In my travels as an evangelist, I meet a lot of pastors. I get to hear their dreams for their churches and the frustrations that come with the job–which are the same obstacles I faced when I pastored. Sadly, pastor burnout is at a disturbing high. According to a 2010 New York Times article, “members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”
The ministry will always carry its share of dilemmas and disappointments–after all, it’s not only a calling, but a job. And no job is perfect. Here are seven things you can do for your pastor that will make his or her ministry more of a delight, not a downer.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING GOOD TO SAY…
You know the rest: “Don’t say anything at all.” Recently a pastor’s wife reported that three women were bad-mouthing their preacher in a doctor’s office. She said they were pretty shocked when she asked what church they attended. If you’re frustrated with your pastor, air it out with God in prayer. Another positive step would be to slip on your big boy or girl pants, make an appointment with your pastor and calmly share your feelings. There should be proper channels in every church for addressing grievances, but gossiping shouldn’t be one of them. I can’t tell you how hurtful and depressing it is when one of your sheep maliciously bite you.
On the flip side, regularly find something encouraging to say to your pastor. Did she preach something in last Sunday’s sermon that lifted you up or challenged you to go deeper with God? Let her know. Are you grateful that he visited your sick mother? Pick up the phone or shoot him an email. The Bible says, “You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29 NET Bible).
PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR, PRIVATELY AND PUBLICLY
Pray for your pastor frequently. Take it a step further and let her know you’re praying for her. Go the distance and pray for him while he’s in his office, during altar time or before a board meeting. At the end of my revival events, I invite congregations to come forward, lay hands on their pastors and pray for them. Clergy and laity alike have told me how meaningful and powerful this is.
SUPPORT THE PASTOR’S FAMILY
A pastor’s spouse and children do, indeed, have high expectations slapped on them. I remember one church wanted my wife to teach Sunday school because the previous pastor’s wife did. Laura isn’t a teacher and respectfully declined. There was murmuring.
Love your preacher’s spouse. Respect their interests, accept their spiritual gifts, give them space if they need it. Talk to the PK’s; ask them how school is going. Be a role model. Show them Jesus.
HAVE SOMETHING TO SHARE JUST BEFORE WORSHIP? DON’T.
Years ago, robed and ready to deliver God’s word, a woman marched up to me and sourly said, “There are cockroaches in the women’s room! It’s disgusting!”
That could have waited until after worship–or, better yet, until Monday. Nothing kills a worshipful mood more than mundane complaints.
REALIZE THAT YOUR PASTOR IS NOT SUPERHUMAN
I know you want him to be. You expect him to keep 9-5 office hours, visit the sick, evangelize the community, counsel the bereaved, attend every meeting, take every phone call, fix the men’s room toilet, raise funds, teach Sunday school, offend no one and craft a powerful sermon every week–all while looking like a million bucks on a preacher’s salary. Ain’t gonna happen–at least, not all of it, all the time. Cut your preacher some slack. Better yet, take up the slack. God has called you to ministry, too.
LOVE YOUR PREACHER INTO GREATNESS
I heard this from a fellow pastor years ago. “Love your preacher into greatness.” It stuck with me. If your pastor doesn’t preach great sermons, love him until he does. Love her despite her quirks. If your minister makes you mad, love him or her, anyway. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (I Pet 4:8 NASB).