by Scott Clevenger
Have you ever had one of those best friends who could reliably finish your sentence before the words ever left your tongue? I have. In fact, I had two men in my life who were that close to me.
Had. That’s the key word. Over the past few years, life took them to different parts of the country. Sure, with today’s technology, we’re able to stay in touch. But it’s just not the same as sitting across the table at lunch looking into the whites of each other’s eyes.
No matter the size of the church, there will always be drama. There will always be conflict. There will always be mountaintop seasons, and there will always be seasons in the valleys. Through those seasons, I’ve found that it’s very easy for the senior pastor to experience seasons of loneliness. It’s been said that “It’s lonely at the top.” I’m guessing your pastor may agree, especially if your pastor doesn’t have a close friend whom he can look straight into the eyes and be ruthlessly honest.
During those seasons, it’s easy for elders to continue on with the business of the church while neglecting the health of their pastor. I don’t imagine it’s intentional whatsoever. It’s just an all-too-natural drift. Because of that, at Christ’s Church Camden, we’ve added something to the “job description” for our elders.
One of our elders’ foremost responsibilities is: PASTOR THE PASTORS!
Think about it. You expect your senior pastor to make sure the congregation gets pastored. However, who’s pastoring your pastor? Peter told us, (1 Peter 5:2), “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly – not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.” I would point out that the pastors of your church are part of your flock and need to be shepherded by the elders as well.
Let’s get practical. When’s the last time you enjoyed lunch with a pastor with no other agenda than to bless him? How often do elders and pastors at your church randomly stop each other in the hallways on Sunday mornings to pray? Do the elders make a practice of “popping their heads in his office” to simply tell him that he’s appreciated? Pastoring and soul care certainly go beyond such actions, but simple, daily things like these are a great base to build from!
The depth of pastoring the pastors goes further than the pastor himself, of course. His family needs cared-for as well. You may be surprised at how many pastor’s wives would admit how disconnected they feel from the rest of the church. They know intimate details about the church, but rarely can do anything about them. The natural instinct for many is to distance themselves. So make sure your pastor’s wife is also pastored!
What can you do today for your pastor and his family to shield them from burn-out? What can you do as an elder to encourage, even inspire, your pastor? The fact is, nobody else in your church can truly pastor your pastor(s). It must be at the forefront of the elders’ responsibilities.