Loving Your church Leader
If you’ve been a member of a church for any length of time over the course of your life, then you’ve likely got a few opinions on what’s “wrong” with the church these days:
Something about the younger generation…
Or the division within the denominations…
The pulpit is too political.
The people aren’t political enough.
We do proclaim truth.
We water down the truth.
People aren’t empowered to lead.
Leadership expectations are too high.
On and on the list could go.
We get it and we’re with you; There’s got to be more to this, than this.
…and just when you thought that your concerns weren’t on the mind of your church leaders, they were. They were and they are, and they always will be. It comes with the calling.
When you offer an occasional concern from the perspective of a member, is likely something they're hearing from friends, family, media, resources, from onlookers and even in their own minds, everyday.
It’s exhausting. Yes, it’s part of the profession, but it sure can pull a person down (not just their ego, but their actual resilience in leadership.)
Recently we gathered a small group of ministry professionals to talk about what they believe about their work and especially what they believe about play and renewal.
They contemplated their own self-care strategies and engaged a series of questions including,
How might the local church support you in your personal renewal journey?
Here’s 8 tips we collected to help congregations expand the capacity to love your leaders:
1. Insist on and involve yourself in Strategic Direction
No matter your church structure, everyone benefits from clarity around who you are, what you value, and how you're showing up to serve your community. Some leaders are strong visionaries and strategic planners; others rely on the insight and expertise of members and committees. Instead of shaming pastors for not speaking your version of strategy, consider working together with the appropriate and appointed leaders to get clarity around mission and vision. Then, as often as possible, do your part to help communicate that vision to others. Avoid trying to control or correct the direction and instead, offer insights about opportunities and solutions that you’re willing to champion.
2. Bless the Leadership to do things they love.
Ministry leaders are often on call 24/7 and even when they are not, they struggle to detach from the demands of ministry. More often than we’d like to count, we’ve heard the stories of leaders who either avoid taking up activities that they personally enjoy, or who feel they have to hide when they’ve done something for themselves. Encourage your pastor to engage with hobbies. Provide latitude for them to take on passion projects that aren’t connected to the church, and in some cases, bless them in their “side hustle.” Every situation is different, but many times it is the freedom to have a separate passion project that re-energizes a leader to last long term in the local setting. Other times having a side hustle boosts a leaders confidence that they are caring for their family (since retirement and benefits aren’t always strong for ministry leaders.)
3. Trust the Leadership when they say it's time to transition.
Leadership transitions are never easy. Whether you welcome it when it is time, or you are disheartened by the decision, trust the leadership. Sometimes when someone is begging a leader to stay, they don’t know how long or how much someone has suffered. The suffering may not even be from the circumstances surrounding the church, it could be personal discernment of a new season, mental health priorities, or considerations for a spouse with equal intensity of goals and dreams. Whatever the reason, and even if it grieves your heart to see them go, honor them. If you can’t think of anything honorable to say… try again. This is a child of God, made in the image of God, and worthy of honor. Honor, celebrate and bless them as such; it will heal their heart and build trust through the transition. That trust is what you want to sow into the soil of the new leader you’ll receive.
3. Step up to sustain and lead ministries that matter.
It cannot be stated enough that for every day you are thinking about a ministry of the church, the leaders have been thinking about it 6 days more. Any fruitful ministry in the church needs to thrive under someone other than the Pastor. Certainly some are better at equipping others for the work of ministry, but if they don’t instigate it, then offer yourself in areas where you see a need or an opportunity. If you see something that really matters to you, then offer to help sustain it. Offer to take on that ministry, help organize and articulate ministry descriptions if they aren’t already established, build a team and help recruit to lighten the load in a particular ministry area.
4. Show up and stay engaged in discernment of the work of the church.
You matter. Even if no one has told you, your voice, your gifts, your passions, and yes, your money matters for the life of the church. Attend as often as you can, join committees and volunteer where you are able, commit yourself to leadership, and invest financially in the ministries. Plain and simple, your leadership leads better with your ongoing participation than they do with your annual opinion at the decision making meetings.
5. Dig Deeper at every opportunity.
Quick question: Whose responsibility is it to deepen your discipleship walk with God?
We hope your answer is: “ME”
No one can walk your faith journey for you.
Musicians are inviting you into a more emotive space to connect with God.
Pastors are presenting an interpretation of scripture for you to consider.
Someone is asking you to sign up for something, again.
These are not for the sake of singing, speaking, and signing people up.
These are opportunities to know God, to grow deeper in connection with him, to become more Christ-like, and to serve the world. So when the sermon is over, talk to someone about what you heard. Send an email with a question about something that confused you. Have a coffee conversation about conflicting viewpoints. But please, for the love of God and your pastor, do not just smile and settle with having had a “nice day at church.”
6. Create systems that support your pastor(s) as a person
This one is pretty straight forward; if you want your leaders to flourish, then build in time for them to vacation, to pray and worship elsewhere and in a manner they chose. Consider offering mental health and personal days as well as counting education time. Many leaders have found it helpful to have a sermon series during which they are present, but do not preach; these are ideal times for lay persons to strengthen their speaking skills.
The best leadership scenarios have been churches that create a culture of care by drawing up written agreements instead of making vague recommendations.
7. Budget for leadership care in conjunction with leadership development
Time is a gift to any leader, but a budget line makes that gift more meaningful. It communicates that you value the time and you want to encourage the actualization of said time.
Work with your leadership to start a line item in the budget and grow it over time. Often there can be a joint effort between the church, the denomination, and the pastor’s personal commitment of funds to make this ministry possible.
8. Celebrate the strengths as often as possible
If you’ve ever been encouraged by a phone call, a prayer, a personal thank you or a gift from your pastor, then offer it back to them! Leaders often give this out without ever receiving it in return. This isn’t a call to be a “yesman,” it is an invitation to do unto others as you’d want them to do to you. Find ways to honor who your leaders are and not just what they do.
We can do this. We're made for this.
Collective Renewal Resource is sustaining creativity and compassion with ministry professionals. Schedule a personal renewal planning session for a leader in your life, or visit CollectiveRenewal.org for more information about how you can create a renewal culture.