So far we’ve thought about the nature of the Slough of Despond and how we can help ourselves avoid it, or minimise it’s impact. But how do churches, or rather congregations, help their pastor avoid the Slough, or pull him free from its sucking clutches?
There are a number of things that help and none of them are rocket science, but I wonder if we often miss then because they are so obvious.
- Treat your pastor (and his family) as people. Yes your pastor has been called to pastor the church, but they don’t magically change. They aren’t one of the Avengers, exposed to gamma radiation or able to create marvels of technology that enable them to fly and fight evil impervious to all the suffering us mere mortals face. They are flesh and blood humans made in the image of God, with all the great blessings that brings, but also with fallibility built in. They will be prone to illness, weakness, and emotional ups and downs. Treat your pastor as such, not as overly fragile, but as a person. And care for his family, speak to his kids, as well as asking after them, care for his wife well. Make sure they have time together and regular holidays. Just do what you do for anyone else. You may be surprised at what a difference this makes to them.
- Engage with the Bible. You may think your pastor is the best preacher since the Apostle Paul, you may not. But whilst a pastor needs to work hard to preach well, we also need to work hard to listen well. How can you encourage your pastor in his preaching? Resource him well both in terms of time and books and conferences – especially on preaching if you think it would be a good idea, but be careful how you broach this. And engage with his preaching. Read the passage before you come, ask questions of it, so that you are pre-engaged. Work hard on cultivating a face that invites someone to speak. We all have a facial screen saver that is on when we’re listening – some look bored, some are eyes scarcely open/awake, others look like they’re chewing a wasp, a few look engaged make eye contact and maybe even nod (or perhaps even verbally respond – I know shocking right!). Which of those are you most likely to talk to? Now imagine what it’s like preaching to them. Could you change your screen saver so it encourages those preaching?
- Disciple others. Pastors go into ministry longing to see people come to know Jesus and then grow in maturity as disciples. The job is (Ephesians 4v11-16) to equip God’s people to grow in Christlikeness. That means the pastor’s job is to be discipling disciple makers, not slogging hard to disciple those who think that is where discipleship stops – with them. Encourage your pastor by being involved in discipling others.
- Pray for and with your pastor. Prayer is something many churches struggle with. But there is nothing more encouraging for a pastor than to know that his flock are praying for him as he battles to prepare to preach. Except when his people gather with him to pray for the work of the church. Praying with your pastor encourages him that you are with him, you are on mission together, he’s not alone, you are committed to seeking God’s will and help.
I wonder what other things you’ve found help?