Posted On: February 13, 2016 • Author: Pastor David Bousquet • Category: Articles
Recently I was asked to give a few ways that members of a congregation could help their pastor besides the obvious one of prayer. The individual was not trying to minimize the need for prayer, but instead realized that prayer is not enough. Real support is found not only in praying for but actively working with your pastor. As a result several different things have come to mind as excellent ways to encourage, edify, and strengthen a pastor’s ministry.
First, demonstrate a sincere desire to hear the sermon. Many would say that they already do this, but I feel that most don’t understand what real hearing means. This does not mean that the congregation should merely listen to the sermon, but that once they have heard they demonstrate understanding by applying the delivered Word. Don’t tell the pastor “thanks, I appreciate that” instead tell him how that message applied to you. This will not only let him know that he is being effective, but it will also help him to know your specific needs and thus he is better able to meet them as a result. Too often we are content to express thanks as an obligation when we leave, instead we should express our need so that the pastor can more earnestly pray for each of us.
Second, please take correction as edification instead of as an attack. Part of the pastor’s job is to help each member become more like Christ, as a result he must do more than just encourage good behavior. He must also reveal when an action or pattern of behavior is destructive and counter productive to the cause of Christ. I realize that many pastors may not correct with the appropriate attitude, but consider how your attitude may affect his. If you begin with a strong defensive wall, he will probably respond with the same. I realize that this is difficult, but ultimately our spiritual maturity can be measured by our response to correction. Even if he doesn’t have an appropriate attitude, he may have a valid concern. Listen to what is said with a spirit of submission to Christ (not the pastor), and understand that God’s refining process is difficult. Interestingly, I feel that this is doubly important if his attitude is wrong, because then you must respond with humility in order to allow for God’s corrective hand.
Third, please learn to handle personality conflicts and small problems yourself. As a pastor, I have had to be distracted from my primary ministry on many Sundays in order to deal with petty conflict issues. Learn to say “I was wrong, please forgive me”, or learn to forgive. Nothing divides more quickly than conflict. If you have a problem with someone try to work it out with them before you bring the pastor into it.
Fourth, don’t volunteer to help. I know that sounds a little strange, but let me explain. Too often I have been told by individuals that they are willing to help, but then they never volunteer to help in the areas that need help. If you want to help with a certain ministry or in a certain area then ask, but don’t be nebulous or vague. Your pastor may or may not know what you strengths or weaknesses are, help him out and let him know. If he asks you to do something that you are unable to do, then tell him so. Don’t agree to do it and then do nothing with it. Also, don’t suggest an activity or ministry be started unless you are prepared to take a leadership role in either it’s organization or operation. Your pastor probably already is involved in more ministries than he should be so take the time to consider your role in it before you suggest it.
Fifth, increasing the amount of money he receives is not the answer. If the pastor is a man of integrity there is a limit to what he is able to receive in good conscience. In addition, the more he is paid the greater his sense of obligation will be for him to work harder. For the pastor this can be destructive. He is probably already straining the bounds of sanity and sleep. Understand that he works more than you probably realize. Even if he doesn’t spend all day in the office, he probably works from home. Unlike many professions, he has no personal space. I do most of my studying at home where I have great resources and fewer distractions. It is not unusual for a pastor to be studying late into the evening, to be interrupted by emergency phone calls, to have impromptu counseling sessions, and to comfort the suffering in any given week. These can’t all be planned, please understand that.
Sixth, your pastor will need you to correct him just as you need him to correct you. Please correct him with the same attitude you would want to be corrected with. It is easy to either ignore or overlook or overreact to a pastor’s mistakes or sins, but we cannot allow that to happen. If you fail to correct your pastor then your pastor may become arrogant or proud. In addition his sin could escalate into one that would be a massive devastation to the church. He should be corrected with meekness and humility, which should then make a positive response more likely. Understand that no correction is pleasant, but it is necessary. Also correction is needed if he said or taught something in error. This correction will reveal to him several things. It provides humility to him by providing an opportunity to apologize and correct the sin or error publicly. It provides encouragement concerning the discernment of the congregation revealing to him that they are learning and maturing. It provides transparency between the congregation and the pastor. It provides unity by helping everyone realize that we each are the same and have the same need for Christ’s grace in all situations.
Seventh, give your pastor encouraging notes once in a while at a time other than the Sunday service. When you do this don’t make it a phone call or a text message. This should be something personal and something that took time. The pastor spends a great deal of time providing spiritual nourishment for the church, and a return of time is appreciated. This should be at least an email, but is better if it is a letter or card. If you choose to send a card please write something meaningful in it. This is something that the pastor will keep and remember. I know that many churches practice a “pastor appreciation” month in October, but this is something that should happen throughout the year and not at a regular time.
Finally, please respect his time on service days. Many feel that the best time to have a quick conference with the pastor is either before or following a service. This is the worst time, not the best. There are five other days that could be used. Please understand that the pastor has other things on his mind, he is exhausted from having just poured out his heart and spirit for the last hour, or may have another previously scheduled meeting. If you have a quick question a quick email, text, or phone call will normally fit more easily into his schedule. Don’t assume your five minutes will truly be five minutes. If it is an emergency, then by all means speak to him, but if it can wait schedule a time to discuss it with him. This will be to your advantage as well as his, because he will be able to give you more focus and thus provide better counsel and advice. Likewise, please respect his day off. He needs the time to be able to focus on rest and his family. If you don’t know when his day off is, ask.
This list is by far not an exhaustive one, but is intended only as a general list to provide some ideas. The key is to remember that if you are exhausted by your efforts with the church, then he probably is too. Remember that he hurts too, he struggles too, he needs gracious correction too, and he needs love too.