What Pastors Want

A few years ago, Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt starred in the movie, What Women Want, that portrayed the fictional tale of a marketing guru who instantaneously receives the gift of tuning into the thoughts, desires and ramblings of the opposite sex. It's a hilarious story of Gibson's character, who is able to capitalize on this revelatory data.

Wouldn't it be great to have an internal radio dial that would give you access to certain people's thoughts? You could hear what your boss really thinks about your chances for advancement. You could eavesdrop on the grocery clerk's thoughts about the items you're buying. You would REALLY know what your mechanic identified is wrong with your car. You could find out what your husband really thinks about article of clothing that you think make certain parts of your body look larger than they actually are. You could even find out if the people next to you speaking a foreign language really ARE talking about you.

Most pastors I know are very interesting and creative and their minds are racing in hundreds of directions at any given time of the day.

I think even more revealing would be to hear what is going on in the minds of our pastors. Most pastors I know are very interesting and creative and their minds are racing in hundreds of directions at any given time of the day. Their callings require them to spend so much of their time and emotional resources understanding and helping other people, rarely does anyone make the effort to discover what their thoughts and needs are.

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. I thought I would let you read the thoughts of one who has experienced the pastoral lifestyle for 30 years, but who has also interviewed countless pastors from around the world and has discovered what they are saying. Listen up.

Accept Me

Research from Focus on the Family revealed 70 percent of pastors surveyed said they do not have someone they consider a close friend. Eighty percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses live in the relentless state of discouragement. I think much of that that discouragement comes from realizing they will never meet the expectations of the people they serve. They realize there will always be something somebody doesn't like about every particular aspect of their multi-dimensional career. Consequently, many pastors (and their spouses) live in an environment of persistent disapproval.

May I encourage you to accept your pastor for who he is? (I don't mean to ignore or discount female pastors. Please accept my reference to the male gender as generic.) He may not live like you do, say things the way you like to hear them, drive the car you think is fitting, be as "good" as your last pastor, or have the personality that fits yours. Accept him anyway. He is acceptable to the One who had great joy when He called him to service in the church (Romans 14:4, Galatians 1:15). "Accept one another as God in Christ has accepted you" (Romans 15:7) applies to your relationship with your pastor, too.

Honor Me

When the senior of all pastors (Paul) wrote to his young protégé (Timothy), he said, if anyone desires to be come an overseer, it is a beautiful thing (1 Timothy 3:1)! The pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) highlight the noble and privileged calling of the pastoral office. His character, preparation and position among believers is to foster respect and esteem.

There was a time, not many years ago, when the pastoral profession in the United States was highly valued. In some denominational and ethnic circles, it still is. But, too often, pastors performing the most important work on earth are considered among the least honorable in the community and in the church. In fact, 70 percent of pastors admit ministry depleted their confidence!

Respect his calling, his office and his decisions.

I say it's time we resurrected their status. Here's how. Respect his calling, his office and his decisions. Honor him and his position in the way you treat him in public and how you speak of him in private and public settings. Give him the respect he deserves for his education, his experience and his responsibilities. Esteem him with the salary package you give him and consider his compensation package first during your church's budget negotiations, not last.

Follow Me

A friend of mine who pastors a church in rural Colorado wrote recently that he felt that leading his flock was like herding fleas across a barnyard with a rake. Just when he thought people were starting to grow and grow-up, they started "manifesting." Others have said leading a church is like herding cats. If you're a pastor, you're laughing out loud about now. If you're not, you probably think my friend is a control freak! He's not. But he is a leader.

It's unrealistic to demand that he meet expectations which are unstated, understated or just plain unrealistic.

Your pastor is charged with the tremendous responsibility under God's calling of fulfilling the purpose and vision of the church. Leading requires making plans, taking charge and initiating change — which inevitably draws opposition and criticism. He often has responsibilities beyond his level of authority and is therefore evaluated on results for which he has no influence. It's unrealistic to demand that he meet expectations which are unstated, understated or just plain unrealistic. And it's impossible for him to lead people who will not track with him.

Hebrews 13:17 states, "Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?" (The Message). Hey — make it easy for your pastor to lead. Let him know you're behind every God-given direction and vision he thinks will reach the most people for Christ and benefit the greater body of Christ around the world.

He'll be a better leader if you do.

Pray For Me

Every day, your pastor is on the front line of spiritual battles that will determine the victory or failure of your church's mission. The adversary is hell-bent on destroying, detouring or denouncing him and your church. Chances are there is someone in your community praying he will fail.

Who will pray FOR him? Why not you? Why not now? (Go ahead. Pray now. This article will still be here).

Satan wants to destroy your church family by creating division, distrust and doubt. He knows that, if he can immobilize and confuse your leader, the church will lose it's focus and impact. Our enemy's strategy can be minimized by praying your pastor and leadership will be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might and that they will put on the full armor of God. It is revealing that in the three verses following the command to put on the armor of God with which we will withstand the devil's advances, there are seven references to prayer for believers in general, and for leaders specifically. Pray for your pastor. If you have the opportunity to pray WITH him — that's even better.

Love my spouse and children.
And if you have it in you, love me, too.

We all need love. Love is kind, not arrogant. It's patient, not irritable. It doesn't even take into account a wrong suffered. It never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.

Your pastor longs for that kind of love, as you do. Yet, most pastoral families don't feel the love of the people they serve. Four-fifths of pastors reveal pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. One third say that being in ministry is a hazard to families. Forty percent report a serious conflict with someone in their church at least once a month and the same amount say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.

Your pastor longs for that kind of love.

My friends, if your church is not demonstrating love toward your pastors and leaders, there is something desperately wrong with it. If your pastors are denied meaningful demonstrations of unconditional love at timely opportunities, they won't serve you and our Lord as effectively. It would be a cosmic tragedy for him to serve our loving Lord among you and your people and to have him live without your well-timed appreciation.

Now that you know what he's thinking, it's time for action. Mobilize your leadership teams to shower your pastors and their families with love and honor this month in creative and momentous ways. Use this month's tribute as a springboard for encouraging your pastors all year long. Make sure they know you accept them, support them, pray for them, respect them and love them.

You'll be glad you did.

So will they.

Article copyright © 2006, Rich Frazer.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.

Statistics are taken from Pastors at Risk by H.B. London and Neil Wiseman, and It Only Hurts on Monday by Gary McIntosh and
Robert Edmondson.

Dr. Richard Frazer is the president of Spiritual Overseers Service International, located in La Quinta, Calif. (www.sosinternational.us).