As Americans prepare to spend more than $25 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, few are aware the holiday springs not from romantic love but rather from the love a pastor had for Christ and those under his care.
Saint Valentine was a third-century church elder martyred for his faith. Tradition holds he was imprisoned for sharing the Gospel. Appearing before the Roman Emperor, Valentine attempted to win him to Christ as well. When the emperor rejected the message, he sentenced Valentine to die. Some legends also claim that as a priest Valentine secretly performed weddings for Christian couples, leading to his modern association with romance.
St. Valentine’s Day can provide a unique opportunity for pastors and their churches to find ways to love each other best. A majority of U.S. Protestant pastors identified 17 unique areas of need for them personally and in their ministry in Lifeway Research’s Greatest Needs of Pastors study. Each of those areas can provide some opportunities for congregations and their leaders to display Christlike love within the body.
Developing leaders and volunteers
Churchgoers can make themselves available to serve and look for opportunities to lead. Pastors can prioritize pouring into churchgoers so they feel empowered to lead and serve.
Fostering connections with unchurched people
Churchgoers should look for ways to help their pastor meet their unchurched friends and neighbors in natural settings. Pastors can model for their congregants what it looks like to have friendships with non-Christians while pointing them to Christ.
People’s apathy or lack of commitment
Quite simply, churchgoers can avoid being apathetic toward the needs within the church. They can demonstrate a passion for kingdom work. For their part, pastors can work to avoid seeing everything as apathy and focus commitment requests on matters of priority.
Consistency in personal prayer
Both churchgoers and pastors can work on their prayer lives by beginning to daily pray for each other and for the church as a whole. Love and affection will flow more naturally between people who are taking each other to God on a regular basis.
Friendships and fellowships with others
Pastors are looking for friendships. Churchgoers should invite their pastors to their houses for fun events. Pastors should help their churches see them as real people who want to hang out with others outside of Sunday morning or other church events.
Training current leaders and volunteers
Pastors, think of ways you can train those in your congregation who are already leading. If the previous attempts didn’t work, ask leaders what could work better. Churchgoers, be willing to serve and be open to opportunities to grow in those areas of service.
Consistency of Bible reading not related to sermon or teaching preparation
Much of a pastor’s time can be dominated by sermon prep, but that should not be the only time they spend with God. Pastors should model for their churchgoers what a healthy devotional time looks like. Churchgoers can help by respecting the pastor’s time.
This should be something that both pastors and churchgoers do in their individual lives, but both should bring that perspective to the church. They can encourage each other to trust God more as they trust Him to work in and through their congregation.
Relationships with other pastors
It can be an act of love for both themselves and their congregation to form friendships with other pastors. They can have someone to talk to who understands their situation and can help them lead better. Churchgoers should encourage their pastors to connect with others in their area.
Consistency in taking a Sabbath
Another way pastors can love their church is by taking some weeks off throughout the year. Well-rested and refreshed pastors will serve their churches better. Churchgoers can make sure the pastor takes time off to recharge and model well what it means to rest in Christ.
There are unique stresses that come with being a pastor, but most people in a church deal with stress on a regular basis. Churchgoers can work to eliminate as much stress as possible from the pastor’s role, while pastors can avoid adding stress to churchgoers by not overwhelming them with unnecessary activities.
Personal disciple making
Pastors want to be involved in making and growing new disciples of Christ. Churchgoers can make themselves available to connect with the pastor to learn from them. Both can encourage each other by sharing about how God is already using them to make disciples.
Confessing and repenting from personal sin
Churchgoers should expect a pastor who is seeking the Lord and growing in their faith. They should not expect perfection. Show grace to a pastor who is still human, after all. Pastor, demonstrate what it means to confess and repent when you do sin.
If a pastor and a church have a good, healthy relationship, both will want to continue that for as long as possible. For that to happen, pastors need to live healthy lives. Churchgoers could make a local gym membership part of their pastor’s pay package, offer that as a yearly gift, or drop off healthy foods for the pastor and their family. Look for creative ways to encourage the entire church to exercise and be healthy.
Avoiding overcommitment and over-work
Pastors and churchgoers probably both have experience with this in their jobs. Add in family and other responsibilities and there aren’t many extra hours in the day. Pastors, don’t expect every churchgoer to serve at every event. Encourage different people to serve in different areas. Churchgoers, don’t expect your pastor to do all the ministry of the church.
Challenging people where they lack obedience
Few people like telling someone else they need to do better, but we all need encouragement to step up from time to time. Pastors work to choose the right type of correction. Not everyone needs a lecture or threats of serious consequences. Some may simply not know better. Churchgoers should be open to loving correction from their church leaders. The goal is for the entire church to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus.
Many of the areas in the Pastors’ Greatest Needs study involve some form of time management. Pastors and churchgoers can help each other by streamlining church activities to only those that fit current church priorities and not those of the church decades ago. As much as possible, respect each other’s calendars and work to accomplish the needed tasks during the right time frame.