the World

Epilogue: Unfading Treasure in Jars of Clay
Discussion Guide


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Mandy Smith

Originally from Australia, Mandy Smith is lead pastor of University Christian Church, a campus and neighborhood congregation with its own fair-trade café in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a regular contributor to Leadership Journal and PARSE and the author of Making a Mess and Meeting God. She is also the creator of The Collect, a citywide trash-to-art project. Mandy and her husband Jamie, a New Testament professor at Cincinnati Christian University, live with their two kids in a little house where the teapot is always warm.