Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do You Lose Sleep at Night Thinking About Your Church?

Your pastor probably does. (I know I do.)

I was instant messaging once with my friend Bill, when I noticed I had gotten a sweet message from an Element guy on my Facebook about the sermon I'd delivered just hours earlier. I shared it with Bill, and he said, "Kinda makes it all worth it, huh?"
Technically, it doesn't. Being able to proclaim Jesus should make ministry efforts "worth it." But, yeah, getting comments like that does kinda make it all worth it. It's a huge relief knowing people are enjoying, feeling served by, being satisfied with, and edified by my efforts.
Maybe that makes me an egomaniac, but I like to think it just makes me human.

If you love your pastor, I hope you take as many opportunities as you can to encourage him. I know it doesn't sound like much, but he likely hears much criticism privately and is constantly dealing with the pressures of keeping many people satisfied in their service and attendance.

Remember that your pastor typically has the same responsibilities and concerns as you -- financial responsibilities, busy-ness and exhaustion, child raising, not to mention dealing with the same sin/repentance dynamic as you -- but he is also not just thinking about his immediatel family, but the whole congregation. When a couple is on the verge of divorce, he bears that weight. When parents have a child who is running from God, he bears that weight. When Sister Ethel and Sister Margaret are arguing over what color the such-and-such in the fellowship hall should be, he bears that weight. If people are upset about attendance/music/teaching/whatever, he bears that weight. A good pastor is helping young people fall in love, and he is helping ill people die well. You may have a family (and perhaps employees or employers) constantly looking to you, wanting something from you. But he likely has far more people looking to him, wanting something from him, and the wants are often spiritualized, giving them an extra weight.

He has the weight of many on his shoulders.

He probably will not tell you about his marriage problems, his financial problems, his dealing with depression or struggling with addictive behavior. Maybe he needs help. Or maybe he just needs to know more often that people appreciate his service and leadership.
Verbal encouragement won't solve problems, but it does help.

According to some stats:
1. Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches.

2. Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.

3. Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

4. Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years. Ninety percent of pastors said their seminary or Bible school training did only a fair to poor job preparing them for ministry.

5. Ninety percent said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be before they entered the ministry.

6. Seventy percent felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only fifty percent still felt called.

7. Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.

Pastoring can be extremely lonely, even when you're in a small group, even when you have a supportive spouse, even when you are respected by your peers. It sounds weird, but it's true.

An admonition from Thabiti Anyabwile:
Hey, have you prayed for or encouraged your pastor today? At the risk of sounding self-serving, could I suggest that every Christian church member consider one of their main ministries the ministry of encouragement for their pastors and elders. I received an email from one brother stating that he knew of over 20 pastors leaving the pastorate in one region of the U.S. I've had opportunity to interact with at least three pastors experiencing deep struggle. That doesn't include the normal battles for encouragement, joy, and perseverance that are just normal to pastoral ministry. So, have you prayed for your pastor(s) today?

(This is a composite, with slight edits, of a couple of posts from the archives.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sounds like praying for pastors is a good idea.

i often thought i the past that pastors that i have seen have kept themselfes at a distance. i felt like they did not want to be like part of the congregation. i thought that they held themselves apart and maybe above the rest, and only opening up to other pastors. it is hard to see things from a pastor's point of view if they never show that point of view.

i am glad that you show some of the struggle of the job of pastor so that some of the people that are not pastors can understand.

it helps for us all to be open enough with eachother, for understanding.

but, i guess that the system that hires and pays the check of the pastor can be the ones that are hard on the pastors, expecting them to be more perfect than other humans and to be set apart more than they need to be for a healthy interaction within the congregation.

i know that prayer is a must...then maybe the Holy Spirit will lead in a way for more healing in this area.