While everyone wants a healthy pastor who lives and serves with integrity, some church leaders are in a better strategic position to help their pastor stay above reproach. My last church created a pastoral support team to help me lead my life, family and ministry well.
Does your pastor need a support team? Consider these four important distinctions of a pastoral support team before you decide.
Their stated purpose was to protect, not police me. In our very first meeting, these five leaders made it crystal clear that their intentions were not punitive. They came to protect me, not hurt me. The men I chose were deacons, all of whom were eager to embrace their call to guard the health of their church and pastor.
A Barna report titled “State of the Pastors” said nearly one of every four pastors (24 percent) has experienced a period during their ministry when they significantly doubted their faith.
We met quarterly to talk about how I was doing, not how my ministry was doing. Regardless of what your leadership structure looks like, it only takes a few leaders to help support your pastor on this level.
They encouraged me to pick the team. Our deacons asked me to choose five leaders who could help me stay healthy in every sense of the word. Pastors can be good posers, insomuch as we are able to hide our pain and/or sin even from those closest to us.
The antidote to this temptation is genuine friendships with other men who not only have our backs but also will not hesitate to confront us if they have concerns. This level of support and accountability takes time for all people but especially men in the ministry.
You may not personally be the one to be on your pastor’s support team, but perhaps you can help prepare the runway for this pastor support team. In doing so, I suggest that your pastor have a strong voice in whom he entrusts his well-being, or else you will have to wait even longer for his guard to go down.
They made a clear commitment to confidentiality. Pastors have very few safe spaces, so make sure this grace zone is a safe zone. This sacred circle of trust will eventually be where tough conversations happen about your pastor’s life and ministry. My support team assured me in our first meeting that they were not going to report anything back to the deacon body unless it was absolutely necessary.
“Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16).
My pastor support team spent time praying for my family, ministry and for me, personally. Each man followed up between meetings with encouraging notes, texts or calls. This team not only made me feel loved, but they made me feel safe.
They primarily focused on my life and family. The Gospel your pastor preaches must also be applied to every area of his life: marriage, parenting, ministry, etc. Deacons or other leaders can minister to their ministers before they blow up their families and ministries. Prevention is much less painful and expensive than cure.
LifeWay Research survey responses from pastor’s wives gives us cause for pause:
- 44 percent of spouses believe the church expects the needs of their family to be secondary to the church.
- 35 percent of spouses often resent the demands of ministry on their family.
- 37 percent do not get the attention they need from their spouse because the church needs so much.
- One of every three spouses say their kids resent the demands of ministry.
Your pastor’s ministry will never be stronger than his family, so what can you do as a church leader to help strengthen both? By providing a listening ear and safe place for your pastor to share his dreams, as well as his nightmares, you may be pivotal in helping him avoid the latter.