Fall of 2010 was an awesome and horrible time in my pastorate. Things were going great at church. The previous year we had 110 additions, hitting high marks in worship attendance and Sunday school. Our 11:00 worship service grew so rapidly that we quickly had to find overflow space and it exhibited an amazing spirit of excitement and expectation. We were getting ready to break ground on a new children’s building while also renovating the current facilities. It was a pastor’s dream scenario. Yet, I would come home from a full day of service and feel horribly deflated and frustrated. With an expanding congregation came more demands, more people to shepherd, more meetings, counseling sessions, weddings, funerals, staff needs, etc. I remember one specific Wednesday in which people were lined up all day for counseling, committee needs, building proposals and all the while trying to finish up my sermon prep for Sunday. After I finished counseling a couple who were having severe marriage issues I got in my car around 9:00pm after a long day and just sat there. My emotional tank was completely depleted. I had gotten to a point where I couldn’t keep up. I prayed as I drove home that night asking God to renew a steadfast spirit within me. It took me a few months and some time off to refill my emotional tank. As I travel and spend time with pastors I sense that many of them are battling through similar feelings. In speaking with pastors there are certain things that I repeatedly hear from them. Those conversations, plus my own experience led me to write this article. The truth is that most pastors will never tell you these things for various reasons. I am going to tell you so that they don’t have to. This is what your pastor wants you to know:
1. Your pastor doesn’t work for you. You are not his boss and he is not your employee, he works for the Lord. It has been my experience that church members fall into two categories; consumers or contributors. As a pastor, you love and serve both. However, the consumer will drain the pastor. Consumers are members who only contact the pastor when they have a need or want. Because they tithe, they feel as though he is a hired hand and they have the right to use him at their discretion. If they have an aunt in the hospital they expect him to visit in his spare time. Almost every personal struggle will need the advice of the pastor or a counseling session. They are the first to call with a need and the last to encourage. If every time you call, visit or speak to your pastor you ask for advice or share a need, you may be a consumer. On the other hand, contributors encourage their pastor simply because they see themselves as “co-laborers”. The least asked question in the church is, “Pastor, how can I help?” A contributor will often ask this question. Your pastor loves you but don’t take advantage of his kindness, it will eventually lead to discouragement. Focus on the Family found that the average church member expects the pastor to juggle 16 different tasks. The average pastor works a 50 hour week. Many of those tasks could easily be taken off him if the consumers would ease up and the contributors would step up.
2. He desires more time with his family. Not just time, but quality time. I remember one Friday night taking my wife on a date. I foolishly answered my phone when a number showed up that I didn’t recognize. Fearing it could be an emergency with the kids or a church member, I took the call. For the next 45 minutes I had an impromptu counseling session on the phone over an issue that could have easily been handled in 10 minutes with a simple conversation the next week. I was a fool for taking that call and letting it go on for that long, but not wanting to hurt the lady’s feelings I kept listening all the while ignoring my wife. Not good. Studies continually reveal that more than 80% of pastors believe that ministry negatively impacts their family. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you know that your pastor is at home with his family, wait until he is in the office before you call. (Unless it is a legitimate emergency). If he is on vacation, leave him alone. Call another staff member or wait until he gets home. Encourage his family and his spouse. In a recent study 66% of pastors stated they feel pressure to model the ideal family to their church. There is no such thing as the ideal family so this is unrealistic. Over half of the pastor’s interviewed revealed that they rarely get a legitimate off day. Protect his day off! Pray for his marriage, his children and protection for his family. We were blessed at our church to have a sweet couple who became adopted “grandparents” to our children. They would often call and ask if the kids could come over so Lorrie and I could spend time together. Maybe that could be your ministry to your pastor.
3. He desires authentic relationships. Over 70% of pastors do not have someone in their life that they consider a close friend. So much of our time is spent taking care of our church members that we don’t have the time to just “hang out” with a friend. It has been my experience in the pastorate that having authentic friendships is difficult. I remember one particular friendship with a guy in my church. We had children the same age and enjoyed the same interests. We began to spend time together and it was refreshing. However, one day he stopped returning my calls. His family left the church and he has not spoken to me since. To this day I have no idea what I did, but not only did I lose a church member, I lost a friend too. I wish I could say that this situation was a one time occurrence, but it was not. Pastors desire friendships that are authentic. They don’t want to play golf with guys who talk about the church the entire time. That is a work trip not a friendly outing. Befriend your pastor, not so that he can be your “on call” counselor, but so you can benefit his life for the glory of Christ.
4. He struggles spiritually too. He is not superman, not even close. Most pastors spend their time ministering the word to others and rarely have it ministered to them. Each time you feel Satan assaulting you, rest assured that your pastor is experiencing the same only with greater veracity. For a pastor, spiritual warfare is a regular occurrence and it is intense. Satan knows that if he can trip up a pastor, he can negatively impact an entire congregation. Your pastor needs you to pray for him, DAILY! Ask him how you can pray for him. He needs sabbatical time away to strengthen his own walk with God. He needs quiet time in order to hear from God rather than constantly hearing his cell phone. So many church members feel as though their pastor ought to have no spiritual struggles. Actually, the more spiritual he is, the more attacks he will face. Churches should have pastoral prayer teams that intercede for him. Great churches know the importance of allowing their pastor to have his uninterrupted time with God. This will greatly benefit the church spiritually.
Why not send your pastor an email of encouragement today? Why not serve on the “pastor encouragement committee?” Pray for him today. It is Satan’s goal to discourage your pastor. Has Satan been using you to accomplish his task?
Statistical information provided by H.B. London and Neil B. Wiseman in the book, “Pastors at Greater Risk”, Regal Publishers.