October 28, 2020
If you’ve been reading the October issues of The Alabama Baptist or faith-based content anywhere, you know October is the month set aside to show our appreciation to the pastors and ministers on our church staffs.
We’ve heard about some creative ways churches are honoring their pastors, such as the congregation of First Baptist Church, Carbon Hill, gifting Pastor Scott McCullar with a new Honda CRV.
Granted, that’s not the type of gift McCullar and the other pastors receiving large gifts this year receive every October, but it’s one that matched a need and gave the church family an opportunity to pour out love in a special way.
McCullar explained in a Facebook post that his 2005 Honda CRV had more than 200,000 miles on it.
“I was shocked and speechless and still am, really. I have no idea how to process this,” McCullar wrote. “I don’t deserve it for sure. I have loved and been loved by every congregation I have served, but I have never been loved like this.”
Every church family will have those moments to gift a pastor or other minister on staff with a special gift, and the church likely will know exactly what to give when the time comes.
But most years, the gifts will be more routine — handwritten notes, gift cards, special weekend getaways, bonus checks, etc. — and that’s OK.
I joked with my pastor that my gift to him this year was to block all complaints coming his way for one month. But since I actually only said it to him and no one else (until now), I may be looking for another idea. Ha!
Our pastors and others in church leadership across the nation (and probably the world) could use a word of encouragement here and there.
They are people, just like you and me, with family responsibilities, various life concerns and individual skill sets that may or may not match perfectly with all that is required in church work.
Our friend Jerry Wilkins, retired director of missions for Tuscaloosa Baptist Association, shared some pastor-church mismatch stories with us recently.
Clear expectations vital
In some of the situations, it seems the pastor search committee that recommended the pastor did not have a clear understanding of the expectations and needs of the church or it didn’t communicate those clearly to the candidate.
In other situations, the search committee failed to thoroughly evaluate how the pastor would fit in the various roles and expectations at the church.
It’s more than hiring an employee to do a list of assigned tasks. It’s prayerfully seeking the person God has called to disciple your church family to individually and corporately point people to Jesus.
But the pastor position also means overseeing the operations of the church, managing a staff and slate of volunteers, caring for all members of the congregation and ministering to the surrounding community.
It means finding the strength and wisdom to lead the church family through those times of unexpected challenges and difficult news.
It means doing all that is expected while trying to keep a wide array of personalities happy and attempting to make the best decisions with the information and knowledge at hand.
Sometimes it means making a mistake and having to live with that mistake.
Sometimes it means spending energy covering up sadness, loneliness and/or discouragement for fear of looking weak.
Sometimes it means landing in a dry spell spiritually — pastors can end up there just as easily as the rest of us.
The “feet of clay” description is true. Pastors do have weaknesses and flaws they battle just like each of us does.
They must guard their hearts too, and we can help by remembering to pray for them consistently, encouraging them in a difficult season and cheering for them as they attempt to balance all that comes with being a pastor, no matter the size of the congregation.
Ways to encourage
Every once in a while, we can choose not to vent about how cold the Sunday School room was, how loud the music was or how the livestream failed.
Pastors need as much grace and love as anyone else, and a calm conversation sharing any concerns at the church we might have always strengthens the relationship and the congregation.
We all process and deal with life in different ways, but as long as we can talk to each other honestly and with kindness, then we can find our way through the situation — even if that means agreeing to disagree.
Give your pastor the gift of prayer, encouragement and a clearing of the air (in love and kindness), not only in October but throughout the year.
We are receiving news from around the state about prayer vigils being held prior to Nov. 3 (Election Day) and are encouraged to learn how many of our leaders are burdened to pull believers together to pray.
Many of the promotional items mention praying for God’s will to be done, which reminds me that we also need to pray for ourselves — for God to show us what we need to deal with in our own hearts and the ability to represent Him well, no matter the election results.