|The following article was compiled from several sources by Jodi Eidnes, the fantastic office administrator at the office of the Great Lakes Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. She graciously granted me permission to "reprint" it here. Thank you Jodi.|
Caring for the Shepherd
As we remember and celebrate the birth of our Great Shepherd and Lord, Jesus Christ, let us remember, celebrate and care for the local shepherds in whose care we have been placed. The pastor of the local church is a precious gift from God that can be a great blessing to the congregation. However if this gift is not cared for and used with consideration the outcome can be great pain for everyone. Unfortunately, according to recent studies, it would appear that the average US pastor may feel like his/her position in ministry more closely resembles a burden than a gift.
The following information and the excerpt in italics is mainly taken from "Midwinter to Focus on Healthier Pastor Lifestyles" an article from the ECC's website, covchurch.org, which was published on January 13, 2006.
Pastors' health has been declining dramatically since the 1950s when studies found ministers to be among the healthiest professionals, experiencing lower disease rates and longer life spans. Later studies beginning in 1983 found Protestant clergy to have the highest overall work-related stress of any religious professional and one of the highest risks of heart disease of any profession.
The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) has discovered that their average pastor is depressed, overweight, overworked, reports considerable work related stress and wouldn't recommend their children following them into the ministry. These results are not limited to the ELCA but can be found to be true of pastors in many denominations even the Covenant.
A combination of factors have contributed to this situation:
* Fewer volunteers available within the church
* Greater, sometimes unrealistic, sometimes unclear, expectations of church congregations
* Increased pastoral work load causing many pastors to work long days, attend numerous evening meetings and counseling sessions, be available 24hrs for emergencies as well as using their weekends to plan, prepare and conduct worship services
* Clergy salaries have not kept pace with workload, nor have they kept pace with the salaries of other comparable professions
* Overall respect for clergy has declined, in the church as well as in the community
* Church conflict
* Sedentary lifestyle
What has the church in America done to its pastors? How can we turn this around or keep it from happening to our pastors? We asked the pastors of the Great Lakes Conference what they needed from their congregations in order to feel loved and cared for so that their ministry may be a joy and not a burden. They said . . .
Things that I (your pastor) need:
1. I need you to pray for me. Prayers for my ministry (worship planning, sermon preparation, pastoral care, administrative duties, time management, etc.); for my spiritual health, for my own closeness to God; for my relationships, especially for my marriage, which is foundational to all my other human relationships; and for my emotional and physical well-being, which I'm always being tempted to neglect.
2. I need to know that you hear me. If something you heard in a sermon has made a difference for you, posed a challenge, made you question an assumption, gave you a word of comfort, whatever, let me know about it! Most of the time I feel like I'm preaching into a vacuum. Are my sermons having an effect?
3. I need to know what your needs are. Let me know your needs and the challenges you're facing, especially your spiritual needs and challenges. I'm here to walk with you in your journey. If I don't always ask, it certainly doesn't mean I don't care -- it probably means I'm respecting your personal space and timing.
4. I need to be included. It would be great if the congregation would invite me and my family to participate in their family holiday gatherings. Pastor's usually sacrifice by living a great distance from their relatives and often spend holidays without them. Offer to make us a part of your family.
5. I need care and consideration from the congregation when I and/or my family is in crisis. The pastor doesn't have a pastor so it can be very lonely when there is a crisis in the pastor's life. It would be appreciated if the church would be a pastor to me during times of crisis. Call me, send me notes, let me know you care.
6. I need encouragement. I feel cared for and encouraged when you send me notes to thank me or encourage me to hang in there, when you hug me and thank me when I least expect it, when you share the fruits of your garden with me, when you talk to me about the report I gave in the council meeting (and you can because you were listening to me), when you tell me that you see God working in the church, when you put to use what I am teaching.
7. I need for the congregation to willingly volunteer. It would be great if people would call me and ask how they can help to do the work of the church.
8. I need for my home to be my home and for it to be in good repair. When a pastor lives in a parsonage, the church needs to respect the parsonage as the pastor's home. Do not barge in and tromp around, saying you have the right because the church owns the house. On the other hand because the church does own the house, the congregation is responsible for keeping the parsonage in good repair as a safe and decent place for the pastor and the pastor's family to live.
9. I need for you to know about and celebrate with me the important events in my life -- my birthday, my anniversary, the day I was ordained, the day I was installed at the church.
10. I need to be allowed to rest. I need daily time away, to be by myself and with my family. I need regular intervals to study, pray, retreat and go on vacation.
11. I need for you to take seriously that you are a part of the body of Christ. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Know that God has a purpose for our church and that you and each person in the congregation has a purpose in the church. Love and care for each other as precious children of God, bearing with and forgiving one another. Move purposefully through conflict toward healing in order to preserve the unity of the body and the joy of the Spirit.
Talking to Your Pastor -- from a pastor's point of view
You need to talk to your pastor when something is bugging you about your church. It could be a comment made during worship, an issue that needs addressing, a particular individual, or the way the sanctuary is decorated. Pastors want you to communicate with them and not "around" them. However, there are two times when NOT to unburden yourself to your pastor about these things.
First, don't corner your pastor right before worship. He/She is trying to focus on leading the congregation in meaningful worship. Your comments will direct your pastor away from the focus of the day, overwhelm them and sap their enthusiasm for entering the Lord's presence. Second, don't corner your pastor right after worship. He/She is concerned about meeting people and sharing with them. To bring up a "concern" (criticism) pulls the pastor away from a positive event (worship) and diminishes whatever joy there should be.
I repeat, pastors want you to communicate with them and not "around" them. But Sunday Morning is not the time. It may be "convenient" for the individual, but it is not good timing for the pastor. If you have a beef, call up your pastor and make an appointment during the week. Have the decency and integrity to care for your pastor by not invading the sacred space that surrounds worship. By doing so, you will honor and care for your pastor far more than you will ever know.
So…. Most of your pastors were installed at your churches during a worship service using the Covenant "Book of Worship". In that service the congregation was charged to: receive the word of God through their pastor with meekness and love, to undergird their pastor in the labor that would be done in the service of God, to remember that their pastor is God's servant and that they the congregation as God's stewards are to supply their pastor's needs in a way that is pleasing to God and an honor to the congregation. You were further charged to esteem your pastors highly for their calling as your pastor and to accept him/her as your spiritual leader. When questioned if you would do these things everyone said– WE WILL.
This Advent and through the new year, say again WE WILL and mean it.