Editor’s Note: This post originally was a “letter from the pastor” from Dr. Beck to his congregation. The content is helpful for a wider audience, so we are grateful to be able to publish it here.
Blogs, something of an Internet editorial, allow writers to share what’s on their mind. Many of my favorite blogs share helpful insights about a topic in listing fashion: “12 steps to better writing,” “7 ways to improve your marriage,” “666 reasons the current president is the anti-Christ.” I like these blogs because they’re short, to the point, and usually informative.
I am writing this month’s “letter from the pastor” in that vein. I want to share with you “Three Things Ministers Wish Members Knew.”
(1) Your Ministers Are Members, Too
Every Sunday hundreds come to Doorway for worship, discipleship, and fellowship. Ministers come to work. Or, that’s what people think. They’re partly wrong. We come to church to work because God has called us to that task. However, we also come to church for the same reasons you do. We are called to worship as well as lead in worship. We want to serve you and enjoy your company. We come to feed you and to be fed. Our spiritual well-being is at stake, just like yours, every Sunday morning. All too often, however, we’re treated like customer service agents whose spiritual needs must be sacrificed on the altar of comfort, convenience, and the preferences of the paying customer.
The next time you have a concern on a Sunday morning, don’t ignore it. Make sure, however, you don’t ignore your ministerial staffs’ needs in the process. Does the pastor really need to hear about a problem in the parking lot five minutes before he preaches? Is a time of fellowship over lunch the right time to bend someone’s ear about a song you didn’t sing this week? If your ministry staff can’t worship, discipleship, and fellowship at church, where can they?
(2) Your Ministers’ Families are Members, Too
The family members of our ministerial staff are very involved in the church. They serve in many ways in many ministries. But, remember, they’re here for the same reasons as you: worship, discipleship, and fellowship. It’s the responsibility of the church to minister to them in those ways as well. Their church experience is directly related to their experience of the church – you.
Let me remind you they are also members of the ministers’ families. Criticisms and complaints about their loved ones aren’t impersonal observations about how things “ought” to be. They’re personal attacks on people they love more than anyone on earth. So, the next time you feel the urge to gossip or complain about a staff member, or any church member for that matter, ask yourself two questions: Is my goal to build up or to tear down someone for whom Christ died? Are they or someone they love in the stall next door?
(3) Your Ministers Need Ministered To
Baptist churches have a real problem. South Carolina Baptists lead much of the Southern Baptist Convention in a very ugly category. Our pastors kill themselves at a higher rate than almost anywhere else in the nation. How’s that possible? They’re carrying the burdens of their church and their own. Everyone turns to them for help. They have nowhere to go themselves.
How can you help? Minister to the ministers. Pray for them. When was the last time you asked a staff member how you can pray for them? When was the last time you asked one of your pastors to go to lunch for no reason other than to get to know them better. Don’t assume someone else is doing it. If you’ve not thought about it, the chances are good no one else has either.
I’m worried some will take this the wrong way, that some will think I’m begging for a meal or hoping that someone will keep their concerns to themselves. That’s not it. My concern is this: too many in our churches make bad assumptions about the ministers in their lives. (1) They assume that we are paid and should be treated like employees rather than brothers and sisters in Christ. (2) They assume our families are immune to the problems that we face in the church and it doesn’t impact their spiritual life. (3) They assume that the persona they see on “stage” is a true measure of our spiritual lives and never think to make sure that those who minister to them are actually ministered to.
Your staff loves you and wants to lead you to the foot of God’s throne and we want you to know that we want to go with you.