Pretty dramatic headline. I know. I did it on purpose. You see, what you read today might have an impact on your pastor’s life; ministry life and personal life. Too many good men and women are leaving the ministry because they’ve had enough. Enough of being criticized. Enough of not feeling good enough or funny enough or smart enough. They’ve had enough of being compared to other pastors in other churches. They’ve had enough of the long hours of hard work that can’t possibly satisfy everyone in their congregation. While a pastor knows he/she is ultimately serving God, it is God’s pesky people that can just wear a person out!
I’ve come up with a few suggestions for all of you who regularly attend church. I use the word regularly as a subjective term. In southern California, regularly may mean once or twice a month, as long as club soccer is over and no weekend plans have been made. In rural Arkansas, regularly may mean every Sunday morning, two or three Sunday evenings, and mostly every Wednesday night. No judgment, just the way it is in such disparate environments. Nevertheless, if you identify with a particular church and care about the health and well-being of your ministerial staff (be that one person or a staff of twelve) listen up!
A pastor’s ministry life would be extended if we:
Allowed him/her to do what he/she was called to do.
What is the job description of a pastor? Is it to shepherd the flock? Is it to study the Word of God and teach it to the people? Is it to bring comfort during times of loss and officiate during times of joy? Is it to baptize new believers, visit the sick and infirm, and to pray for those in need? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Sounds like a full time job to me. Why then, to the above list, do we also add finance manager, human resources director, inspirational worship leader, comedian, professional counselor, IT guy, maintenance man, church van driver, Bible study leader, politician, goodwill ambassador, psychiatrist, and sometime toilet cleaner? We’re talking about just one man or one woman here, remember? No one can fulfill ALL expectations of what a pastor “should” be doing in today’s church! Be realistic in your expectations. Your church of 175 people will not have all of the programs and high tech stuff like the mega church down the street. The pastor of your mega church will most likely not know your name or visit you in the hospital. Deal with it. You are free to attend a church that best suits your needs. It will never be a perfect fit. There is no perfect fit this side of heaven. So do yourself and your pastor a favor and allow him/her to do the job of shepherding the flock to the best of his/her ability.
Do you want more of the bells and whistles? Then tithe! There I said it! Put your money where your expectations are and give your ten percent. If everyone in the church would tithe, then support staff could be hired to do all of the fancy stuff and allow the pastor to be the pastor, in the truest form of the word. The church doesn’t run on air. The pastor needs a living wage! He also needs support staff to help with the running of the church. God made sure the Israelites knew this when he decreed a tithe be collected to support priests and Levites (Num. 18:21). It would be great if every church pastor could have an independent income and volunteer his services to the church. But that is not reality!! Everything costs money as well; the building rent or mortgage, utilities, phones, equipment, stamps, paper goods, blah, blah, blah. You understand. So tithe already! Stop complaining about what services the church doesn’t provide and start contributing your money toward those things. If you aren’t tithing, you shouldn’t be complaining! If you are tithing and still have a complaint, then become a part of the solution rather than complaining about the problem!
So many, many pastors are run down and exhausted because of money issues in their churches. There is never enough! So many, many people in the church are exhausted because of money issues at home. They are afraid to tithe. Yet, when we are obedient, it is amazing to see how God seems to make our 90% stretch so much more than we are able to stretch our 100%. It is like witnessing a weekly miracle. Tithing isn’t just to pay church bills! It is a spiritual act. ‘Nuff, said.
Serve in your area of passion and recruit others to serve alongside you.
Can you imagine the exponential growth of a church if every single person who attended would volunteer in their area of passion and recruit, cajole, or conscript (just kidding on the conscript part, or maybe not) others to serve alongside them? Volunteers would be coming out of the woodwork and every area of ministry need would be covered! Don’t know what you’re passionate about? Then volunteer for various ministries in the church until you find your best fit. Do crying children make you pull out your hair? Then stay away from the church nursery and volunteer to chaperone the next High School event. You may just find that hangin’ with the young folks is exactly where you need to be. Keep trying until you find your “thing!” Then, talk to others about your passion to serve! Doing so will encourage them to either join with you or to find their own unique area of passion. Again, if you want all of the bells and whistles, volunteer to make some of that happen.
Not everyone who is involved in church work is paid for their time. That wouldn’t be financially feasible nor would it be healthy. Volunteering meets deep needs to be a part of something greater than oneself. It is an amazing opportunity to feel involved and significant in the Kingdom. Serving in your area of passion has many personal perks, but the contribution to your local church and, by default, the church worldwide cannot be over emphasized! It isn’t accidental that we are called the Body of Christ. The body is made up of more than the butt! So, get off of yours and begin to volunteer.
Still with me? I hope so because, as I said at the beginning, your pastor’s life could depend upon it. We need our current pastors to stay in the ministry, not burn out in four or five years! We need ministry leaders with wisdom, experience, and determination to remain in our pulpits in order to encourage us to live lives that are a reflection of Christ to an ever antagonistic culture. We need seasoned shepherds; therefore, we need to support our shepherds in practical ways that will encourage them in their work rather than discourage them. Can I get an Amen?
So, bottom line – be realistic in your expectations. Tithe already! Serve. Doing your part in these three areas will go further in encouraging your pastor than just about anything else you can do. Try it. I double dog dare you!