J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.
This may be a news flash to some of you, but your pastor is not flawless. Like you, he goes through seasons of suffering, insecurity, fatigue and doubt. He often feels alone. He may even be on the cusp of burnout — or worse.
People hurt. And that means that pastors hurt. But too often pastors hurt alone. With October being Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought I would offer some insight on how churches can care for their pastors.
1.Realize that just because you “know your pastor” doesn’t mean that “your pastor feels known by you.”
The pastor is the most known and least known person in every church. Everyone knows his name, face, voice, personality, stories and jokes. It’s never hard to strike up a conversation with him about his family, hobbies, interests or favorite movies, because he shares a ton of them with you publicly every weekend.
But very few people know when their pastor is tired, discouraged or doubting. After all his role, or so we think, is to care more about your spiritual needs than his own. So while the pastor cares for the church, “Who cares for the pastor?” often goes unasked.
It is a huge first step to realize this dynamic of the pastor being known yet unknown is most often at play. The more we talk about it, the more we can change it.
2. Let him know he’s one of the sheep with you.
If you’re a lay leader in the church, make sure you let your pastor or pastors know, “You don’t just lead us. You are a part of us. We want to be the church with you.” Remember, your pastor may be your shepherd, but he’s still a sheep. That means he needs love, support and encouragement just like you do. And don’t be stingy with the encouragement!
3. Make healthiness a pastoral expectation.
At a pastor’s annual performance review ask, “Who are your closest friends? How often do you spend time with them? What do you do to recharge?” As churches, if we only ask pastors about their productivity and not their sustainability, we can’t be surprised if they crash.
Make it part of the expectation of the church that the pastor have outlets that recharge him, such as working out, spending time with friends, or regularly taking vacations. Set healthiness, not frenetic burnout, as the expectation for your pastor.
4. Provide funds for counseling.
Pastors are very frequently in the caregiver role. Whether or not they like this role, it’s draining. One way to help here is to provide a scholarship for your pastor to seek counseling. Not only does this offset some of the pastor’s stress, making him more effective, but it also provides a humble example for the congregation. I can’t tell you how many people become receptive to counseling once they realize their pastor has done the same.
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Source: Baptist Press