by Grady King –
Most of my best friends are church leaders—minister and elders. We understand each other. Everyone seems to understand how leaders ought to function until they become one. A friend who was CEO of a multi-million dollar company said to me—“Being an elder is the hardest work I have ever done.” Being a part of a diverse group of leaders is its own form of community. There are times of great joy, but often, it is challenging, difficult and can be debilitating.
This is why my present vocation of walking alongside leaders and churches in HOPE Network is a sacred trust. Listening, supporting, encouraging, praying and at times , challenging patterns of ineffectiveness, even whining, is necessary. I often asked, “Who pastors the pastors?” Specifically, who who attends to the needs of those responsible for feeding and caring for God’s people? This question looms large in my spirit daily.
Jason Garrett, coach of the Dallas Cowboys recently said to the media in addressing the poor ethical choices of players, “It is our job as coaches to provide structure, discipline and accountability, however, accountability does not mean infallibility.” We expect a lot from “professional athletes”—rightly so. We also expect a lot from ministers—rightly so.
Mentoring and coaching church leaders involves addressing, structure, discipline and accountability.
Ministry is no place for laziness and most ministers I know are from from lazy. We are, however, subject to the whims, constant needs and often, unrealistic expectations of “church members” who easily default to a consumeristic orientation of church. That is, ministers are to provide religious goods and services to the varying appetites of church members.
A few years ago I invited 50 plus preachers who “got out” of preaching for a local congregation to respond to this question— “Why did you leave?” 38 responded—all with more than 10 years experience and over half of them with 25 plus years experience. The number two response was, “unrealistic expectations from the pew.” Number 1 was “governance” (i.e., how elders and ministers function or don’t function together, unclear expectations and responsibility without authority). This is a subject for another blog soon. Another friend, who served as a minister and then a university president said, “If I had it to do over, I would not let five chronically unhealthy people dominate the majority of my time.”
All leaders have blindsides. No one is perfect and a commitment to learning and growing is essential for health and longevity. Every minister needs someone who can speak truth into their lives with unrelenting compassion and support. Ultimately, the minister is called to be God’s person, regardless! Ministers are not “employees” of the company. When treated as “employees”—partnership in the gospel is lost and at some point, good men and women, with education, gifts and passion, simply say, “Enough. No more.” So, here are some ways to treat your minister.
How to Treat Your Minister—
- Pray for them and encourage them to be people of the Word.
- Give them space to be human and with their family
- Don’t expect their spouses to be who they are.
- Talk with them, not about them.
- Respect their need for sabbath.
What would you add?
P.S. All of these apply to elders as well.
Thank you Grady. Being middle aged and involved in church has presented new challenges for me. I love our church and being involved means constantly seeing things that you want to question. I have learned that life happens outside and inside the church. Often times, I have not spoken to anyone about it and almost always the situation is resolved without confrontation. In short, not every problem needs to be addressed.
Being the same age as our minister has meant being friends with him. I have always been fascinated with ministers and the work they do. Building trust with a minister is not easy. Listening while some talk about the ministers is not easy. I don’t try to fix it. I just continue to be a friend to them and listen. I try to present the difficulties he maybe facing.
May God continue to be with you.
Make it the business of the church to include the minister instead of keeping him on the fringe of everything.