Pastors today face all sorts of challenges. They face the emotional strain of walking with people through the most difficult moments in their lives. They face the challenge of leading volunteers, who often have vastly different opinions on how things should be done. Pastors struggle with the tension of being trained in pastoral ministry, but being expected to operate the church with the savvy of a CEO. And of course, there is managing the multiple expectations of parishioners. No doubt, pastoral ministry comes with its unique set of difficulties and frustrations.
George Barna identified the top stressors pastors face several years ago, and I don’t believe the list has changed much at all. Here is what he discovered:
- Thirty percent of all pastors said the lack of commitment from the laity was their number one stressor in ministry. The number one challenge that pastors say they face is the feeling that they are expected to do it all on their own. Regarding the ministry at the church, they often hear verbally or through innuendo, “that’s what we pay you to do.”
Leaders are learners, and one great way to learn is through listening to podcasts. Podcasts give us the ability to listen to leaders speak on topics in just about any area of life. Whether you want to learn more on running, history, cooking, business, music or church ministry, there is probably a podcast just for you. When you are driving in the car, heading out for a run, or even just doing errands around the house, listening to a podcast, on a topic you want to explore, is a great way to use the time. I try to listen as often as I can, typically consuming several hours worth of podcasts every single week.
As a pastor, here are some of my current favorites…
There really is no such thing as a “self made man.” Nearly all of us have had different people influence and pour into our lives. Denzel Washington is quoted as saying, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” To go anywhere significant in life requires some guidance along the way. In fact, here are five types of mentoring we all need in order to grow to be our best:
Upward Mentoring – Upward mentoring is what most people think of when they picture mentoring. An upward mentor is someone you look up to. Many times they are older, been around the block a time or two, and they are able to mentor you because they have been there and done that before. This could be a boss, a parent, a pastor or a good older friend. Upward mentors have learned some lessons in life and want to pass them off to others who are coming after them.
I was always a pretty good student. I wasn’t the best student, but by the grace of God I did manage to graduate from both college and seminary with honors. When tests would come around I would have to study a lot to do well, but for the most part I did in fact do well. I didn’t study like some students though. Many students would head to a study group, Starbucks or a library to hunker down. I would usually go one of two places, outside if the weather permitted or into a room where I was completely alone. I did this for the privacy, but the privacy wasn’t because I needed quiet, it was so I could talk to myself. I’d find a spot where no one was around, and I would repeat and recite aloud my class notes over and over again until I had them memorized down cold. One summer, when I was taking an intensive Hebrew class, I would spend hours a day walking up and down the backroads around the seminary I attended, flipping through Hebrew vocabulary and grammar cards. I probably looked like the town crazy person walking down the street talking to myself, but those many hours alone practicing allowed me to do very well in my intensive summer language classes.
There is tremendous power in going somewhere private to study, rehearse, or practice in solitude. Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, describes a study conducted on violinists. Researchers broke the violinists into three groups: world class career violinists that solo on the international stage, great players that may play in an orchestra or professionally in some capacity, and those that were okay but ultimately would most likely end up teachers rather than actual performers.
Most people don’t invite others to church. Despite viewing their faith as one of the most important aspects of their lives, and despite believing that Christ has specifically commanded them to go into the whole world to tell others about him (Mark 16:15), most Christians still do not share their faith with others. A recent study by LifeWay Research found that eighty percent of churchgoers say they have personal responsibility to share their faith, but sixty-one percent haven’t shared the gospel with anyone in the past six months.
How can churches better equip, train and encourage their people to go out and share their faith? Although the list is no doubt extensive, here are five things that churches can do to get people talking about Christ:
Some teams thrive and tragically some teams do not. There are many reasons why one team fails and another succeeds, but one of the biggest factors is the amount of trust among team members. Simon Sinek writes, “If certain conditions are met and the people inside an organization feel safe among each other, they will work together to achieve things none of them could have ever achieved alone. The result is that their organization towers over their competitors.”
Thankfully, I have been blessed to work on several good teams where I felt this type of safety. In my current assignment, I work with a team of people that strive to help, empower and love one another. We often don’t do it perfectly, but we aim to do it better every day. On this team, I have been given a measure of responsibility, and so I try to facilitate team member care in at least three ways.
God is not enough for you. He can’t care for you as much you need him to. He can’t support you as much as you need him to. Why? Because that it is the way he designed it.
In Genesis 2 we read, “The the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” Think about that verse for a minute. When God uttered those words, Adam was living in the Garden of Eden. His relationship with God was perfect. God wasn’t just nearby, but apparently even used to walk around the garden with Adam. Adam and God enjoyed an intimate relationship that is beyond something we have ever experienced. Yet, even in the midst of this perfect relationship, something was still missing, and this was not good from God’s point of view.
One of the most fundamental ministries that the church performs is visitation. A church, no matter how big or small, will have people who are sick, in the hospital, shut-in and in need of a visit. As a result, pastors spend a significant amount of time visiting people from their church and community. As the church grows the amount of visitation required can bury a pastor unless structures and systems are put in place to spread the load of visitation out. Developing systems ensure that the pastor does not burn out, but at the same time ensure people receive the care that they need. There are no doubt a variety of ways that a church could set up a visitation system but here is how one church takes on this need:
Visitation & On-Call Pastors – Every day there is one pastor that is assigned to do all the hospital visitation for that day. If the church is aware going into the day that someone is in the hospital, and in need of a visit, then this is the pastor that goes. Additionally, there is another pastor that is on-call each day. This pastor handles any pastoral care that cannot be planned ahead. This would include anyone who is rushed to the hospital or anyone who calls or walks in wanting to talk with a pastor.
We live in a world where people often struggle with various needs. As a result, most churches are presented with requests for financial assistance on a very regular basis. A church that does not have a plan for addressing these needs can easily find itself saying no to people who truly need and deserve help, or find themselves saying yes to people who are taking advantage of the churches good nature. So, it is important that churches have systems in place to fairly and adequately address the various needs they are presented. There are no doubt lots of ways to go about setting up a benevolence ministry in a church, but here is what my church does:
Funding – Every week my church transfers 1% of the general tithes and offerings to the church benevolence fund. This fund is then used to help provide financially for those that are a part of our church family and who are in need. We also provide free food through our churches food bank to anyone. The food bank is provided for through our church, but also through a partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank and grants from other agencies.