More than a plaque
Managment pro Peter Drucker (1909-2005) was once quoted as identifying the hardest jobs he had ever studied. He said they were President of the United States, university president, hospital administrator, and pastor of a church. Whether the reference was authentic or not, he related similar sentiments in many other conversations and leadership training venues. His books and other writings also confirm his belief that the non-profit organizations like the church were the most challenging leadership studies. Maybe this explains, to some degree, why as many as 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month.
Over the years people have asked me how to encourage their pastor. Well, there's mountains of research out there about the unique demands of church leadership, whether from a pastoral persepctive or that of church staff. I have always been grateful for the work of LifeWay Research in gathering accurate, relevant information over the years. Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer are genuinely passionate about the dilemmas of spiritual leadership and the added weight of leading Christ's church in these times. Of the millions of blogs out there, and all of the opinions, theirs are always supported by strong data and biblical accuracy (you can access them at thomrainer.com and www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/).
That being said, my answer to the queries about encouraging pastors are just opinions based on my thirty four years of pastoral service and three years of being a pastor to pastors in my capacity as Director of Pastoral Ministries at the South Carolina Baptist Convention. There's no research department in my small home office, I haven't conducted any surveys, and I can't quote statistical variances to substantiate my thoughts. Still, as a futurist, these opinions aren't derived merely from my fond memories of thirty four years ago. You see, the world has turned upside down since 1990, and then again since yesterday. So, what we did back then may be high in sentiment value but not quite so as genuine expressions of appreciation and encouragement. My box of plaques meant something back then but they're in our storage building now. That isn't a critique, just a simple twenty-first century fact. You'll notice I don't mention salary or benefits or vacation or sabbaticals. They are a given and should always reflect your gratitude to God and him for his service on your behalf. So, these are non-compensatory recommendations. If you're practicing #1 all of the monetary considerations will happen.
So, how can I encourage this individual God called to be my spiritual leader? It's not a group of algorithems or quamtum mechanics. If you're mobile, it's a cinch.
(1) Be the Christian you say you are.
(2) Serve in the ministry of Christ's church at every opportunity.
(3) Support Christ's church with your resources of time, talent, and money. (4) Be positive. If you have a problem, the Bible provides ways to deal with it.
(5) Don't gossip, talk, or engage in activities that are critcal of him or the church.
(6) Confront destructive elements that injure your pastor, his family, others, or Christ's church.
(7) Insure that he is spending quality time with his wife and children.
(8) Pray for him and his family without ceasing.
(9) Thank him often. Be more than a face at the front door after service.
(10) Submit to his leadership as God's appointed spiritual leader.
If you're not mobile and can't attend regulary, do all the others, and send him a personal note every once in a while. Those were always so precious I would keep them in a little pile in my desk to read during stressful times.
Encouragement is the balm that heals so many wounds. And, let me guarantee this. During my time as Director of Pastoral Ministries at the SCBC I learned that when the pastor of any church was encouraged, the entire congregation was lifted too. It's amazing what a good word or action can do when strategically aimed.
The author of Hebrews wrote, "But encourage each other daily...." (Hebrews 3:13). To the Thessalonians Paul wrote, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..."
(1 Thessalonians 5:11). And, it starts with your leader.