Thursday, October 1, 2009

Harvest Impact: What Pastors Would Like to Say, but Probably Won't

By Wayman Ming Jr., General Secretary
As I view the spiritual dynamic of these last days, I see a wonderful phenomenon occurring in the Church—the tearing down of destructive walls between pastors and people. Like never before, a wave of armor bearers are rising to protect their leaders, and in turn, church leaders are pushing themselves to transparency and accountability. Even though the journey is arduous, pastors are seeking to step forward and share their struggles, needs and imperfections. I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can receive is a better understanding concerning the life of pastors. Perhaps these few insights may “enlighten the eyes of our understanding” even more.

Pastors: “We also require spiritual care.”
Many Christians realize that a church’s zeal and stamina are largely connected to a pastor’s spiritual health. Yet, do they ensure that their pastors are operating on a full spiritual tank or are staying spiritually fit?

Our current “ecclesiastical landscape” is strewn with many shocking examples of bankrupt churches and spiritually compromised pastors! The body of Christ is filled with pastors who have been burned out and burned up.

In his book, Your Pastor is an Endangered Species, H. B. London states that 40 percent of all pastors think of giving up every week, and 40 percent of those presently serving will not be doing so in 10 years. Although most pastors may seem to don the cape of Superman at times, many of them spend most of their time as Clark Kent with very real needs.

Do your church a gigantic favor by finding ways to resource your pastor.
  • Send your pastor to a pastor’s conference every year.
  • Encourage your pastor to get in a support group of other pastors.
  • Urge your pastor to take 1-2 day retreats on a quarterly basis for prayer and reflection.
  • Give your pastor a book allowance to read current books and magazines.
  • Allow room for experimentation and creativity in ministry
  • Develop a prayer team that will keep your pastor spiritually vibrant and accountable.
Pastors: “Our family and ministry are tied together.”
Some people do not understand the degree of pressure that pastoral families live under. Whether consciously or unconsciously, undo expectations are placed upon them as they constantly live in a fish-bowl environment. Here are a few thoughts to protect pastors’ families from viewing ministry and the church in an adversarial role:
  • Don’t expect perfection of the pastor’s family.
  • Families are unique and should not be expected to be like any other family. Resist words like, “Our former pastor’s family did it this way.”
  • Encourage pastors to set weekly time blocks for marriage and family.
  • Don’t expect the pastor’s spouse or children to play the piano, head a highly visible ministry or have all the answers.
  • The pastor’s family needs a surrogate extended family—uncles, aunts and grandparents.
  • Offer them massive amounts of affection and affirmation.
Pastors: “Criticism wounds deeply!”
Why can’t pastors be more thick-skinned? Why are politicians satisfied with a 51 percent approval rating while pastors are troubled when one person criticizes or complains? Pastors are sensitive to criticism because they live with it continually. From the man who wants to debate one sentence in the sermon to the lady who squawks because you missed shaking her hand!

As a pastor I once had a family leave the church because we were too Pentecostal, and another family leave the church because we weren’t Pentecostal enough… all in the same week. One Nervous Nellie or Ned stirring up criticism can do as much damage as a careless mechanic spilling gasoline on a hot engine. Allow me to suggest that you double the affirmation of pastors and watch the result. They will preach better, pray better, serve better and care better.

Pastors: “We are stressed-out with finances.”
Except for the reasonably well-paid pastors in larger churches, most pastors’ wages are not adequate to cover family needs. In many situations, the spouse’s outside income is what makes it possible to continue in ministry. Unfortunately, the frustration for many pastors is that their financial support is often placed quite low in the church’s economic priority list.

Whether we want to face the truth or not, money talks about how much churches really care for their pastors. What kind of message does it send when the finance committee or the members of the church ask periodically, “Pastor, is there anything that we can do for you financially?” It sends a wonderful message.

In our American culture, we can pay athletes and rock stars millions of dollars, but we can’t seem to provide for our pastors. God will bless those churches that are looking for ways to bless their pastors.

Unlike any other line of work, pastors live with the daily challenge of eternal accountability. The health of a church is often reflected in the health of the pastor. Let’s keep them healthy and life-giving. At times, let’s even listen to “What pastors would like to say, but probably won’t.”

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