What Ministers Wish Members Knew
So. Jesus approached a group of disciples who were weeping. “Why are you crying my daughter?” “Because I’m blind,” she said. Jesus touched her eyes and she could see. He moved to the next disciple. “Why are you crying my sister?” “Because I’m lame,” she said. Jesus touched her legs and she walked. But in the distance Jesus saw a man totally overcome with emotion and tears. “And why are you crying, my son?” “Because I’m a pastor,” he said……and Jesus just started crying with him! (I love that joke. Sue me.)
There is nothing more difficult than pastoring a local church. I did it for years. It’s an impossible job. What inspires one will irritate another. What makes one happy will drive another one crazy. And the opinions?! The opinions are endless. But if that’s your calling in life, there’s nothing better. It was like being paid for a hobby. A check for something I would have done for free. I absolutely loved it.
But today I train pastors and churches and I hear the comments and complaints from both camps. Last week we looked at, What Members Wish Pastors Knew. This week we’ll flip it and look at, What Pastors Wish Members Knew.
“I’m not your last pastor.”
Good or bad, each pastor is different. It’s understandable but unfortunate that many new pastors are burdened with the reputation of the former pastor. That works well if the former pastor worked well. But if the former pastor had challenges, the new pastor seems to inherit them.
When I entered the ministry, pastors were generally presumed innocent until proven guilty. But with the public fall of many leaders and the endless barrage of real and fake news online, many ministers face a skeptical audience from day one.
Pastors are eager to make their own impressions. Give them an honest opportunity to establish their own relationship with the congregation. One challenge is that some ministers who leave…don’t leave! Help the former pastor. Cherish the memories and even the ongoing relationship. But don’t’ encourage the former pastor to cross ethical and professional boundaries, by funding or supporting their projects at the expense of your local church
“Help me help you.”
It has been said that the church is the only team that consistently tackles its own quarterback. It’s in the best interest of every church to foster a positive relationship between the pastor and members. Like it or not, everything rises and falls on leadership. When the local pastor is compromised, it is practically impossible for the church to be healthy. Here are some things you can do:
- Use your gift in the local church.
- Pray for the pastor.
- Assume the best and not the worst of the pastor.
- Go directly to the pastor with your observations and/or concerns.
- Don’t make someone else’s issue with the pastor your own.
“Don’t help me hurt my family.”
Few church members realize how much pressure is on the pastor’s family. The kids are living in a glass house. Finances are under constant care. Expectations are unrealistic. Churches talk a lot about the importance of the pastor’s family life, but few are intentional about supporting it. In fact, some of the church’s pastoral expectations are totally inconsistent with a healthy pastoral family life. Here are some suggestions:
- Go to work. The best thing that you can do for a local pastor is to share the call to ministry. We are a priesthood of all believers. That means that everyone has a job. Find it. Do it.
- Support the pastor’s family. Find creative and consistent ways to support the pastor’s family emotionally and socially. Provide a safe place for the kids to be kids. Don’t burden them with unfair expectations.
- Talk to the pastor and not about the pastor. Enough said.
- Stop expecting the pastor to be at every meeting!! In fact, stop having so many dumb meetings! There are at least 2 things that all churches seem to have in common. They eat and they meet, and meet, and meet. And for many churches, a meeting is not a meeting if the pastor isn’t there. Save the pastor and the church by streamlining and reducing meetings.
“Say Thank You.”
Those 2 words, thank you, can have an amazing impact on the life of a local pastor. They don’t hear it enough. I Timothy 5:17 is a passage among many that reminds us to demonstrate our appreciation to our pastors in very tangible ways. How can we do that?
- Open your mouth. Everyone lets them know when the meeting or the music or even the message went wrong. Be twice as willing to tell them when the meeting or music or message went well.
- Celebrate the pastor’s anniversary. This is a part of the culture of many churches. They’ve done it for years and they do it well. Encourage your church to recognize the pastor’s anniversary.
- Don’t forget Pastor’s Appreciation Month. It’s in October.
- Send the family on a vacation. It supports the pastor and the pastor’s family. You’ll get a better pastor in return.
- Don’t be afraid to celebrate financially. Cards and well wishes are great, but money is a present help in the time of trouble.
There it is. Members last week. Pastors this week. What do you think?