Things That Are Above

Gospel Thinking for Gospel Living

A Different Kind of Pastoral Care

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Included in “the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4) that is one of the two main priorities of every church pastor is pastoral care. By pastoral care I mean the pastor’s private ministry of the word to church members as they need it. On any given day, such pastoral care may take the form of private counseling, (pre-)marital counseling, grief counseling, a hospital visit, or an informal meeting over coffee or lunch. But as sure as the Bible says that pastors are to care for their congregations, the Bible teaches that congregations are to care for their pastors. Consider the following verses:

Let the elders [pastors] who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. (1 Tim. 5:17)

Obey your leaders [pastors] and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us [pastors], for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. (Heb. 13:17-18)

These are but a sampling of the New Testament verses that deal with this different kind of pastoral care: the congregation’s care of its pastor instead of vice-versa. I won’t even discuss the number of times that Paul, the pastor par excellence, implored his children in the faith’s to pray, support, and help him in various situations. All too often we Christians have the attitude that the pastor should be helping us–and he should within reason–but we should even more so have the attitude that we should help our pastor. Consider what Paul told the Corinthians:

God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. (1 Cor. 12:24-28)

Even before the roles of apostle and prophet had given way to the roles of pastor and teacher, God had given other Christians gifts of helping. Any pastor is a disciple of Jesus Christ in need of pastoral care just as much as his sheep are. Both a pastor’s fellow church leaders and his congregation as a whole are to minister to his needs. Jason Helopoulos, guest-blogging for Kevin DeYoung, recently listed many practical ways a pastor’s congregation and fellow elders can care for him. Below I give you some of the suggestions I most liked and felt most challenged by:

Hunger to hear the Word of God preached

Pray for him regularly–that he would faithfully preach the Word, seek the Lord, delight more in the Lord, and have a love for the people he is blessed to minister to

Refrain from Monday morning emails, unless they are an encouragement. Mondays are hard days for many pastors.

Respect his day off. Most pastors work long days and many evenings. They need a good day off.

Don’t expect him to come to everything. Your pastor still loves you even if he doesn’t make your child’s ballet performance, son’s honor society banquet, or even your mom’s funeral.

Send an encouragement card every once in a while

As tempting as it may be, don’t compare your pastor to “celebrity pastors”–Be thankful for him and his labor in your midst.

Babysit his kids for an evening, so he and his wife can go out on a date

If you have a new ministry idea, don’t propose it unless you are willing to do the hard work of setting it up and serving to see its vision realized

Speak well of him to others in the congregation

Understand that your pastor will not be gifted in every area of ministry and be content with that

Often remind yourself that he has a lot of different sheep under his care

Have his back. Don’t make him stand alone in the midst of conflict–dare to be disliked.

See yourself as laboring with him, instead of under or over him

Brainstorm, vision, and pray WITH him about the future of the church

Never talk about him in a derogatory or negative way with other members of the congregation

Assign an elder or staff person to help with administrative tasks. Administration can steal too much of a pastor’s time–time that could be spent in much more valuable ways. It is also an area that pastors can get lost in, discouraged by, [or] even seek to hide in.

Ensure that the congregation understands his main tasks are prayer, study, and preaching. Most individuals in the church will have different expectations. If that is the case–change them.

Regularly encourage him that you value the time he spends praying, studying, and preaching–ask for fewer policies, spreadsheets, and even visitations.

Ask what he is studying and praying about

As many suggestions as I included from Rev. Helopoulos, there were at least as many others that I didn’t include. You should check out both of his lists (linked to above) in full. May we all for our pastors even now strive to be like Luke and Mark were to Paul at the end of his ministry and life: faithful and useful friends and partners in ministry (2 Tim. 4:11).

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