“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls,
as those who will have to give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17)
I want to begin this article by giving thanks to Memorial Presbyterian for the support and encouragement they have given me as their pastor. There are days when my inadequacies for such a calling are manifest, and their prayers and kind words are an invaluable source of strength. There have been ups and downs in ministry; times I’ve wanted to pack it all up and find “greener pastures,” and there have been times when I have been overwhelmed by the compassion, love, and trust I have been given. Over these past 7 years, I have come into a richer and deeper understanding of what it means to be a pastor, and how I have been called to love and serve the Lord as I love and serve his church. My greatest desire is that God would be glorified in my life, and likewise in the life of the church – that for me would be a successful ministry.
I recently finished reading Kent Hughes’ book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, an excellent book on how to redefine success in ministry from a biblical, rather than worldly, perspective. At the end of the book, there is a great chapter on how the congregation can help encourage their pastor. While reading through the chapter, I identified many of the things my own congregation does for me and for my family and I thought I would pass along a summary of Hughes’ concluding points to help you continue to encourage your pastor.
You can encourage your pastor by living biblically successful lives
There is little that will lift the pastoral heart more than people who are successes before God (faithful, serving, loving, believing, praying, holy, and positive), for this means that the fullness of Christ is active in the congregation and that the vision and burden of ministry is being shared. It means that the pastor will have some people around him who are cheerful, hardworking, selfless, and supportive. The heartening effect of this cannot be overestimated.
You can encourage your pastor by your personal commitment to help him know success
Commit yourself to freeing your pastor from a ministry of numbers. While growing attendance and conversion is significant, it is not the only indication of success in ministry. This does not mean that the Pastor shouldn’t be held accountable in matters of work habits, administration, creativity, preaching, and spiritual discipline. Those are necessary. But the church must also commit itself to creating an environment in which its pastors are encouraged to be men of God and to pursue biblically defined success.
Encourage your pastor by not expecting (or allowing) him to be involved in everything.
Reject the ubiquitous pastor fallacy – that the good minister must be present and presiding at everything. The leadership of the church should help the pastor understand which boards and committees he must regularly attend, and those which he should only infrequently visit, ensuring that the pastor has ample time for his devotional life, family, sermon preparation, exercise, and leisure.
Encourage your pastor by providing adequately for him and his family.
Salary – An excellent rule of thumb is that the pastor’s salary and benefits should be at a level that is near the median income of the congregation, ensuring that the pastor can support his family.
Study Time – These are not vacations. They are for spiritual and intellectual renewal.
Vacation and Days Off – It is not uncommon, because of emergencies and special meetings, for a minister to go two or three weeks without taking one day off. Help him by gently reminding him that his calling does not cancel his humanity. Burn-out has become epidemic in the ministry. The church can help forestall this by making wise provision for time away from work.
Encourage your pastor by loving his family
The fishbowl life of the pastoral ministry can take its toll – especially on the pastor’s family. Not a few PKs have reacted to the feeling of being under the congregation’s microscope. What can we do to minimize this effect? Simply love his family. By this we are not emphasizing a public display of compassion, but a quiet familylike love that recognizes that they are people in process like those in one’s own family. This love does not demand more from them than from other children. This love honors their individuality and gives them space to grow. It refuses to gossip, believes the best, has a kind word, and prays for the pastor’s family.
Encourage your pastor by treating him with respect.
The pastorate is a divine office, and thus a minister should never have to earn his congregation’s respect unless he has done something to lose it. Furthermore, he should be respected no matter how great or small, grand or humble his ministry is. The church must dismiss the world’s rung-dropping, numbers-counting way of according respect. True, your pastor is to lead by being a servant, but such a call is intrinsically honored.
When you have done these things you have done almost everything to encourage your pastor – except for the most important thing, which is to pray.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess 5:11)