Earlier this week I shared on my blog how pointless conflict nearly made me quit ministry. For most of us in ministry we don’t talk about this, out of fear of being perceived weak, unspiritual, selfish, or losing our jobs. Frankly there have been days where I have not left my bed as sorrow consumed my soul. I don’t in any way believe that God caused my pain, but I do believe that He can and will use my pain for His glory. I am a better pastor and leader because I have walked through the fire of ministry.
I also want to be an encourager to other pastors who feel alone in their conflicts. The loneliest place in a church is the pastor’s office (and house). Most of us walk this road alone afraid of sharing our pain.
When my family (the pastor’s wife and kids feel the pain) and I were walking through conflict, God gave us gifts to help us survive. One of the greatest gifts God gave us was the good people of His church. This is what you can do for your pastor.
1. Pray for Him.
The fight to destroy a pastor is first and foremost a spiritual war. If the enemy can succeed, he will destroy the pastor’s ministry, morality, marriage, and reputation. The greatest way to support your pastor is in prayer.
2. Take him (or ladies, his wife) out to eat.
Walking through conflict is lonely. As an outsider to his church and community, he does not know who he can trust. In the middle of conflict the pastor (and his wife) need time with people who care about them. Take your pastor hunting or out to eat. The pastor needs moments to enjoy life because for most pastors, ministry is life. When ministry turns sour, he lives it round the clock.
3. Send him texts/notes/emails and cards.
As a pastor, I cherish hand written notes. I save them and place them on the back of a door where only I can see them. When conflict comes these notes serve as reminders of the love of the church. Even daily texts where a pastor knows he is prayed for give him strength.
4. Fight so he doesn’t have to.
Deep down your pastor wants to love and care for the church, even those who are coming against him. Let him win by continuing to care for the church while you fight for him.
5. Mediate in the conflict.
You pastor does not want to win the fight at the expense of other church members. He wants to bring peace to it. If God has given you the temperament to bring both parties to the table, use your gift. Your pastor would rather have a peaceful resolution than a bloody victory.
6. Give him and his wife a night out.
Your pastor needs time to be with his wife. They talk little about their pain at home in an attempt to shelter their kids from the conflict. When you give him a night out, he will probably go eat and talk the entire time about the church with his wife, but it is a gift where he doesn’t have to guard his words around his kids.
7. Create protection for him in your church constitution.
There is nothing scarier for a pastor than knowing he is a mob away from unemployment. When times are good in the church, create solid personnel policies which protect your staff. Insecure pastors tend to make insecure (people pleasing) decisions. If you create stability and security for your pastor, he will lead even through tough decisions.
8. Practice church discipline if necessary.
This might be the most difficult step any church can take. If there are people who constantly create conflict in the church and become a burden to the pastor or staff, the church (not just the pastor) needs to stand up for what is right. Scripture is clear that causing disunity in the church does not build up the body. It abuses the body. Scripture states clearly in Titus that those who cause conflict after being warned should face church discipline.
I know of very few pastors who move to new churches because it is a bigger church. Most of us endure within churches till we get to the point where we can no longer do ministry or where our hearts hurt and we seek an escape. We all want to be the 30 year guy in a church. When you stand with your pastor, you may find that he will become your long term pastor.