“I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2: 1-3.
That word agonized really stands out doesn’t it? The word is the Greek word Agon, which signified the feelings of a marathon runner in a contest. That was the way Paul felt toward the churches. He was in an inner conflict, a real struggle, as if he was at mile 22 of a marathon.
Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? 2 Cor. 11: 28-29
That word burden can also mean anxiety, uneasiness, constant care. Notice the emotions that it brought to Paul’s life. Weakness, anger, frustrations, or as the NET Bible puts it, ‘the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches.'” Paul is saying that his physical hardships are no more difficult than his constant concern for the people in the churches he started. Most will never understand the burden, the anxiety that Paul is speaking of. I truly believe that those who work in ministry understand his words. Many ministers deal with the overwhelming feeling that they are not doing enough. Church members have the burden of maintaining their own walk with the Lord, a minister has the burden of maintaining hundreds. There is never a minute that goes by that ministers don’t worry about one of their sheep. There is always a marriage to help, always a sick person who needs a visit, always someone getting off the path of righteousness, there will always be conflict somewhere in the church between people. And somehow, pastors/ministers are expected to fix it all. As pastors, we carry the burden, the anxiety because we have been called to carry these things. Our motivation is your spiritual well being, the advancement of the gospel and the overall health of the church. Ministry is our passion, our purpose, our pleasure. Ministry is not the burden, it is God who burdens us for the sake of a lost world. The burden reminds us that our work in never accomplished. It was Jesus who stood over Jerusalem and wept seeing that they were “like sheep without a shepherd.”
Most people will go through this year without marriage trouble, hospitalization, job loss, death of a loved one or the loss of close friends. For a minister, we will sometimes help multiple people through each of these within a few weeks.
Let me give you some statistics put together by Focus on the Family:
80% of ministers believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
40% of pastors revealed that they have thought about getting out of the ministry.
A few things you should know about your ministers:
We don’t walk on water. We have bad days, we fret over bills, we have fights with our spouse and we are not always model parents.
We see as many defeats as victories. We try to hide our defeats and celebrate the victories. However, the sad fact is that after 20 years of ministry I have had more defeats than victories. We are disappointed by people more often than we are encouraged by people.
We feel constant pressure to keep you 100% happy with your church. Like wild geese, church members are on the move. Fewer and fewer people choose a church or continue to attend because of biblical teaching or theological conviction. I recall a Sunday night conversation with one of my deacons who was speaking with one of our church families under his care. They told him they were “shopping around for another church.” I went home that Sunday night in deep sadness. It affects us and it feels very personal. Pastors and ministers are passionate about their members and they pour their life into them, when they choose to leave the church, it is tough to overcome. Therefore, ministers fall into this trap of trying to keep everyone connected, excited and joyful over their church 100% of the time.
We serve distracted people. When your people are distracted through life commitments, they tend to put church as just another event on their calendar. Volunteers are harder to find. It is becoming more and more of a battle to even keep people attending on a regular basis.
What are some things that you can do to encourage your ministers?
- Pray for them. It is the prayers of your people that get you through the week. We need more prayer on Monday mornings than any other time. Monday’s are the hardest day of the week for most ministers. Ask them how you can pray for them.
- Love their family. Nothing is better to me than when a church member does something nice for my family. Offer to babysit for a staff member so that they can take their spouse out for a date. 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse. The divorce rate for ministers is equal to the divorce rate of the average congregation. Take the minister’s wife on a shopping trip and buy her something nice. Give encouraging notes to their children or spouse. Celebrate family events with them by sending cards, letters or gifts. Don’t forget birthdays, anniversaries.
- Take something off their agenda. Statistics tell us that churchgoers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks at a time. Our schedules are often filled with emergencies, life crises, and unrealistic time demands. Find something that you can do to “lighten the load.”
- Be a friend. There are times when your ministers just would like to hang out with you. No strings attached. Don’t discuss church, don’t talk to them about crises in your life, don’t ask them about the church budget. Just take them out to eat, to a ballgame, on a hunt, etc..
- Have an appreciation for their time. Most pastors have designated sermon prep time during the week. Leave that time alone. Don’t call after 9PM unless an emergency. Be sensitive to the fact that your pastor is probably at home trying to do homework with kids, giving baths, helping with supper and trying to be a parent.
- Just be an encourager. Over 50% of ministers say that they have experienced burn out or depression to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. 70% say that they have a lower self esteem now than when they started out. Commit yourself to be a constant encourager to your ministers.
Join me in celebrating the men and women who serve us in ministry. We should not only show appreciation to our ministers one month a year. It should be a consistent theme in our churches.
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 1 Timothy 5: 17