by Grady King
Some people think they can just say anything to a minister–respectful or not and it’s okay. It’s not. When it comes to how to treat a minister, the Golden Rule still applies–“do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mt 7.12). Or, does it?
Four decades of ministry.
Incredible joys and sorrows.
Burdens and blessings.
The old adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a lie. Words matter. Mean words sink deep into the soul. Attitudes from those “good ole’ church people” that the minister is a hireling–a dispensable necessity for a religious gathering takes a toll. Not to mention the toll it takes on spouses and the family.
For most ministers, ministry has never been job, rather a calling. No one has to tell us that we are not perfect. We beat ourselves up enough for a host of reasons. We battle shame and guilt just like anyone else.
There is always someone who needs encouragement, someone in trouble, someone unhappy, someone who is in a life circumstance that is overwhelming. I have sometimes said that ministers marry people, carry people through life and bury them at the end of life. We belong to Jesus Christ and his people–good, bad and ugly (in spirit and actions) are our people.
Recently, I shared with a church as they welcome new ministers, five ways to treat a minister to bolster their spirit, minister to their family and help them live a gospel life more fully. They do not need much explanation. If by chance they need unpacking, you can count on me for an extended and poignant conversation–particularly, if you are one of those “good ole’ church people” who just don’t get it.
1. Pray for them daily encouraging them to be people of the Word
–saying what God wants whether you like it or not.
2. Give them space to be human and be with their family.
—devotion, not perfection is the goal.
3. Don’t expect their spouses to be like them.
—allow the spouse room to be who they are using their gifts to the glory of God.
4. Talk WITH them, not ABOUT them
—particularly in times of difficulty.
5. Respect their need for sabbath rest.
—ministers need renewal to minister well
The Golden Rule still applies. When Jesus says what we know as the “Golden Rule” he makes sure that people understand it is rooted in the law and the prophets. It’s serious teaching. Practicing it makes for good ministry and healthy churches. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all– 2 Cor 13.14