The truth about pastoral ministry is that it’s hard. I don’t want to suggest it is necessarily harder than other things, but it does come with its own unique pressures and challenges. When things are hard, talk usually rears its head about how we can support ministers in this hard task they have of caring for and shepherding the flock given to them by Jesus.
Another phrase that often did the rounds is, ‘the cavalry isn’t coming’. After about 10 years in ministry here, I can affirm no cavalry has arrived yet. Which means that the job is hard and we can’t rely on a bunch of people turning up to make our lives easier. Not only are they unlikely to come in droves, but even if they do, I suspect life would not get easier at all. As sure as night follows day, more people means more problems!
So, it seems to me, we need a Union of Pastors. Not so we can go on strike for pay rises and that sort of thing – we all have the same boss and none of us can complain about how he’s tret us at all – but so we can band together and help support one another. Particularly those of us in similar situations. So, how do we do that meaningfully? In no particular order, here are some things.
This is about as easy as it gets. Whenever another pastor crosses your mind – for whatever reason – pray for them. You might not know a whole lot about their situation, fine. Pray about what you do know. Better yet, move on to the next idea and then come back to this one.
Give them a call
It doesn’t even have to be a call. I’m a millennial so I don’t like my phone ringing much. I think we should all agree that sending a whatsapp first, at the very least, is only polite. But, however you do it, get in touch. Send a whatsapp and ask after them. Steel yourself and maybe even join a whatsapp group with them where you can check more regularly. Drop them an email and ask them how they’re doing. Be bold and actually ring them, or set up a zoom call, or whatever. But I don’t know many pastors who are upset to be asked how they’re doing and how their ministry is going. Once you know, revisit the first suggestion and pray about what you found out.
Most pastors do not want to reinvent the wheel. If you’ve got something that I could half inch and repurpose, let me have it! What’s the point of spending hours trying to craft something of my own when someone else has done it better and with a few tweaks it’ll work even better for us? I’m sure I don’t have much of value to offer, but what I do have I’m happy to share with those who need it. Pastors, like most people, are short on time. This sort of thing gives them time back.
Support their ministry
I know we’ve all got stuff of our own we’re juggling that’s hard enough, let alone trying to work out how to support someone else. But if we can, we should. If there are meetings on that would be encouraged if you turn up as a friendly face, then why not? If there is a need for help in a church youth group or club or whatever and you are able to lend a hand, why not? If you’ve got a church full of preachers that could be loaned out to a church with only the pastor, or better yet, if you are willing to go and support that church by preaching and letting some of your guys preach at your own church while you’re away, what a great way to help another church. If you have musicians and another church has none, offering them with regularity to serve might be well received. If you have a decent treasurer who knows what he’s doing, or safeguarding people who have a clue, loads of churches would massively benefit from their expertise, why not share your policies and offer someone at the end of a phone for basic help.
There isn’t much that says we support a ministry quite as much as sending what actually costs us something. Whether it is regularly financial support, periodically sending your members to help out or – the biggest cost of all – sending some of your people to be permanent members somewhere they’ll have a greater gospel impact, nothing will encourage a pastor more than someone willing to do that. It should be a regular question we ask ourselves. Do we have resources – people, money and things – that would be of greater kingdom value and impact somewhere else? If they would, a pastor in a small church in a forgotten area would be absolutely delighted with you getting in touch and figuring out with them how that might happen.
Why not have a think about whether there is someone you could do one or more of these things for today? And if you do pray for them, let them know you are praying. Several people do this to me when they get our church prayer letter and it’s such an encouragement. The rest, they’ll know if you’ve done them, but have a think about those things too. You never know, it might be the difference between a guy pressing on for another year or yet another pastor dropping out altogether.