"Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what hey say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they a accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit." Hebrews 13:17
I want to preface my words by stating that this message has been on my heart for months, not just because [I am] married to a pastor! I've had a lot of eye-opening moments while being in ministry, and it's helped me realize the pressure, privilege, and responsibility of being in a pastoral role.
Ministry is a bizarre business. Where else would employees or learners even consider bringing a complaint to their boss or expect their suggestions to be considered? I would assume that if a manager or supervisor was approached with a complaint stated with anger and outrage, they would probably just point to the door. Or, if students in a classroom whined and complained about how things were going, the teacher would respond with, "Okay, that's nice," and continue on with the lesson. It's interesting how this all changes when it comes to church and what congregants think is acceptable communication.
The pastoral and church staff are not only stretched mentally and physically, but emotionally and spiritually. They spend countless hours each week studying God's Word, preparing sermons, leading small groups, and counseling in addition to their home responsibilities of providing for and spending time with their families. Most of us get to leave our work at work when the final bell rings, but oftentimes, pastors take their work home, maybe not intentionally as they are consumed by wanting just the right words for their upcoming sermon or replaying a recent conversation in their minds.
So, knowing all of this, let's imagine a Sunday morning. The pastor has just spent hours preparing a message, and he's excited to share it with his congregation. He's in the hallway on his way to pray with the elders and other staff, and here comes Mr. Pessimist prepared to relay his current preference complaints. The pastor, being his pastoral self, stops to say "Hi" kindly and is caught off guard, verbally attacked with a laundry list of things that just aren't "right" with the church. Then, after listening, the pastor turns, continues on his way, and must preach the Word of God to hundreds after scraping himself off the ground.
Since we know these unfortunate encounters exist, what if we took an intentional offense of protecting our pastors on Sunday mornings? We should be praying for them of course, but what if we took it a step further? I'm sure there is more, but the following are practical ways we can protect our pastors.
Five Practical Ways to Protect Your Pastor
1-Watch Your Words and Tone It doesn't matter what you are talking with your pastor about before the sermon, but you should watch your tone and the words you say. You may have a joking relationship with him, but sarcasm or silliness before the sermon may not be best. Whatever you say or how you say it, should not put any doubt in his mind about anything.
2-Observe Others Keep open eyes and ears while you are walking through the church hallways. If you see Mr. Pessimist walking with a mission towards the pastor, stop him! You might have to listen to the laundry list, but at least the pastor will not. Or, you could make a beeline towards your pastor and start a conversation and hopefully avoid a negative one from starting.
3-Be Willing to Interrupt Maybe Mr. Pessimist has already beat you to the pastor and you can hear him saying what he doesn't like. Be willing to interrupt! It may take a little boldness and tact, but do what you can to cease the current conversation. Rescue the pastor from any further discouragement.
4-Wait For Certain Conversations Some conversations can wait. might have a question for the pastor and not a complaint. However, if you know he already has a lot on his mind in preparation for the sermon, don't add to it unless it is absolutely necessary. Ask yourself if you need an answer immediately or if you can wait until Monday. If it doesn't have to do with the service order, you can wait.
5-Say Something Encouraging My final suggestion is just be intentional about saying something encouraging if you see your pastor. It doesn't even have to be sermon/church-related, but a smile and positive conversation can go a long way.
These practical ways could also be helpful to anyone else serving in ministry at your church; children's ministry director, Sunday School teachers, worship leaders. They are enduring more pressure than you know so help protect them. They need some love, encouragement, and protection!