Pastoring can be difficult work. You learn a lot being a pastor. Particularly about yourself.
I had been at our church for almost 2 years. I preached every week. I listened to people. I thought I was doing what was best for the church. Was I? That is a question that is difficult to answer. Now, there I was preparing to resign.
This memory came flooding back this morning when I got the text from a dear friend that said, “Hey I’m resigning Sunday call me”. The text stunned me. I recall this same friend talking me out of quitting before I resigned in the story I expressed earlier. Yes, there is a difference between quitting and resigning. I will save that for another day. When I called, I realized the decision had been made. The damage had been done. I listened. I offered some words of advice and I made some suggestions. We have talked three or four times since that initial text early this morning.
Pastoring is a unique experience. As I listened, I was able to give advice because of the pain I had gone through years earlier. I learned a lot about my self. I learned that many of my own faults and failures become magnified leading the church. As I have been reflecting today, what are some ways we can help our pastor? The following list is in no particular order. These are just some thoughts that came to me as I have tried to help my brother in Christ navigate the murky waters that no pastor wishes to sail.
Communicate with your pastor. Do not expect him to be the only one communicating.
Do not assume your pastor knows the “back story.” What happened before he got there is emotionally important to you. It might not have the same effect on him. He is looking forward.
Along those same lines, your pastor is not going to live in the past. He came to move forward. Help him.
Listen to his vision for the church. If you do not understand it ask him to clarify the ideas he has put forward. Just because you do not understand does not mean it is a bad idea or worth throwing in the trash.
You both want different things that lead to the same destination. Do not miss this point. Your pastor sees the entire ministry. You see the ministries you are a part of and there is a HUGE difference. It would be like fussing over the kicking game of a football team when their defense is ranked #2 and their offense is ranked number 27. There are other things to consider.
Your pastor is human. He makes mistakes. He fails. He has emotions. He misspeaks. Somewhere along the line pastors have been given this mysterious cloak of invincibility. They can do no wrong. They are not allowed to make mistakes. They cannot misspeak. This is the biggest mistake and non-sense in the ministry today. Be gracious to your pastor just as he is when you make a mistake.
Everyone wants a piece of the leader. But it is virtually impossible for the leader, in this case the pastor, to get a piece of “everyone.” Keep this in mind. It is not possible for him to have a meaningful conversation with everyone after every service. There is not enough time in the day.
Love the pastor’s family. This cannot be overstated. Our children are in the pre-teen and teen years. The church family we have here in Ohio have been so gracious to our children. Our kids are typical kids. Brash, robust personalities who just run amok! Our church talks to them like they matter. Our kids eat this up. Our kids are given roles and responsibilities in ministry and they love it. Do not assume because it is the preachers kid that they already know “it.” Treat them like every other child that comes along. Treat them the way Jesus treated the children.
Respect the pastors family time. This is huge. Allow them to get away. Allow that day off to be protected. Have the deacons or men on staff handle matters that can be handled in the case of an emergency. Let your pastor parent. Let him husband. Those two roles are far more important than his role as your pastor. If he is not successful in those roles, the role of pastor will become negligent.
Encourage and thank your pastor for leading and teaching the congregation. You might not always appreciate the message. You might not LIKE the message. There might be times the illustrations are off. Perhaps the stories did not even make sense to you. Maybe you feel that series was a bit “dry.” Regardless, PRAY for your pastor. Pray for his personal life. Pray for his ministry. Pray for his study. Pray for his family. Pray for God to give him direction for the teaching and preaching times. Pray for him, do not just talk about him.
This list is not all-inclusive. This list is not in any way intended to suggest a pity party for the pastor either. There are some pastors that take advantage of churches in every way possible and manipulate the congregation. This list I have offered is not intended to excuse their behavior. Above all else, pray for your pastor and your church leaders. Gossiping is not the answer; Jesus is the answer. If you do not like something or are concerned about something in your church talk to the right person about your concerns.
Assuming your pastor is trying his best to do what God has for the church, you need to be supportive. Offer help to him in ministry areas. It is easy to be the arm-chair quarterback questioning every move rather than getting into the fray and being part of the solution. Should pastors be held accountable? Absolutely! But congregations that do not follow the lead of the man that God placed in their leadership position who is seeking to equip them for the spiritual battles they are going to face are sadly misled. They are choking the very man God gave them to help them walk together through the “valley of the shadow of death.” Love your pastor. Love one another. Find ways to encourage him and his family. Trust me, you do not want to be on the other end of a phone call where another pastor is ready to give up. The world we live in is destroying itself. Sadly, the church has been no different. Lets stop being cannibals and start edifying one another. As I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (ESV)
Let’s make it a priority that we lift one another up in prayer. We should make it a high priority that we pray for ministry opportunities that enable us to work together to see people come to Christ. That is after all, the purpose of church. I pray that we hear more about churches celebrating the vision their pastor has and the ministry opportunities that come from them. People are dying without Christ and we are bickering over whom to follow. Love your pastor.