It’s lonely at the top. When I was younger, I thought the pastor was the superstar of the church, standing in front of his adoring fans. He was the product of years of privileged seminary training and personal study. I saw him as an unending source of council, encouragement, and fortitude.
While it’s true many of our church leaders are gifted and have an amazing heart of service, I have come to realize these “superstars” frequently sit at the top—alone. We may assume they are getting plenty of accolades and encouragement, but pastors can be the object of brutal criticism, and all too often, are left lacking the spiritual, emotional and even physical support needed to perform the daunting task of leading a church.
In order to honor the respected leaders I have had the opportunity to serve alongside of and observe, I consulted with several pastors to create this list of the top 7 things your pastor needs from you.
7 Things Your Pastor Desperately Needs From You
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16, NKJV). It is amazing that God actually allows the prayers of His people to affect His will! That is a tremendous privilege. Prayer can be an impetus that causes real change. Prayer unlocks prison doors (Acts 12:5), brings in rain from heaven (James 5:17), adds years to a life (Isaiah 38:5). The very power of God is accessible through prayer (John 16:23). Doesn’t this sound like something your pastor could use?
Certainly many things are accomplished through prayer. You might even find that by praying for your pastor, your own heart and mind is changed. It is very difficult to malign and speak evil of a person you are praying for. You will gain new empathy, love and respect for him through prayer. Don’t assume everyone else is praying for the pastor, you pray –pray regularly and in faith for God’s blessing.
Encourage your pastor by showing appreciation. Be specific. Mention the particular things he says that edify the church; how you appreciate his sermons and the good example he sets. Tell him you are praying for him and then follow through. Encourage your pastor by showing interest in his life and by serving in the church in some capacity. Be a participant not a spectator. If you present an idea or make an observation, come humbly and bring a thoughtful solution not merely a critique.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29). There is nothing more discouraging than being a victim of slander. If you hear people speaking ill of your pastor, refuse to be a part of gossip and undermining schemes. Listening to gossip and slander is just as much a sin as participating. So, influence those around you to encourage and be a blessing to your pastor. Give honor to whom honor is due.
3. Livable salary
While indulgent pastors do exist, the vast majority are underpaid. If your pastor is weighed down with excessive financial burdens they will be less affective in ministry and the whole congregation will suffer as a result. 1 Timothy 5:17-18 says: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’”. Make it a yearly task to assess the situation and make sure the pastor is being paid fairly.
4. Opportunity for personal growth
Your minister may come highly educated and well-trained but being in ministry requires a commitment to being a life-long student. Pastors deal with circumstances in the real world which necessitate not only the continued study of God’s Word, but also the study of culture and new technologies. Encourage support for the pastor to further their education, attend helpful conferences and retreats, and other travel. Make sure the church budget includes money for books, related software and other study tools.
5. Reliable staff and volunteers
No pastor can do it all alone; they need others to be willing to come alongside them and lighten their burdens. It is extremely important for a pastor to delegate responsibility so he doesn’t burn out. Some pastors have difficulty delegating; others have a problem because they have no one to delegate to. A strong administrator (whether on staff or as a volunteer), is essential in making your pastor successful. In a larger church, an administrative staff can find the right leaders and volunteers to help support various ministry efforts and keep those members accountable. In a hiring situation, it is always best to anticipate the needs of your church and find additional qualified staff before they are needed. This will help your pastor concentrate on teaching God’s Word and caring for the people instead of getting distracted by a million administrative tasks.
6. Someone to talk to
Think of the things you worry about most, such as family and finances. Your pastor worries about all those things and he also feels the burdens of those he shepherds. There is daily pressure to be tempted to anxiety. For those of you who work closely with your pastor, be a friend, a listening ear. One pastor I spoke to covets not only the input of others in ministry but also of counselors, mentors, advisors outside his own church. He gains insight and perspective in an environment where he can truly let his guard down and hear their counsel.
7. Time with family
Make sure your pastor gets time off. Adequate vacation time is huge. And when he is home help him to make it truly a place of refuge by guarding his personal time. His home should be a place he can hide away and re-tool, free from interruptions, and concentrate on being there for his family.
This article was an effort to create more awareness in the church community about what pastors need. Hopefully you will share this list with your pastor and ask what he would add. Hebrews instructs us, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17, NASB)