magaretnahmias

Two ways to truly appreciate your pastor

 In Light of pastor appreciation month, I was thinking about how we can truly appreciate our pastors.  Burnout is a big issue driven by a lack of appreciation. "Anyone can get burned out. But pastors are particularly susceptible to it because it is their job to understand life and explain it to people", the  Mypastor.com  page on burnout says.  In an interview with Faithlife on the pastoral mental health guest, Karen Mason noted the pastor's unique pressure as a ministry and organization leader.

The 2021 Faithlife pastoral survey results also bear this out. 

Approximately 35% of pastors reported feeling burned out, with 40% of pastors aged 25 to 40 saying they agree or strongly agree to feel constantly burned out. This is nearly double the rate at which pastors aged 60-plus reported feeling burned out (21%).- 2021 Faithlife pastoral mental health surevey cited in offical press realaseWhile most pastors (55%) are fulfilled by the responsibility of giving spiritual and emotional support to their flock, many survey respondents noted how pastoral care is a mix of highs and lows, with 45% finding it draining.(emphasis mine)

  As James 3:1 states, teaching, any capacity is high calling with a much higher standard from  God.  But when holding our pastor high a moral standard, we may put undue pressure on him.  That pressure may be more apparent to him than the positive effect of his work. 

 Most material recognition, except maybe something to help him rest and feel at ease, doesn't address the root cause of the pastor's lack of appreciation. Supregon said the following "A few loving tears shed for us in private will be of more value to us than anything else you can possibly bestow upon us."After finding out about his struggles with physical pain and depression, this seems appropriate o I present two ways to truly appreciate your pastor and why these are so important.  

1.  Have Realistic expectation

A pastor's primary role is preaching the word faithfully to his congregation. Anything else is extra. "He longs to be involved in genuine ministry but finds that the work he does often takes him further away from the ministry he is most passionate about,"  Mypastor.com says 

. Don't load him with busy work that church administration or trained lay leaders or third-party professionals could assume.   The Christian posts list of 7 reasons for pastor burnout mentioned that poor delegation is another reason for burnout.  The 2021 Faithlife pastoral survey also found this to be true.  Does he feel obligated to do it because the congregation expects him to do these things? A Logos article on pastoral burnout stages noted single pastors were more vulnerable to the always-on attitude than the married pastors because has no family to tend to.  This probably causes he has to look to his work to fill the void.

For example, Your Pastor may not be equipped or even desire to enter into a full-time counseling relationship with his congregants. As I call it, this scope creep is one of the leading causes of burnout in church or even ministry in general.   Karen also noted that the following  Suffering pastor especially needs to limit who they help for their own sake.    Though if they feel they can help, they can offer a more sympathetic ear through personal experience  

It is ironic and sad when Christians start idolizing the pastor espePastor. It is one of the problems I talk about this in my post about problematic church behaviors. In addition, this conditions us to believe that he doesn't struggle.   Pastors need community and accountability just as much we do because of their position.

If your church is hunting for a pastor, it should not settle until it finds what it wants. . One church I attended fired a pastor behind the congregation's back because he did not focus enough on evangelism. This caused so much anger that even the founding family members decided to leave. My parents and I also went to another church. If that I what the church wanted, they should have looked until they found it. Instead, they caused unnecessary conflict because they were in a hurry to get someone.

My church has a rotating list of guest pastors. This is meant to give the lead pastor a rest. In smaller churches, especially pastors are obligated to wear many hats because of their size. However, even in a smaller church, a lead pastor could benefit from shared preaching responsibility with either an assistant on staff or a guest pastor like my church does. 

There is a certain stigma around mental health issues  even in the chuch.  The misinterpretation of 2 Timothy 1:7  is the primary driver of this stigma in the church.  Even those who understand the true gospel think this refers to a  literal demon spirit easily exorcised.  They miss what John says about perfect ( in this case complete) love driving out fear in 1 John 4:18-19. While in context, that verses refer to God's love and the fear of eternal judgment, the overall principle of emotional safety here applies.  . Emotional insecurity drives isolation between church members and pastors alike with devastating consequences. That resulting shame might make him lapse into sinful patterns, especially without an accountability circle. More than 10% of the Faithlife survey respondents felt suicidal in the past year.

In addition to these, the mental health impacts of the COVID pandemic also affected pastors. Some felt stuck about how to best lead their congregation through highly charged time. According to Mason, this deepened some pastors' despondency because of pressure to side with various factions over restrictions.

2. Let him know how his ministry impacted you.

.Like most Pastors want to feel that their work is making a difference. In fact, that is the very aim of their job. However, when they don't see it, a potentially crippling cognitive dissonance shows up. According to the Logos article, I quoted earlier, he will either leave or just go through the motion of activity. Te.  This quote from  My pastor.com  sums it up. 

Week after week, pastors stand in front of crowds explaining how the bible impacts life. But his words ring very hollow – empty – pointless when he feels as though nothing he says matters or makes a real difference. After a while, he realizes that his preaching only calls for a little more morality, a little more bible study, and a little more love. His teaching doesn't transform people's lives – at least not in ways that really matter. Clergy burnout occurs when a pastor sees that his work isn't accomplishing the results he intends. Even more frustrating, he doesn't know how to do ministry any other way, which leads to feelings of inadequacy or failure (Emphasis mine)

Maybe a pastor played a role in bringing you,toChrist. For example, Billy Graham came to Christ through Mordecai Ham and Billy  Sunday.   Alternatively, your pastor said pastoring that really stuck with you in a sermon or something else.  For example, just tell him if his bold and unwavering leadership strengthened you during p uncertainty such as the COVID. A kind and well-timed word mean much because he will see that he is making a real difference.  It might save him from despair that could drive him to s, in as mention above. As Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)  says But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.   

In conclusion, encouragement and edification go a long way.  However, they are subject to the same weaknesses as us.  I like Mason's statement  Pastors are like us but even more so.  Their shortcomings are magnified because of their position.  Allow him to operate in his gifts if he decides to take additional roles besides preaching.  However, don't think those side roles are essential.  Give him a break, literally and figuratively.

Related

Faithlife offers additional advice on pastor encouragement.

3 Simple Reminders to Encourage Burned-Out Pastors (faithlife.com)

Link to obtain the full Faithlife  Pastoral health survey report

Are Pastors Burning Bright—or Burning Out? (faithlife.com)

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