Dear Church Leader,

As the Director of Missions for the York Baptist Association I have the extreme privilege of working with some of the best pastors in the world. I love working with them and watching how God uses them every day to minister to others with a selfless heart. I love these men and I carry a burden for each of the pastors of our member churches because I know the burdens they carry for their church members.

I am writing to you because I want to encourage your pastor by helping you see how your church can develop an intentional support system for him.

Leadership Guru Peter Drucker once said that the toughest jobs in the USA are President of the United States, a Hospital Administrator, a University President and the Pastor of a local church! He went on to say that this list was not necessarily in the order of difficulty!

Your pastor carries a heavy burden and constantly battles spiritual warfare. I have had the privilege of serving in various ministry roles since 1972. For the past 26 years my ministry has been focused on serving pastors. I have witnessed many pastors succeed and I have witnessed others, fail, burn out and self-destruct! Far too many pastors fall into this latter category!

As a church leader you are in a position to ensure that your pastor succeeds and flourishes!

Please consider the following facts:

SURPRISING STATISTICS ABOUT PASTORS

Nationally

  • 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week, leading to burnout.
  • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
  • 80% of pastors believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 70% of pastors say they have a lower self-image now than when they started in the ministry.
  • 61% of pastors admit that they “have few close friends.”

South Carolina Baptist Convention

  • Our convention has led the nation in Pastoral Terminations both numerically and in percentage
  • The #1 reason for terminations in our state is “who’s going to be in charge” We have a very contentious culture in many of our churches.
  • We have had 9 pastoral suicides in our state in the last 11 years. One other state convention in our region has had one pastoral suicide in the same time period.  The rest have had none.

Surely God’s people should do all we can to turn this around! The following recommendations and resources are made available to you through the York Baptist Association and the Pastoral Care Department of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. We will make ourselves available to assist you in any way to develop or enhance your support system for your pastor.

First: Pray For Your Pastor

What if this was the year that every church member made the “resolution” to pray daily for their pastor? It would absolutely empower your church to become the dynamic, community transforming, Great Commission organism that Jesus designed it to be! I hope you realize that it is a very real saying that, “as the pastor goes, so goes the church”. Remember, he is the target of the enemy! His experience of spiritual warfare is more intense than the average church member. This is especially true in todays’ culture where Christianity is being marginalized and pastors are not held in high esteem. He needs your prayer support.

“Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me:  my care for all the churches.”
2 Corinthians 11:28

Here is a quote I heard a while back…I can’t remember who said it, but it struck a chord so I wrote it down…

“Some people think a pastor’s job is easy – a thirty-minute work-week – but hours of preparation go into that half-hour sermon; and between Sundays are countless visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and shut-ins.  Plus phone calls and e-mails from friends and foes, staff meetings, deacons’ meetings, funerals, weddings, denominational affairs, counseling sessions, budget meetings, mission trips, paperwork, reference forms, community functions, baptisms, and prospect follow-up.  Not to mention soul-winning and disciple-making. 

We expect a pastor to be an orator, a biblical scholar, a student of the popular culture, a skilled administrator, a trained counselor, a conflict negotiator, a one-person complaint department, an evangelist, an educator, a PR spokesperson, and a change agent who can make improvements without altering anything.  We want our pastor to be young enough to have energy and vision, yet old enough to keep the senior adults happy.  We want our pastor to be innovative enough to change things, but traditional enough to keep things the same.

And take it from me – a small number of demanding, critical, negative, and vocal people can drown out a thousand encouraging words.  I’ve found it more difficult to get saved people happy than to get lost people saved.

All of which is to say this – pray for your pastor and love your pastoral staff.  Disagree with them rarely, quietly, and discretely.  Remember to say thanks.

They depend on your encouragement in bearing the daily pressure of all the church.”

So….do you want to make a REAL difference in your church and in your community? Then find ways to lead your church to pray for your pastor daily and lift him up with an encouraging word regularly. God will be pleased.

Second: Surround him with Encouraging Elders

Pastors need strong men of faith to help him minister to the body of Christ and lead ministry in the community. Your pastor cannot do the job of the Under Shepherd by himself. A healthy church will find a way to place mature spiritual men around their pastor who have his back and support him with their fellowship and commitment to the work of the Great Commission. Whether they be called Elders, Deacons or simply Men of the church, healthy pastors will have these men beside them. Ephesians 4 is not a suggestion.

