Consider the following sobering survey results of the personal and professional lives of the clergy:
– 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week
– 80% believed that pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
– 33% said that being in ministry was an outright hazard to their family
– 75% reported a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry
– 50% felt unable to meet the needs of the job
– 90% felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
– 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they started out
– 40% reported a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
– 37% confessed having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church
– 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
I started this series because I believe most congregations have no idea just what a strain the pastoral ministry places on the pastors and their families. So, in this post, I want to share with you three things you can do to provide support for the one called by God to care for the sheep under his care.
Offer sincere and constructive feedback on the sermon.
“Pastor, that was incredible…” while I love to hear that, it did not help me to hone my craft. I told my wife early on that “…since you are the only one who will have the courage, to be honest with me, please tell me the truth about my preaching.” Early on some of those conversations were brutal, but then again so was my preaching. It reminds me of what one parishioners said, some pastors preach “longhorn sermons,” a point here, a point there, and a lot of bull in between.
As I travel around and visit congregations, I hear this story far too often. “Our pastor preaches sermons that no one wants to hear. They just don’t connect with us. They do not spiritually feed the people.” So I ask them, did you talk to your pastor about that? And the answer is a resounding, NO!
The next time you want to give your pastor encouragement, make your comments specific, not general. Direct your comments to what the Holy Spirit did through him. “God taught me ________through your sermon today.”
Give him encouragement after the mediocre sermons.
I had a member who would come up to me after one of those and say, “Pastor that was a warm sermon.” I asked him after hearing that a few times what he meant, and he responded, “Not so hot.” He wanted to remind me that I needed more work on delivery or preparation.
Encouraging your pastor in his preaching is important. It will not only help him, but it will benefit the entire flock. If the pastor has a teachable spirit, he will grow in his proclamation of the gospel, and you will find yourself getting more out of the sermons.
Encourage him in caring for and leading his family.
Since many pastors are also husbands and fathers, they have an added responsibility. And the role of husband and father comes before that of a shepherd. In writing to the young pastor Timothy, the apostle Paul had this wise advice to for him.
“He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” 1 Timothy 3:4-6
As you can see from God’s word those roles should be more important in their life than their capacity as a pastor. So, if you want to have a happy and healthy pastor insist that the man called to serve not neglect his home life, encourage him in leading his family, and care for them as you care him.
Give your pastor permission and encourage and support him in personal development.
In the first post in this series, I talked about the importance of taking a day of rest. Now I want to encourage you to support your pastor’s professional development. You want your pastor to attend conferences where he will continue to develop as a shepherd and leader. There is something healthy about getting out and seeing other ways of doing ministry. Unfortunately, many pastors feel guilty about asking for this opportunity to grow, so they don’t. But members expect them to know the latest ministry approaches and trends, and some members feel they are being cheated if their pastor is not there every Sunday. If you want to burn a preacher out and start a call process every three years, operate your ministry with that failed approach.
From some 8,000 laymen and ministers with whom we have conferred, five principal pastoral problems emerge a loss of nerve, a loss of direction, erosion from culture, confusion of thought and exhaustion. They have become shaken reeds, smoking lamps, earthen vessels…spent arrows. They have lost heart. But they can be revived!
Many have asked me about Sabbaticals. Here is a link to excellent resources.
Other posts on Church worker health and support:
This focuses on the impact the ministry has on children.
These two on the pastor’s spouse.
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