FENTON, MI – Since many of you who read this column are members of a local church, I would like to pass on some information that was gleaned from an article that I read some time ago. With a great number of churches in almost every community, it goes without saying there are several pastors serving in these churches and each of these men have enormous responsibilities. No matter the size of the church, the weight of ministry is ever present.
Great may be their reward in heaven, but many pastors on this side of paradise are just plain worn out. Many times the rewards they are receiving for their earthly labors are stomach ulcers, burnout or cardiac failure. In fact, insurance companies have declared pastors as one of the highest health risk groups in the country. Interviews with several pastors revealed eight common attitudes or actions that leave them drained and discouraged. Please take special note of the following and try to determine if you or your congregation is guilty of any or all of them.
Making relational demands
A pastor can't be everyone's best friend. Nor can he always be readily accessible to his congregation. This is especially true when a congregation grows in size and expands in ministry. Someone other than the pastor can meet the need for fellowship and friendship.
Expecting custom-made sermons just for you
Who hasn't opened the Sunday bulletin, seen the sermon topic, and wished he'd stayed in bed? Yet what seems irrelevant to one is a direct word from the Holy Spirit to another. Give the pastor credit for being led by the Lord in the topics he chooses.
Seldom volunteering Church members approach the pastor about a ministry for which they have a burden, but often they're not burdened enough to help start the ministry. Most expect the pastor to start it and run it. And might I add, when it does not go well, blame him for its demise.
One pastor lamented, "I'll pour myself into a sermon on a meaty topic...and then someone - just as I'm finished - rushes up with a complaint that the water fountains aren't working or that there is not toilet paper in the bathrooms. It's hard to respond to a request so unrelated to what I just spent the better portion of an hour communicating."
Abusing his day off
What eight words are guaranteed to drain the life out of a pastor? "I know this is your day off, but..."
Ignoring important dates
Missed birthdays or anniversaries hurt most people’s feelings. Why not a pastor's? Acknowledging milestones in a pastor's life is an effective morale booster.
Accentuating the negative
Most people are quick to call or write with complaints or criticism. Few are equally forthcoming with encouragement or praise. One wise sage has said that, “Bad news can be halfway around the world before good news has its boots on.” A senior pastor insightfully stated, "It's strange to have the people offering the most criticism be the very people to whom you're ministering."
Withholding study breaks
Some churches don't allow study breaks. Some do, but view them as excuses for prolonged vacations. Others recognize their value but don't free the pastor from the tyranny of the urgent so he can break away. Make him go, or you might lose him. If he never stops to sharpen his axe it will only result in less trees being felled, and requires more work.
These were just a few of the issues that pastors say are difficult for them to deal with. This month has been designated as “Pastor Appreciation Month”. If you truly want to make a difference in your church and in the life of your pastor, then take this opportunity to show him the true appreciation he deserves. A card, letter or email expressing your love and care will impact him more than you could imagine. A gift card to a favorite restaurant or a few days of an expense paid get-away would do wonders for him physically, emotionally and spiritually. It really doesn’t take much. A kind word. A thank you. A show of appreciation is a good and godly thing to do.
This month show your appreciation for your pastor and his family. It will be the best investment you could ever make.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.