Ephesians 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the [d]saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the [e]knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature [f]which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Third: Provide for he and his family financially

Healthy churches will show how much they respect the position of Pastor/ Under Shepherd by how they take care of his needs. Pastors who feel supported thrive. Pastors who are distracted by financial worries struggle. Give appropriate consideration to your pastors needs. You can find an excellent resource to help you determine what an adequate financial package should be for a church like yours at the Lifeway Compensation Report at this link: http://compstudy.lifeway.com/homepage.do;jsessionid=AF6A92B1F6AC72B266C196FD2CF2BC64

1 Timothy 5:17-18 17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard [a]at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

 

Fourth: Give your pastor the freedom to be available for his family

The average pastor works 50 hours per week. He is literally “on call” 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, 364 days a year! The expectations placed on most pastors is impossible to meet! If his church has 100 members, he has 100 people who expect him to respond immediately when they need him. If a pastor can’t set limits and boundaries, he will burn out and his family will suffer because he is never available to them. My wife told me about her experience growing up as a preacher’s kid that her family never had a complete vacation because they were always called back home for a church members illness or death! As a leader in your church you can find ways to give your pastor time off and undisturbed vacation time with his family. Many churches are also providing a Sabbatical for their long tenured pastor in order for him to refresh, revision and retool. At the very least make sure your pastor has a Sabbath day in his week.

Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath [a]was made [b]for man, and not man [c]for the Sabbath.

 

Fifth: Protect him from the “Church Bullies”

You know who they are…those people who think it is their duty to keep the pastor in line. They may be out front with criticism or they may work behind the scenes trying to sabotage his effectiveness. Church bullies love to push their agenda and try to control the direction and ministry and especially finances of the church. The problem is, they were not Called to lead the church! Your Pastor is the one God has Called to lead your church. As a leader in your church, you can find a way to protect your pastor from the Bullies. That is not to say that people should not have the freedom to express their opinions, but there is a difference between opinion and contentiousness!

1 Timothy 5: 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.

Sixth: Give your pastor a planning day or two each quarter

Healthy churches have a clear direction and a pastor with a well-prepared sermon plan. Healthy pastors set aside enough time to get away from distractions and listen to the Lord for vision, direction, and the resulting sermon plans. Giving your pastor these few days a year will pay big dividends for your church. As a church leader you have the influence to make this available to your pastor.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans that I [a]have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

 

Seventh: Provide a Pastors Appreciation Day once a year

Healthy churches plan a time when the members can recognize the pastor in a way that shows their love, respect and appreciation for him. This provides the pastor with a much needed pat on the back and reminds the congregation not to take him for granted.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 But we request of you, brethren, that you [i]appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you [j]instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

 

Finally: Strongly encourage your pastor to connect with other pastors

Healthy pastors have a support network outside of his church. No one knows the experience of pastoring like other pastors. Pastors who have a strong fellowship with other pastors, especially those who form a strong fellowship group like a band of brothers, tend to be healthier, happier and more effective pastors.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if [a]either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not [b]another to lift him up.11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they [c]keep warm, but how can one be warm alone12 And if [d]one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

I hope you will lead your church to implement these healthy practices as a way to honor and support your pastor as well as build up your church for the glory of God.

I will be glad to assist you in any I can.

Mike O’Dell

Director of Missions

York Baptist Association

803-327-6144

mikeo@yorkbaptists.org

Resources:

The Healthy Pastor:  Easing the Pressures of Ministries by Dennis Bickers Beacon Hill Press 2010

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson, PHD  Navpress 2004

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership:  Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, by Ruth Haley Barton, IVP Books 2008

The Rest of God:  Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan, Thomas Nelson 2006

They Call Me Pastor: How to love the ones you lead, by HB London and Neil Wiseman Regal Books 2000

 

Sabbatical Guidelines

A Season of Renewal:  People Resources Team: A Ministry of Navigators Available on line at www.navigators.org

By the Steam: A Guide for a Sabbatical Week:  Unpublished Monty Hale

Economical Retreats for Pastors

White Oak VIP Suite Contact Pastoral ministries office, provided through a partnership through REFRESH program at White Oak and the Pastor’s Health Initiative through SCBC.

Edisto Beach Baptist Church offers their renovated parsonage to pastors and families for a week long renewal and sabbatical.

Sonscape Retreats Divide Colorado  www.sonscape.org  Week-long pastor and spouse retreat near Colorado Springs. Life changing Scholarships available.

Some valuable resources for pastors who never want to burn out. A great resource for churches that want to make sure their pastor is healthy; www.expastors.com.