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“Here, let me introduce you to my pastor (youth minister, music minister, children’s minister, church administrator, etc.)…”

To the one being introduced, few words are as affirming and intimidating as these, for vocational ministers know the title they bear carries with it both the divine responsibility they knew about from the first and a certain amount of human expectation that they have learned to consider. Those with any degree of experience know that the latter is sometimes more difficult to satisfy than the first. All too often, in the hearts of these dedicated men and women, the joy of obedient service is squelched, at least in part, by the nagging suspicion that they have, in spite of their best and most passionate efforts to serve the Church faithfully, let someone down.

Want to ease their burden? In honor of Pastor (Church Staff) Appreciation Month, give them a gift, the best gift they could ever receive: Remember they are human. Don’t just know it on an intellectual level. Think about it. Let the truth sink in until it changes your expectations of and informs your interactions with them.

Remember, just like you, vocational ministers

  • Mean well. The media loves fallen ministers and makes much of them, but the truth is ministers who harbor evil intent or wield their influence carelessly are few and far between. Most feel the weight of the calling they have received and, laboring under it, do their very best to carry out their responsibilities in a way that glorifies the Father. Their methodology might differ from yours, but they have the health and wellbeing of the Church in mind. Give them the benefit of the doubt until you have a valid reason not to. Even then, focus on restoration of church unity and the spiritual healing of individual rather than on proving who was right, who was wrong, and/or what should have been done differently.
  • Make mistakes. Sanctification is a process that begins the moment a person surrenders their life to Christ and ends only when that person reaches Heaven. That means, no matter who we are, how hard we work, or how much progress we make, we are going to make mistakes from time to time. Imagine making all of yours, big and small, in the fish bowl of vocational ministry, where ripples and whispers are far-reaching. Yikes! Be patient. Forgive as you hope to be forgiven. Forgive as the Father has forgiven you.
  • Crave fellowship. Although their job descriptions often require vocational ministers to spend a significant amount of time interacting with church members, much of that time is spent solving problems, taking the burdens of others upon themselves, casting vision, and motivating or inspiring others, all of which can be very taxing. A week or two of such interactions is all it takes to leave a minister feeling flat, discouraged, and half-starved for the kind of mutual edification and encouragement that other church members seem to enjoy as a matter of course. For the good of your church, make sure that you encourage and invest in your ministers as much as you lean on them.
  • Need rest. Vocational ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. To run their race well, ministers must discipline themselves to rest, refuel, and set a sustainable pace, things that are particularly difficult for passionate people-pleasers to do. Help them by recognizing the potential for and warning signs of fatigue in them. Help them establish healthy habits by encouraging them to delegate responsibility, allowing them enough time alone with their families and closest friends, and requiring them to take the time off they are allowed so they can “kick it in” when circumstances call for it.
  • Want to please the Father. only way do this is to study His Word diligently, pray faithfully, and obey the Holy Spirit’s leading, disciplines you would expect to be at the top of every vocational minister’s to-do list. They are, but natural disasters often creep up in the Body and demand their attention, grassfires of gossip, financial freeze, infestations of immorality, avalanches of apathy, quakes of competition, pandemics of pride, and the like. In those moments, importance is trumped by urgency, leaving vocational ministers vulnerable to spiritual fatigue, fluctuating emotion, and human opinion. Help them maintain their focus by doing your part to prevent and curb those natural disasters in their early stages, pursuing those disciplines yourself and encouraging others to do the same, and allowing vocational ministers at least as much time as you need to pursue the Father with excellence.

To love someone is to extend mercy and grace, and Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). That shouldn’t be so hard in this case, should it, considering all we have in common?