October 07, 2007

Do You Appreciate Your Pastor?

Fifty percent of seminary graduates who go into pastoral ministry also leave pastoral ministry within five years. Note, I didn't say, they leave one church for another church, actually those numbers are much lower as the average length of pastoral ministry in one place is around 3 years.

Now that ought to spawn some questions from the "consumers" meaning those who attend church, as well as some introspection. After all, Pastors don't leave a church or ministry altogether out of boredom but out of utter exhaustion, frustration and discouragement. With 75% of churches in America consisting of less than one hundred people, that means the majority of pastors are in solo situations. This means, they are expected to do everything, be everything, have an endless supply of energy, answer the phone, clean the building, be a gifted administrator, counselor, problem solver, trouble shooter, visionary, trainer, teacher, motivator, leader and should be able to live at poverty wages--and smile about it, and their families are expected to realize that since God comes first, that means they come last and they are supposed to like it.

Trust me, when I tell you, that I have no axe to grind here. I am the really rare exception and my church is an even rarer exception. That is why I have lasted 17 years in one place. But that is not the norm around America.

I know pastors who when they go to a conference are expected to not only pay for it themselves, but are expected to use vacation time. I tell you, there are many, many Christians who are going to have a lot to answer for on that last day concerning the treatment of their pastors.

Now perhaps you know that October is Clergy appreciation month. I'll be candid and tell you that if this is the only time you do something to acknowledge your appreciation for your pastor, it is woefully in sufficient--but it IS a start.

And so I encourage in the strongest possible terms to do something really special for your pastor. I don't mean a $10 gift card to Christian Book Distributors or a dinner out at the local slop house.

Our church has sent my wife and I on weekend get-aways at bed and breakfasts with all expenses paid, they have flown our children in from all parts of the country as a surprise, they even sent my wife and I to the Caribbean one year and if you're thinking, yeah but Faith is a huge church, you can afford it. Wrong--actually now that we are bigger, the gifts of appreciation are done on a much smaller scale by individuals on a personal basis through out the year. That's the down side of having a multi-staff church now. But we are shown we are appreciated in so many ways and not just one month out of the year.

For Jesus' sake, I implore you to take care of your shepherd.


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