The Long-Term Care of Your Pastor
What are the responsibilities of a congregation in the continuing care of its pastoral staff and pastoral families? After serving together for 20 years on a team that was dedicated to the well-being of pastors and their families, we gained some insight that every congregation member should know and practice.
It is virtuous, invigorating, and biblical to set aside time each year to honor your pastoral staff and their families (such as during Clergy Appreciation Month). It can be one of the most enjoyable and unifying times your congregation will experience. But it is also imperative that your appreciation of your pastor(s) is not confined to just one weekend or one month. It needs to occur throughout the entire year. In fact, it needs to be present throughout his or her entire ministry with your church.
There are a number of long-term ways your congregation can show its love and appreciation for your pastor(s) and demonstrate its respect for his or her divine calling among you. Here are a few very important things your church can do to provide the ongoing care God expects from you:
1. Establish a pastoral care team.
Select a handful of people from your congregation who will be charged with overseeing the welfare of your pastor and his family. They will be his advocates. As such, they will regularly monitor his or her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being; offer suggestions to congregational leaders that would improve the living conditions of the pastoral family; represent the pastor and his or her interests in any discussions on such matters; and ensure that the following entitlements are properly available.
2. Provide fair and adequate salary, compensation, and retirement benefits.
The Bible says, “The worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7 NIV). A pastor should be compensated on a par with the people being served and with other ministers in the same community. Leadership in every church should be highly concerned about the physical and fiscal well-being of the pastor. The quality of such care is a reflection upon you as a congregation and is a witness to your community of Christ’s love in action. Recognize your pastor as a uniquely trained professional with related education loans to repay, family-raising needs, and living expenses similar to your own, including a right to a comfortable retirement. Make this support a priority. Review it and adjust it regularly. Give your pastor the freedom to minister instead of worry.
3. Allow time off for professional development.
Encourage your pastor to continually challenge and improve himself/herself by underwriting his/her participation in spiritual retreats, conferences, denominational functions, and continuing education each year. Every church will be better served if its leader is filled with new insights and motivation.
4. Allow time off for relaxation and restoration.
All pastors need time away with their families, as well as time alone with God. Give your pastor at least one or two days off each week, and respect his or her privacy during those days. Set boundaries and make sure the members of the congregation respect them. Grant your pastor adequate paid vacation days, based on the total number of years he has been in full-time ministry, not just his tenure at your church. Also, give him/her time off (replacement days) for holidays worked, and allow guilt-free time away for personal matters or bereavement.
5. Give freedom to dream and permission to lead.
Be open to new ideas. Your pastor has access to resources and new concepts from the world’s greatest religious leaders. That means he/she will probably come to you with ideas and dreams for your congregation that may at first seem a bit grandiose or unrealistic. But stay open. Dreams are fragile. Work to keep your pastor dreaming and alive. Don’t be afraid to let him/her fail occasionally. Follow his/her leadership rather than presenting constant opposition. Allow him/her to speak out honestly against sin and injustice. Let the Holy Spirit work.
6. Be willing to participate enthusiastically in shared ministry.
The most exhilarating moment a pastor can experience is to have a layperson say, “Pastor, I really want to make a difference in my world for Christ. I want to put on the whole armor of God and enter the fray. Will you help me? Will you train me? Will you pray for me?” Join your pastor in God’s ministry.
7. Support your pastor with regular prayer, love, and encouragement.
These are the most important things a church member can do for a pastor. Prayer empowers pastors to be the people God called them to be. It is difficult to pray for someone and be critical at the same time. Love your pastor(s) as Jesus loves them, and show it through regular, tangible acts of encouragement (such as simple cards or notes) all year long.
8. Create an atmosphere that minimizes ministry stress and unrealistic expectations.
Cherish your minister’s Christ-like character as a priceless asset of your church. Avoid grumbling, poisonous humor, or a negative spirit. Be loyal. Come alongside him or her to facilitate personal renewal and restoration. Keep him/her accountable in avoiding an excessive schedule and maintaining healthy priorities.
9. Care for your pastor’s family.
Don’t expect his/her family to be any more perfect than your own. Recognize that every family is unique, and eliminate unrealistic expectations. Encourage your pastor to make his or her family a priority (even above ministry to you) and to give it the time, energy, and effort required to keep it healthy. Recognize the tremendous sacrifices he/she makes on your behalf and offer massive affection and affirmation. Provide for their comfort, needs, and preferences. Don’t cut corners.
10. Support pastoral caregiving ministries.
Pastors do burn out. Even though you do everything within your power to care for them, statistics show that your pastor or someone in his family may someday need specialized caregiving assistance. There is no shame in it, neither for you nor them. Prepare for and facilitate such care by financially supporting one of the special ministries or denominational programs that offer assistance to pastors and their families. If and when it becomes necessary, cover any costs associated with renewing your pastor to full strength and restoring his/her ministry.
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13 ESV).
©2012 Dan Davidson / HB London. Used by Permission