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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Helpful Tool for Self-Examination, February 25, 2008
This review is from: Becoming a Pastor: Forming Self and Soul for Ministry (Paperback)
Hamman's tagline is "forming self and soul for ministry," which is meant as a continuous evaluation of oneself in the pastoral vocation. An underlying assumption with which he works is that pastors do not come out of seminary fully formed, nor are they even fully formed 25-30 years into their ministries. This does seem to be geared more toward pastors earlier in their careers, but I don't see why pastors at any stage couldn't benefit from the themes here.

Hamman addresses six capacities in which a pastor should be able to operate successfully. Heavily borrowing from the work of psychoanalyst Donald Winnicot, Hamman notes that pastors should each have the capacity to believe, to imagine, for concern, to be alone, to use others & be used, and to play. Each chapter builds on the previous ones, utilizing concepts introduced from one to the next in order to show how interrelated these are. In that regard, Hamman seems to be an appreciator of how complex the individual is.

Behind the striving for each of these capacities, Hamman suggests that pastors are constantly seeking to overcome their "false self." That is, each of us growing up were taught by various authorities in our lives (parents, teachers, pastors, etc.) how to acclimate properly to society in order to please others. Each person is taught in ways both explicit and implicit, both subtle and violent, and each according to our own histories and narratives.

In order to illustrate this, Hamman introduces us to several pastors who are wrestling with becoming their true selves. We meet Pastor Timothy multiple times throughout the book, and hear about needing to mature early and become "the man of the house" after a painful split in his family. This has lasting effects on his ministry as he discovers how much of an overachiever he's become, which wears him down physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and even causes him to begin to resent his congregation. Pastor Timothy's "true self," then, is one who is able to say no, to accept that he'll disappoint people sometimes, and who will take time for self-care.

Each chapter is structured in relatively the same manner. After a brief introduction to each capacity that will be explored, Hamman provides a list of possible characteristics within people whose capacity is not fully formed. After this, there is typically an example given such as that of Pastor Timothy, followed by a deeper analysis of what a mature capacity looks like and how it might apply to the example situation. Finally, each chapter concludes with a guide for self-reflection using the acronym GRASP: Covenant with God, Relationships, Action, Scripture, and Prayer, all of which are focused on abolishing the "false self."

While there are many running themes throughout Becoming a Pastor, one other major theme seems to be that of relationship. Hamman notes that relationships early in our lives affect how we approach relationships later on. There is much discussion on relating to God. There is much discussion on relating to oneself. At the end of each chapter and elsewhere, Hamman encourages the reader to seek out a mentor or spiritual director with whom to discuss these issues and who may "speak into" one's own ministry. Each of these relationships, Hamman argues, need to be healthy in order for one to function well as a pastor.

Becoming a Pastor is very well-done. Occasionally, Hamman gets caught up in his own definitions and the reader may need to spend a little extra time with them in order to fully grasp them. At other times, I found myself wondering whether he relied on Winnicot a little too much (not a chapter goes by, it seems, without this other author mentioned). Nevertheless, this book will leave the reader with much on which to reflect.
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