3.6 Part Two: Who Pastors the Pastor?

In 3.6 part two, we continue looking at some facts and figures on why the average tenure is low and gain some insider perspective on what we can do about it as ministers and church leaders.  Specifically, we target the idea, “Who Pastors the Pastor” in their times of need?

The Baptist Messenger recently posted a guest blog post along this topic from Brent Prentice, Senior Pastor of Stillwater, Eagle Heights in Stillwater, OK.  Brent has graciously allowed us to re-post some of the main highlights of that article here.

Here are five ways pastors and churches can work together to care for the pastor.

The pastor must let Jesus shepherd his soul. It would serve all pastors well to remember that they are not the pastor, but a pastor. Jesus is the pastor. Every true church is His church and Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of all the sheep who He bought with His blood.  How can anyone be a shepherd to others if they won’t first be shepherded by the perfect Shepherd? This of course seems rather rudimentary, but as sheep, they must abide, listen and obey if they are to be the pastor God has called them to be.

The pastor must take the initiative to plan intentional times of enrichment for his soul. There are many ways that a pastor might take the initiative to combat pastoral fatigue, and it doesn’t mean the pastor isn’t working. A pastor might take a day or two and schedule personal retreat away from the office and home so he can pray, read and dream as a leader. A pastor might set a goal to attend two or three conferences a year so he can learn from and be edified by others as he hears the Word of God preached. A pastor might ask for someone to fill in for him on a Sunday so he can take a week to do an in-depth study. Whatever the case may be, the pastor must not be afraid to take the time and initiative to shepherd his own soul with strategic breaks from the grind and routine of being a pastor. But the responsibility to make time for enrichment should not fall completely to the pastor. Someone who is a leader in the church and benefits from the ministry of the pastor should also be willing to go to bat for the pastor.

The pastor needs to build friendships with other pastors. A leader of a ministry once said to me that there are certain aspects and challenges of leading a ministry that some people, even assistant ministers, will never understand. At the time I thought the assertion was the result of either self-pity or hubris. After gaining first-hand experience, I see and feel his point. There are just some things that people don’t understand about being a pastor and leader. James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Ill., has made the statement, “Ministry is really, really lonely. Get with people who know what it is like to carry what you carry.”

• Even though it takes effort to stay connected, a pastor must cultivate relationships with like-minded pastors in similar situations. I have a few men in our church I trust and share with, but I also regularly visit with several men who are lead pastors in other churches who can listen, ask good questions and exhort when needed, and I try to reciprocate as I am able.  It must be a priority in the life of a pastor.

• The pastor should find a couple of dead pastors who can mentor him. One of my favorite biographies is, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken. Newton is best known for having written the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” but he was also a very influential pastor, who teaches me something every time I read about the successes God gave and the struggles God brought him through.

The flock must shepherd the pastor. I feel very cared for and appreciated in the church I pastor. I am not deprived of kind words, encouragement and support, and while my aim is to do all things as one working for the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23), it is a wonderful thing to have someone in the church give pointed and specific words of affirmation about how God is using the work of pastoring to change them into the likeness of Christ. A “good job” and pat on the back after a sermon is nice, but a heart-felt explanation of why it was a good job is the best kind of edification.  The body must work at shepherding its pastor with intentional acts and words of kindness.

Who pastors this pastor?  Every pastor needs to be pastored, because every pastor will become weary in the work, even if they are not weary of the work.

At his blog, Paul Trip writes about Pastors who are discouraged and depressed by saying it is a four-stage cycle of:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Family tensions
  • Fear of man
  • Kingdom confusion

Read his entire blog post here.

More information includes statistics from PastorCare Network:

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively
  • 75% report a a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry
  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of their job
  • 90% feel they were inadequately trained to meet the demands of the job
  • 40% report a serious conflict with a church member at least once a month
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend
  • 50% have considered leaving the ministry over the last three months
  • 50% of those who go into full-time serve drop out in the first five years
  • 94% of pastor families feel the pressures of the pastoral ministry
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than they do

The facts are there.  Pastors feel unloved, unsupported, lonely, like failures, and have considered leaving their current church overtime.  The need of a pastor is there…so, who pastors the Pastor?  We all do.  He should prioritize it as part of his life to follow the five steps above from Brent, but we, as a congregation/staff members, should step up to the plate and support…no, encourage, him refreshing himself, renewing himself, and revitalizing himself often.  Think about it as an investment.  The more renewed our Pastor is, the more energetic he is in the work in the church.  The closer he is to Christ through personal times of study and workshops, the closer he can bring us to the throne as well.

I have recently gone through a time where I have been pastored by staff members, a former minister, and a current deacon.  The Keith Getty hymn, “My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness” comes to mind when I try to describe the feeling I get when people care, call to check on me, and support me and my family in our times of need.  I pray this is how our congregation and community feel when e reach out to them.  Moreover, I pray that I can be half of the pastor to the congregation that they are to me.  I am so blessed.

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