What We Need To Do To Keep Our Ministers
Ministers are leaving. They are leaving ministry and some of them are leaving the church all together. Every situation is not the same and there are probably multiple reasons why ministers are choosing to get out. There was a time when I considered getting out of ministry. My primary reasons for considering this move was the stress it was causing me and the burden it was placing on my family. Much of this was due to the leadership at the congregations I had served. I felt as though I could get a secular job that would be less stressful, pay better, have better benefits, would be less burdensome on my family, and still do the Lord’s work. I assume that many ministers feel this way and I cannot blame them for making this choice. I decided to give ministry one more try, and thankfully I am now a part of a congregation that treats me and my family very well. I feel blessed to be where I am at, but I know many ministers who do not share this feeling. They are hurting and they are looking for a way out. The body of Christ needs to take notice of this and do what we can to promote longevity in ministry. We need to work on creating healthy and mature elders, ministers, and congregations. I want to begin by sharing some things I think ministers, congregations, and elders need to know.
What Ministers Need to Know
Ministry is difficult. Ministry is about dealing with people and people are often difficult. They get themselves into difficult situations and then they come to you for help. Often there are no easy solutions. Being a minister means you are on call all the time. If someone passes away in the middle of the night, then you are going to receive a phone call. If someone goes to the hospital on your day off, then they are going to let you know. If you think ministry is an easy profession, then you are not cut out to be a minister. Find another occupation and serve the Lord in another way.
Ministers are public figures. This is hard for some ministers to grasp, but it goes with the territory. People are going to look at your life and examine it. Is this right? Whether it is right or wrong is not the issue. It is going to happen and ministers better be prepared. If you are going to get into ministry, then you must be ready for people to comment on what you wear, what activities you take in, how you spend your money, etc. People are going to make these comments and you cannot combat every comment like this. You must simply smile and forget about it as quickly as you can. That being said, comments about children should be off limits. If a person makes a comment about your child they should be rebuked. The children of ministers should not be held to a higher standard than other children in the congregation. This goes on all the time in congregations and it needs to stop.
What Congregations Need to Know
Ministry is lonely. It is one of the loneliest professions there is. Why? Ministers and their families often have to take positions away from their friends and family. Once they are relocated to a different area of the country where they do not know anyone they have a difficult time making friends. People like you as their preacher. They are friendly and they will invite you over to dinner, but very few people want to develop a close friendship with the minister. They view you as their preacher and not as an average person. Ministers often know a lot of people, but have very few close friends.
Ministry is difficult and stressful. The joke that I hear over and over and over again is that ministers only work one day a week. I get it and I am ok with it, but I sometimes wonder if people in the congregation really know what goes on behind the scenes. Do they understand all the preparation that goes into teaching a class or delivering a sermon? Do they know about all the counseling sessions with people who have just messed up their life? Do they see that person who never has anything nice to say come and complain about the sermon each and every Sunday? I do not know, but ministry is hard. There is not a lot that members can do about this, but just by understanding it you will bless your minister.
Ministry is a calling. Ministers do not choose ministry because it pays well, or for any other material reason. They are making a sacrifice. They could be working in a secular job, and probably would be better compensated, but they have chosen ministry. Ministers get into ministry because they love God and they love people. It is something they believe they have been called to do.
Ministers have families. Please respect any boundaries that have been established. Ministers understand that if someone goes to the hospital they are going to receive a phone call, but if your minister is spending time with his family, then do not call them to ask a Bible question or complain about something at church. Those things can wait and ministers have a responsibility to their families. Also know that simply loving a minister’s family is one of the best things a church can do. This will go a long way in creating an environment that encourages longevity in ministry.
What Elders Need to Know
The church is not a business. One of the greatest problems facing the church is leadership that runs the church like a business. I do not think this is done on purpose most of the time. I simply think this is the type of leadership that most people are familiar with, and they just go with it without giving it much thought. We often choose church leaders because they are good leaders in the secular world, but we forget that church leadership and secular leadership is very different. How one runs a business, oversees a school, manages employees, etc. is not the model for how one should shepherd the flock.
Biblical leadership is pastoral with a heavy emphasis on serving. The idea of a person shepherding a flock is found throughout Scripture. This is the type of leadership God desires for his people. To be a leader is to be a shepherd just like God is a shepherd (Psalm 23). Jesus gives us the perfect example of what a biblical leader should be. He is a shepherd who serves. The worldly model of leadership focuses on climbing to the top, but the biblical model of leadership requires us to spend a lot of time at the bottom.
Ministers are not employees. I understand that ministers must be hired and in certain instances they must be fired, but if you treat a minister like an average employee then that is what you will get. The first time a better job or opportunity arises then the minister will take it and leave. Why? Not because they are greedy or want more money, but because they have been treated like an employee. What do employees in the secular world do? They look for better opportunities. I have known ministers to turn down better paying jobs because they are not being treated like an employee, and because they feel as though they are making a difference.
Ministers need to know you are on their side. One of the biggest problems between elderships and ministers is the tension that often arises when they feel they are working against each other. An environment must be created where everyone understands they are on the same side. Ministers need to know that the elders have their back, and elders need to know that the ministers are going to support their decisions. This does not mean everyone must agree on everything. This simply comes from being mature Christians, and knowing that if there are any differences they can be worked out together.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of the problems that plague ministers and how to solve them, but it is a start. If we are going to create healthy churches, then we must have mature Christlike elders and ministers to lead these churches. Ministers are leaving and there are churches that are shrinking, and it is time we begin to have some helpful dialogue so we can stop the bleeding. It is not too late. Nothing is impossible with God on our side. We must continue to trust in him and look to him for guidance.