Long-term benefits from 2010’s Year of the Pastor depend largely upon whether church leaders intentionally increase their encouragement of pastors. Try the following suggestions:
Pray for pastors. Praying will change your view of pastors. When we pray for someone, often our attitude toward that individual is changed. Ask God to help you view pastors as He sees them—both in the reality of what they are and in the assurance of what they can become by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pray with pastors. You will change their view of administrators. Pastors seldom hear their names lifted in prayer by anyone other than their spouse or family. Take the opportunity to pray with pastors.
Respect pastors. Pastors are on call 24/7 in a highstress job. Often they attempt great things with limited resources. Many pastors lack basic tools, much less conveniences such as computers or copiers. Respect how much your pastors actually accomplish.
Motivate pastors. Personal example motivates. If you want pastors to be soul-winners, do soul-winning yourself. If you want pastors to be more spiritual, emphasize your own personal devotions. If you want pastors to manage their churches well, manage conference finances in a responsible manner. Also, motivate by high but reasonable expectations. Set objectives that are attainable but that stretch your pastors to increase their effectiveness—and encourage them in the process of reaching!
Value pastors. Pastors are the front-line leaders in spiritual warfare. God’s kingdom will advance only to the extent that pastors lead and train their members. Pastors are the key to spirituality in the churches of your conference, to financial income for conference budgets, and to soul-winning for conference objectives. Value their role in producing results that your vision demands.
Include pastors. Bring pastors into the decisionmaking process. Establish pastoral advisory committees that enlist their participation in the decisions that impact their lives. Also, include pastors in your circle of fellowship. Avoid associating only with your fellow officers and leaders. Seek opportunities to socialize with pastors.
Include pastoral families. One shortsighted leader declared that pastoral families would not be invited to pastoral retreats because the conference could not afford the cost. Unfortunately, you pay the cost one way or another. When families experience insufficient retreat time together, the costs come in increased medical bills and in broken relationships. Plan conference finances to include pastoral families at retreats and plan schedules to give pastoral families time for social interaction.
Stabilize pastors. Economic realities mean that many pastoral homes are financially unstable. Often pastoral families are one paycheck away from disaster. Resist pay parity schemes that widen different scales that do not include pastors. Seek opportunities to reduce inequity. Consider the impact of transfers when pastoral families must move and spouses must lose jobs or seniority.
Feed pastors. Plan pastoral-retreat agendas that are high on spiritual food and low on promotion. Summarize promotional materials and make short presentations—this will accomplish more than if you spent long hours promoting various causes.
Build pastors. Take joy in mentoring pastors to increase their effectiveness. Your own capabilities will be multiplied in the lives of those you train. Share resources and provide opportunities for skill-building and continuing education. Let pastors choose areas in which they wish to develop their talents.
Reward pastors. When you see a pastor doing something well, express your appreciation verbally and in writing. When large churches or departmental jobs need personnel, look first to your own pastoral team. Help them believe that you are most interested in them.
Listen to pastors. Invite their input. Discuss ideas with them—especially plans that will impact their lives or their congregations. Survey your pastors and allow for anonymous responses on sensitive topics to make sure you receive accurate feedback.
Evaluate pastors. When evaluation occurs in a nonthreatening way, it encourages pastors by helping them realize the good things they are accomplishing and their potential for development.
James A. Cress was the General Conference Ministerial Secretary when he wrote this article.