Monday, February 23, 2015

How To Treat The Shepherd

While I was in Maine with a church plant, I had a man (who was attending my church, but not a member) who called me one day, and he told me that he always dedicates the first lobster he catches each year to the Lord, and did I want it? Duh. He brought it over, and it was HUGE, 3lbs! It was just under the legal limit where if they get any bigger, you have to throw them back. It tasted really good too!

The names have been left out to protect the innocent, and me. Only those in the Sunday School class know this . I was in a church this month, and I caught the last part of the Sunday School. The lesson was from Nehemiah, and was pertaining to the reestablishing of worship, specifically the care of the Levites and the giving of fruit, wine, grain, and money to help take care of their needs.  It was interesting, and true to the text, and the teacher did a good job. It was Lifeway material (so many of you studied it, and may have entertained the question), and the writer asked the question: “including, but not limited to money, what does a church do to take care of pastors?” What a great question! Having been a pastor for 11 years, I thought of the ways that churches went above and beyond for me and my family. I also thought of the times that we really felt forsaken. So I was excited to hear this class’s answer.

I sat in a meeting of ministry leaders and pastor once, and I listened to how many of them felt alone in their ministries. Having been hurt by others or by churches caused them to be very guarded, and afraid to be fully vulnerable and trusting. There was a longing for it, but it wasn’t being met. I thought, maybe we are doing something wrong? Maybe we have the wrong mindset when it comes to pastors and churches? Maybe this is the reason that we tend to have short tenures in the pastorate? Do we make the divide to great between pastors and congregants?

So what did the class say? They were silent. Didn’t say a word. “Ok, moving right along…” Wow. Do churches not give much thought to what they can do to take care of their pastor other than paying him? October is pastor appreciation month, but not all churches do anything special. But why not do something all year? Having seen the pastor side of that question, as well as having seen a lot of turnover in the first 15 months of my ministry here, I raised my hand and led them back to answer the question. This is a question that I wish every church member in our association would be required to answer on paper.

I think I am going to preach on this, but let me give some suggestions today. 1) Money is good, it says you love him; but, if this is all you or your church does, he is only a hireling. He is hired to preach, to visit, to marry, to bury, to be at the hospital, to be at the beck and call of others.  2) How about his time off. Make sure he takes it. Some preachers will work themselves to a fault. If they lose their family for you church, you have not taken care of him. 3) Speaking of his family. What do you do for them? Are their expectations upon his wife or children that wouldn’t be on another church family? Give them more vacation time than a business would; the church is not a business. It is a loving family, so let’s all be one. 4) One of the best things that you can do for him and his family is to let them just be a part of the church. Let him just be a church member. Visit his family. Befriend him. The divide between the pastor and member is far too wide. Shepherds had a close relationship with their sheep.

These are general suggestions, you have to ask yourself, what does our pastor need; not just, what is it that we have to give to just do enough. Each situation is different. “A new command I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you should also love another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” –Jesus, and I think He would apply it to pastors too.

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