One of my goals in ministry is to help protect other ministers and their family. Through this blog I reach thousands of men and women who serve God in a vocational role. My heart is heavy when I hear from those who are drowning with burnout and whose family is suffering.
Having been on both sides of the pulpit – as a pastor and a layperson – I have a unique view of the pastorate. I am very thankful to have served in healthy churches, which encouraged my family time, but I hope to encourage those who struggle to balance family and ministry.
I also realize the size of my church helped. As pastor, I usually had a great staff and dedicated, trained volunteers. We even had several retired ministers in our church who could help fill in when needed.
During the Christmas season – and really into the new year – I want to share a few things you can do and a few not to do to support the ministers you probably love. The reality is the December calendar is packed with activities – as they are for everyone. The difference is many times a pastor doesn’t feel the freedom to control their schedule. People in ministry have accepted a call of God to care for people. Most ministers have a hard time saying no to people and can easily become overwhelmed with the never-ending demands of their time. That’s especially true during certain times of the year.
If a minister is not careful, they will spend so much time with others their own family will feel neglected. Sadly, they may not even realize this until it is too late and the family is grown and out of the house.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to do and not do to support your pastor or minister:
- Pray especially for them during the holidays. Send notes and words of encouragement to them. People in ministry usually have tons of critics. Find some time to encourage them. It may be their greatest gift. This is an especially stressful time for everyone, but in some professions, such as ministry, it is not a slower time. It is a busier one.
- Let them off the hook from attending every social event. They simply can’t do everything and still be ready for Sunday, care for the rest of the church and their family.
- Invite them to your social – without an expectation they will come. They will love knowing you thought of them and wanted to include them. And, if they do come, try to you see them as regular people who like to have fun. Do not make them talk “Church” unless they want to and, remember, they do not always have to be the one to pray.
- See if they have specific needs at the holidays. Many ministers, especially in smaller churches, have a hard time financially at Christmas.
- Expect them to be everywhere. It’s simply impossible – and unreasonable.
- Make them feel guilty when they can’t make your event. They will likely take it personal and it will weigh heavy on their heart. They wouldn’t be in ministry if they didn’t love people. And some of them even struggle with being people-pleasers. Don’t take it personal. It probably isn’t. It may simply be practical. They simply can’t be everywhere and do everything – just as you probably can’t – or shouldn’t try.
- Hold them to a higher standard than is realistic. Remember, they are simply human.
- Place unrealistic expectations on the minister’s family. They probably enjoy just being a family – as your family does.
Find ways to support those who have accepted God’s call to vocational ministry. You would be amazed how a small gesture can make a difference in their life and the life of their family. Plus, you’ll be playing a part in Kingdom-building – strengthening one of God’s servants.
Pastors/Ministers, what else would you add to my list? Do you feel especially stretched this time of year?