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Taking Care of the Pastor

This blog entry is not for the pastor. It is for those people in a church who are supposed to take care of the pastor. I would encourage pastors to read it and then decide what they want to do with it but it really isn’t for them.

Statistics concerning how many young pastors leave their calling never to return are scary. On the Small Church Leadership Network website, Glenn Daman talks about this fact in a blog entry entitled “Support and Care for the Pastor” . He suggests some things that a church can do to make it unlikely that the pastor will want to leave.

Every pastor in a small church should read this but even more importantly, every board member should read it and take it to heart. I have talked with pastors who have raved about the care and support given them by their board but unfortunately I have also talked with pastors who have been treated terribly by their churches.

In the small church that I attend I sent a link to this article to each of the board members. I did this without mentioning it to the pastor but if he reads this article I guess that he will find out. I realize that it was easier for me to send it than it would be for the pastor because I have no conflict of interest in the matter.

I didn’t send it because I felt that the board was doing a bad job. In fact from what I can tell they seem to be doing a pretty good job of caring for the pastor but I felt that it was a good read even for those who are doing it right.


Five things the board may not know about their pastor

1. Your pastor is on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When I was serving as a pastor, the only time that I felt like I was completely free of church issues was when I went away for a holiday. I had to be at least a few hundred miles away from the church before I could forget the problems.

If the phone rang late at night or early in the morning, I was convinced that it was an emergency that I was going to have to respond to. It wasn’t always so but it was often enough that my nerves would start to tense up whenever the phone rang.

A wise church will build into its yearly schedule time in which the pastor can just get away. It may be to a conference. It may be holiday time. It may be for a family event. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is away from the church.

2. Your pastor doesn’t get weekends off. In fact Sundays may be the busiest day of her week. Your pastor probably misses family outings with her extended family because those sorts of things are held on weekends. She almost never gets a long weekend because she has to work while others enjoy three days off. She loses two days of her vacation time because she can’t start her holidays until she has preached on the Sunday before she leaves. There is a price to pay in a job in which one has to work every weekend.

3. Your pastor is always on display. A few years ago my wife and I went through a period that lasted for about three years during which it seemed like we went through one family emergency after another. My father-in-law had a heart attack and went through open-heart surgery. Our granddaughter had open heart surgery when she was just eighteen months old. My sister died from cancer and just before her funeral my mother-in-law took a stroke and died as well. I was in Africa at the time and wasn’t able to get home.  My wife had to leave her mother in hospital in order to attend my sister’s funeral by herself. These are just a couple of examples of about a dozen or more things that happened to us one after another.

One of the things that I was very much aware of during that period was that I was on display. People were watching to see how I was reacting. Would my faith hold up? Would I demonstrate God’s grace in my life in the face of difficulties? It is difficult enough facing these kinds of things under any circumstances but for the pastor, who has to face them with the whole world looking on, it can be especially difficult.

4. Your pastor is often faced with the pressure of unrealistic expectations. We live in an electronic age in which people have amazing leaders available at the press of a button. Just go to your computer and you can listen to powerful speakers immaculately dressed speaking in front of auditoriums filled to capacity.

Google “church growth” and come up with literally millions of ways to turn your church into a dynamic growing congregation. Actually I just googled it and found thirteen million possible sites to choose from. If I am late posting my next blog, you will know that I am still trying to work my way through all those sites. 😊

It is hard for your pastor to compete against that.

5. Your pastor can’t please everyone. One of the pressures that pastors often face is that everyone in the church feels that to some degree the pastor is answerable to them and everyone has a somewhat different idea of what the pastor should be doing.

I asked my five-member board once what they thought that I should be doing with my time. I will never make that mistake again. Their replies almost caused me to give up after just a few years in the ministry. They replied as follows:

  • Elder # 1 – Focus on preaching
  • Elder # 2 – Focus on youth
  • Elder # 3 – Focus on children
  • Elder # 4 – Focus on fellowship
  • Elder # 5 – Focus on outreach

After working hard at all of those things, I could use my spare time to handle administration, counseling, planning, etc.

One person suggests that the expectations put on a pastor might be too great even for superman to do the job.


A final word

Churches don’t have to lose your pastor every couple of years but you have to take care of him or her while you have them. Take care of your pastor and you will discover that your pastor is telling everyone who will listen what a great church he has. If you are a member of a small church it is to your advantage to keep your pastor for as long as possible.

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