I’m curious to hear what people think about the new German website, Hirten Barometer (trans “Shepherd Barometer”). This website is getting a lot of attention, with articles on HuffPo and elsewhere presenting both the good and bad sides of such a project. The general consensus, if one can be determined, seems to lean in the direction that this is a positive move. Offering “honest,” if anonymous, feedback to clergy is a good thing. On that point I agree. However, what seems to be lost in the discussion is what is lost in similar sites like ratemyprofessor.com, namely, the feedback that priests or professors (or professor priests) would find most helpful. Such feedback might focus on a priest’s preaching, perhaps the single most important aspect of the weekly encounter the parishioners have with the priest. I’m not entirely sure how youth ministry or elder ministry compare across the board, but the German founders of the site must have found it important enough to include among those factors ranked. One thing is for sure, many, many priests could really use some honest feedback.
HuffPo describes the site as “a German site that allows its users to actually rate church officials, based on a number of different criteria. The basic assessment includes categories such as worship, credibility, “Finger on the Pulse,” youth work, and senior work.” The descriptive article continues:
The site launched in April and now includes 25,000 parishes and some 8,000 priests, according to Reuters.
According to TIME, the rating system actually changes the color of the sheep associated with each priest. Good priests get white sheep and more poorly rated priests are assigned sheep with black wool.
The true aim of the site is for a bit more honesty and the hope of bringing better priests the attention they deserve. Like other ratings sites (notably RateMyProfessor.com), the site’s founders hope to draw attention to the spiritual leaders who really grab the attention of their clergy, much like finding a professor who truly reaches his students.
“Pastoral work should be qualitative,” Andreas Hahn, one of the founders told Reuters, adding that they hoped “to stimulate dialogue to improve pastoral work.”
I actually think the potential for such a site is great, while also acknowledging the Internet’s temptation to so many to hide behind the veil of anonymity in order to be caustic and rude. How one balances such potential with risk is perhaps what will make or break such a site. One thing that one finds at ratemyprofessor.com and does not appear (outside the subject ‘comments’ section, at least) is a category like the professorial “Hotness” ranking. Perhaps the Germans don’t have a phrase that compares to the English “Vater ‘Was eine Verschwendung.'” Oh well, maybe that’s a good thing.