This article originally appeared in Deacon Magazine.
I hate to break it to you, but pastors aren't perfect. In fact, they have one of the toughest jobs in the world. For one thing, they have multiple "bosses." Regardless of church polity, they have to answer to every church member.
Allow me to speak to your role as a church member and, in particular, as a deacon. Most of you love your pastor. Most of you respect your pastor. As a deacon, you serve alongside your pastor in ministry to your church body and the community. However, you may not know the important role you can play in his life and ministry.
I have served as a pastor of four churches, and I have consulted with hundreds of pastors. In many ways, I think I understand the work and heart of a pastor. Consider what it takes to be a pastor.
Being a pastor is a balancing act. It does not matter if your church is small or large - the work of the pastor weighs heavily as he seeks to balance time between the needs of his personal family and the church family. The old saying "Everybody wants a little piece of my time" is certainly true for him. This can create tension within the pastor that he will rarely share.
Many expect the pastor's children to be little angels. Kids are kids. Just like dad, they are not perfect. Often PKs (pastor's kids) feel like they live in a fishbowl and can't be themselves, and this can create issues in the pastor's home.
Sermon preparation takes time - 15 or more hours a week - per sermon. Two sermons to prepare for Sunday and another for Wednesday add up to many hours during the week, in addition to all the other pastoral duties he is expected to carry out. Often he works on Bible studies and sermons at night after a full day of ministry and administration.
Your pastor is not Superman, even though the church may expect him to be. He does not have all the answers. He does not know what to do in every situation. He gets tired and needs down time just like everyone else.
The pastor needs a team of people he can count on and call on to assist him in ministry. Deacons play a pivotal role that cannot be understated. Just knowing that he has a group of ministry-minded deacons he can look to for help is a huge encouragement to your pastor.
Allow me to share some practical suggestions on how you can support and demonstrate genuine love to your pastor. I put these suggestions in the form of five things not to do, and five things to do.
What not to do
Let's get the negatives out of the way first.
- Don't criticize or make critical suggestions to the pastor unless you have spent much time in prayer over the matter. Your pastor has to deal with criticism every week. It can drain him. Also, don't criticize his family. You know how upset you might feel if someone criticized a member of your family.
- Don't ask the pastor to make announcements right before the worship service. He needs to be focused on his sermon. Similarly, don't say other things to him that may distract him before he preaches.
- Don't tell your pastor how he compares to other pastors. Allow him to be himself, living out his gifts and abilities in ministry and the pulpit.
- Be realistic and don't expect him to be at all church events and functions. Most of the other church members and committees want him at their events as well.
- Don't expect the pastor to provide the primary pastoral care to all members, their relatives, their distant relatives, and the rest of the community within a 30-mile radius. Your ministry as a deacon can help tremendously here. Great deacon ministry is characterized by assisting the pastor in pastoral care.
What to do
As I have talked with pastors around the world, they have shared with me some of the steps deacons and church members have taken that have really encouraged them. Let me share five of them.
- Pray for your pastor. Send him an email to let him know you are praying for him.
- Encourage your pastor. He needs it because he's human, and he needs it to balance the criticisms he hears.
- Work with the deacon body and leadership of the church to make certain he gets sufficient rest, time off, and family time. Most pastors are on call 24/7.
- Encourage deacons and the rest of the church to take on pastoral care responsibility, particularly through small groups and Sunday school classes. The pastor should be the primary caregiver for the most urgent and serious of needs. Deacons ideally should do the bulk of less urgent pastoral care ministry.
- Be faithful to the ministry of the church. Few things encourage a pastor as much as committed church members and faithful deacons.
The fact is that many pastors are hurting. Sometimes, I think most pastors are hurting. They are looking for answers to help with their lives and leadership. The good news is that you can be part of the solution.
Adapted from a blog post by Dr. Thom Rainer. Read his blog at www.thomrainer.com.