I keep hearing these disturbing stories: good pastors who have been greatly used in their churches to bring about significant, God-honoring change, burning out and ending up in other occupations. I’ve seen more of this disturbing trend since writing Seven Reasons Why Pastors Are Dropping Out, just a few weeks ago. Why is this happening?
- The pastoral “call” isn’t what it used to be.
- The home church isn’t what it used to be.
- Pastors are rethinking the current pastor paradigm: the full-time superhero trying to excel at every task that God assigned to elders.
- A hard-to-live-with performance value has replaced the old loyalty ethic.
- Pastor’s wives have changed.
- Respect for pastors isn’t what it used to be.
- Ministry is increasingly difficult in a sin-dominated society.
But I’ve also been sharing the good news that there are things which church members can do to help retain a pastor whose ministry they are being blessed by (How To Keep A Good Pastor, Part One and How To Keep A Good Pastor, Part Two).
(1) Pray for him, seriously and often.
(2) Pay him a salary which is commensurate with his gifts, training, experience, wisdom, responsibilities and work ethic.
(3) Encourage him to be courageous as he faces his daily, spiritual battle.
(4) Live like a real disciple of Jesus.
(5) Teach and practice the priesthood of the believer. Expecting him to do all the “pastoral care” is inconsistent with our evangelical beliefs.
(6) Allow your pastor to re-think the pastor-as-superhero paradigm. God never intended for one person to skillfully fulfill all the responsibilities He assigned to the teams of men called “elders.”
That brings us to a seventh thing lay people can do to keep a great pastor and then, the conclusion of this series of posts:
(7) Encourage the development and deployment of, what I call, “real Biblical elders.” This is a big subject, but for purposes of this post I’ll just say that “real Biblical elders” (Acts 20:17-32, I Peter 5:1-4, Titus 1:5ff; I Timothy 3:1-7 and 5:17-22, etc.) share the God-given tasks assigned in these passages, instead of expecting one vocational elder (the pastor) to be a superhero who fulfills all of these functions single-handedly.
(8) Respect his office and his schedule. You don’t have to call him “Reverend” or view him as God’s untouchable, anointed servant (I Samuel 24:6) but you will do well to remember the following simple reminders:
- Like other humans, he needs at least one day off per week as well as vacation times with his family. In most cases, your church will give you someone else you can contact in emergencies, so you don’t have to interrupt his time away.
- Like other humans (do you see a pattern here?), he needs to eat and sleep, so don’t call him at noon – or other inappropriate times – and expect him to answer the phone because you happen to be available.
- Don’t be shocked when you see him at the grocery store or the drug store either. You know why: he’s human, like you.
- If you like good sermons, grant him some uninterrupted preparation time. It’s hard to have continuity in the pulpit if you haven’t had it in the study. Please don’t assume that he’s “not busy” because he’s sitting behind a desk!
- If you consume his time as a counselee, follow his counsel. He’ll be happy to help you if you are truly willing to be helped.
(9) Consider offering him and his family real friendship. Real friendships are reciprocal: they involve give and take.
(10) Make sure he has opportunities for support and improvement. Many pastors would love to receive further training but cannot afford to pay for it. Almost all pastors need mentors or coaches. Paying for, and allowing the time for these opportunities would be a wise investment for your congregation. Looking back, I would have been greatly blessed to have had a pastoral coach.
(11) Offer him grace and mercy when he makes mistakes. I’ll use the phrase one more time, “like other humans,” he will make mistakes and even commit sins. God doesn’t want us adding up small infractions into big cases; He wants us to forgive them.
I already mentioned gossip in this series of posts, but I’ll say it again: Gossip is saying negative things about a person who is not present, that the hearer does not need to hear. As Amy Carmichael put it, “speak to, not about.” Speaking to your pastor, directly, respectfully, humbly is always okay; gossip is never okay.
Do you have a pastor whose ministry you greatly value?
What can you do – today – to encourage him to “stick with the stuff”?