Add to GoodReads

Varieties of Gifts

Multiplicity and the Well-Lived Pastoral Life

Cynthia G. Lindner

If there’s one thing upon which contemporary pastors and their congregations can agree, it’s that the practice of ministry in our rapidly changing, increasingly diverse context is a complicated business. Varieties of Gifts highlights the stories of ministers who thrive in this environment, offering inspiration to readers—ministers, seminary students, and people who care for them—on engaging their own multiplicity to build healthy, sustainable ministry.

Varieties of Gifts illuminates the inner lives of clergy who lead with courage and creativity, stamina, and soulfulness. The author mines in-depth interviews with twenty pastors in order to demonstrate that the human experience of multiple-mindedness is an essential ingredient for healthy, innovative ministry. Cynthia Lindner, herself an ordained minister, pastoral psychotherapist, and professor, illustrates how the Christian tradition bears witness to creation’s complexity, and how our own multiplicity mirrors God’s abundance. Through the accounts of the pastors themselves, the book illustrates how well-tended ministerial multiplicity can cultivate a rich pastoral identity, navigate congregational conflict, and embrace change in rich, life-giving ways.

Rather than an unattainable “quick fix,” Varieties of Gifts profiles relatable pastors and congregations whose lives highlight the rich potential for multiple identities to enhance pastoral life, even in challenging times.
« less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / Alban Books
Pages: 176Size: 6 x 9
978-1-56699-775-1 • Hardback • April 2016 • $45.00 • (£29.95)
978-1-56699-742-3 • Paperback • March 2016 • $22.00 • (£14.95)
978-1-56699-743-0 • eBook • March 2016 • $20.00 • (£13.95)
Cynthia G. Lindner is director of ministry studies and clinical faculty for preaching and pastoral care at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Rev. Lindner is also a pastoral psychotherapist at the Center for Religion and Psychotherapy, where she works with clergy groups, individuals, and couples. She has served as a parish pastor and hospice chaplain.
  1. Witness and Wisdom of Pastoral Narrative
  2. “That was Somebody Else”: Multiplicity and Ministry
  3. “Something was Missing”: Multiplicity and Pastoral Identity
  4. Adaptive Change, Conflict and Transformation: Multiplicity and Ministerial Practice
  5. The Perils and Possibilities of Multiplicity: the Care and Feeding of Multiple-mindedness
  6. Multiplicity and the Renewal of Congregational Ministry
Annotated Bibliography of Further Reading
[W]e need Cynthia Lindner’s study of 21st-century pastors, which demonstrates the value of pastors drawing from multiple internal energy sources in order to exercise their gifts in multiple forms. Lindner...examines the stories of pastors serving mainline congregations, many of which are now small but not long ago were bursting at the seams. Lindner draws on the tradition of autobiography as theological narrative from Augustine to Dorothy Day, the psychological category of multiplicity with roots in Eakin’s How Our Lives BecomeStories, and the work of several other contemporary psychologists. But she doesn’t dwell on theory and moves quickly to the best part of the book, the stories themselves. Her storytellers— female and male, gay and straight, old and young, African American and Caucasian—talk straightforwardly about the challenges of contemporary ministry and the need for multiple strategies. . . .These thousand eyes represent the multiplicity that is necessary to the pastoral life. They also remind us that in ministry we are never alone….Varieties of Gifts testifies that God is not done with the church.
The Christian Century

If you are a pastor, or a pastor in training, or are a voyeur and interested in how pastors think, feel, and act from Monday through Saturday then Varieties of Gifts: Multiplicity and the Well-Lived Pastoral Life is for you. Varieties of Gifts will certainly help you ponder the various identities and roles that pastors exhibit in their life. I know I did. Most of the books that I review are quick reads, but not this one. I kept stopping over and over again pondering the numerous vignettes and stories which Dr. Lindner includes. These stories were not just filler to keep the narrative moving forward, but are essential components for the book and which made me think of my own multiple identities that I carry around with me. . . . If you want to give one book to your parish priest or pastor, I encourage you to get a copy of Varieties of Gifts for them, they’ll love it.
Walking with God

Cynthia Lindner offers hope to those called to or already in the demanding pastoral role. Pastoral multiple-mindedness is a way through the perils of being all things to all people, or, equally ruinous, trying to be only one thing all the time. Here is a way to be authentically who we are, doubts and gifts hand-in-hand.
Gil Rendle, senior vice president, Texas Methodist Foundation; author of Doing the Math of Mission: Fruit, Faithfulness, and Metrics

When a life—or a program, organization, community—really works, we become curious. We ask: "What’s the secret sauce?" Lindner’s book—grounded in careful research and steeped in rich experience—gives us a great big clue about the secret sauce that transforms the complexity of human life into the essence of faithful and effective ministry. This book is a must-read for understanding and re-thinking the lives of ministers—past, present, and future.
Sharon Daloz Parks, author of Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World

What does the 'well-lived pastoral life' look like, and how might we understand it differently today? Through the lens of 'multiplicity,' Cynthia Lindner turns to the source: pastors themselves, who open up their lives and vocations in revelatory interviews and give us a rare look into the interior spaces and diverse personal capacities that foster creative, faithful ministry. Both seasoned and starting out, these ministers thrive as change agents, border crossers, contemplatives, dreamers, lovers, organizers, scholars, midwives, and gardeners. When their gifts match their context and community, something divine happens. Lindner’s finely attuned qualitative approach is an engaging addition to our understanding of ministers and congregations thriving in a time of turmoil.
Mark Miller-McLemore, associate professor of the practice of ministry, Vanderbilt Divinity School

A much-needed text, bringing fresh insight to the actual lives of pastors. Lindner explores the mystery of the multiple selves pastors bring into ministerial practice. She explodes the myth that shallow coherency is essential to ethical work. Instead she paints vivid stories of effective loving pastors who juggle multiple selves with integrity. She has listened deeply to her students and to diverse ministerial narratives. She unlocks new understandings of how we prepare for ministry and engage creatively in this most relational of professions. It is obvious ministers relate to others; Lindner brings to light the less obvious but equally significant reality that ministers relate various interior parts of themselves as they engage with real life situations. Her deeply insightful telling of the contemporary ministerial scene combines realistic description with faith-filled hope. That hope for the future is frequently grounded in historical realities: from Paul’s New Testament narratives to various theological storytellers, Lindner weaves a new story into the age-old tapestry of Christian ministry.
Emily Click, Assistant Dean for Ministry Studies, Director of Field Education, Harvard Divinity School

Explores practices that nourish and sustain the inner lives of pastors

Takes seriously the challenges of pastoral leadership, with chapters addressing pastoral identity, congregational conflict, and the process of transformation

Shares stories from a diverse range of ministers across denominations

Models pastoral storytelling as key for healthy, sustainable pastoral identity

Encourages ministers to embrace the multiple parts of themselves and their lives

Offers an annotated bibliography of resources for readers who want to learn more