For years I’ve searched for a job description for the position of pastor. Performing a job well is a matter of understanding and properly executing a list of agreed upon duties. With the guidance of scripture and the personal calling of God on a pastor’s heart coupled with the plethora of expectations of a congregation, the list is endless of ways he/she can minister to a congregation. It’s been said that, “Clergy are described as being in the ‘holy crossfire,’ as the pastor and his/her family attempt to juggle the expectations of self, family, congregation, denomination, and God.”
As I’ve interacted with my pastoral colleagues in Rocky Mountain, I believe one of the greatest gifts a church can offer their pastor is the permission to be a balanced human being. While clarity of congregational expectations of your pastor and vise versa is helpful, it is also wise to check in once in awhile as to your pastor’s overall well being. This may be as simple as asking them how often they take a day off to spend with their family, or other ways of inquiring about your pastor’s health and wellness. While Sabbath is a day of rest, it is often the busiest and most intense day of the week for your pastor, requiring a reciprocal period of rest at some other point during the week.
Another means of support and encouragement of your pastor can involve a simple phone call, email, or text when you do not have a complaint or concern on your mind. Pastoral leadership can be a lonely existence when your interaction with members of your congregation revolves mostly around the snags and challenges that arise. Remembering that your pastor is also a member of your church with similar needs of friendship and support can infuse some humanity back into what can often be a lonely vocation. Some of the greatest sources of encouragement I’ve received during my ministry had little monetary value, but were a great benefit to my heart through knowing that there were those that appreciated the personal sacrifices associated with pastoral ministry.
In my new role as the “pastor’s pastor,” the encouragement and support of pastors is central to my work. It is my hope that each of you will partner with me in the important work of lifting up our pastors so that they will feel encouragement coming from every side. My personal message of encouragement to pastors is to find the God-given balance of work and rest that was given to us at creation. Trust in the Lord enough to set aside the unfinished work of serving others in order to take regular time to rest, renew, regroup, and then re-engage with your congregation in the greatest vocation in the world. It is my commitment to support pastors not only in holding them accountable for the work of ministry, but also to their duty to rest and rejuvenate in order to keep life and ministry in balance.
At the time of this writing, Craig Carr was ministerial director for the Rocky Mountain Conference.
Fred Lehr, Clergy Burnout: Recovering from the 70-Hour Work Week . . . and Other Self-Defeating Practices (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 5.