By: Rev Ed Schneider
I would hope mature Christians could learn to get beyond short term misunderstandings or differences of opinion while focusing on some of the more divine aspects of their associations, but it seems at times this becomes a difficult proposition for many.
The following two lists are a practical guide in learning how to deal with some of the standard challenges that continually raise their ugly heads in most churches. The first list is designed to better help the congregation to relate, understand, communicate and support their pastor. The second list is a strong reminder to pastors concerning their state of mind when serving their congregation.
I pray these lists will provoke serious and sincere contemplation regarding how all of us relate to each other within the Christian setting.
Ten Ways to Help Your Pastor
1. Pray for your pastor’s clarity, passion, patience and loving sacrifice under the will of God. Pastors are an unusual lot of people. By their very nature, they are people of hope and vision. It is sometimes difficult to analyze whether one is listening to your desires or God’s direction. Trust that your sincere prayers can make a significant difference in your pastor’s focus.
2. Supply a pastoral need before being asked. Far too often pastors live and work in an isolated environment. They sacrifice much to serve God’s people. It is a wonderful expression of your trust in god’s grace if you can find a pastoral or personal need of your pastor and somehow arrange to solve a “challenge” before turns into a “problem.”
3. Avoid comparisons to former pastors. Each new leader is required to look upon the church with fresh eyes and an open mind; so should the membership look at the new pastor with fresh eyes and an open mind.
4. Don’t assume that the pastor’s spouse is your personal communication device to the pastor. Far too many folks “use” the pastor’s spouse to “send” messages to the pastor. Stop that!
5. Treat your pastor for the next 60 days as though he/she is a church consultant, an expert on the current issues of your specific local congregational needs. The assumption of respect is greatly needed in our churches.
6. The next time anyone complains in the parking lot, the hallway, or over the phone, tell them, “Let’s arrange right now to talk to the pastor about your concerns.” Stop empowering those who hide behind the pretense of self-importance.
7. Remember that a pastor’s primary job has nothing to do with pleasing your every desire. His or her function is to lead, guide, counsel and direct an entire congregation of Christian souls and those who are in search of divine answers to the harder questions of life.
8. Do all you can to involve, invite and include the pastor’s family in OUTSIDE church social activities. Many pastoral families are left out in “the wilderness” when it isn’t necessary or right. We can do much better than that!
9. Commit 16 weeks in a row to actively participating in Bible study, an organized outreach or a service ministry to the church or its membership.
10. Commit to bringing (not just inviting) three new households to church or a Bible study during the next six months.
Ten Ways Your Pastor Can Help the Congregation
1. Be prayerful and controlled with all the souls who are in your charge. Remember that you are there to serve the congregation, not help them serve you. You can lead and direct with loving authority without having to extend the rod of dictatorship.
2. Remember that you don’t know everything – just a God that does.
3. Live a life devoted to serving others spiritual needs before your personal desires.
4. Remember that in any healthy church setting its practical expression is a team effort between clergy and laity. It is not a one person show.
5. Take very seriously the stewardship and administration of the governance of the church. Lead by example and don’t be afraid of holding “leaders” accountable for their actions and inactions. God deserves our best.
6. Remember you can’t lead if nobody is willing to follow. Develop trust and open communication with several sections of the entire congregation.
7. Consult and listen to your membership. You don’t have to always agree, but you should always be open to the gifts and graces God has provided within others.
8. People don’t always have to agree with every point of your opinions to follow your leading; but to be an effective leader of God’s people, they will have to trust your intentions and your motivations. Take the time to develop trust and genuine concern before any major changes are even discussed.
9. You will always be “the preacher.” Whenever folks are in trouble you can become their “minister”. But a “pastoral” relationship is a very special opportunity for Christian service and takes time and commitment from you, as well as trust and willingness from others, to make it happen. It’s one thing to have the “title” of pastor, but it’s a whole other thing to actually earn the privilege of “being” someone’s pastor. Being a pastor is tremendously different than being a preacher.
10. Set your personal standards of ethics and demeanor on a high platform and stick by them so others will have a lofty goal to live up to. None of us are perfect, and clergy are not any different in that respect. However, not everybody should be wearing a cleric’s collar. It is a sacred responsibility and should be honored by each individual who carries the call of Christ. Whether you like it or not, people are watching and listening, and people will guide some of their actions or inactions by your example.
I pray these two lists help.