In need of prayer? Call your pastor.

Facing the loss of a loved one? Call your pastor.

Been betrayed? Call your pastor.

Carrying the weight of an entire congregation’s burdens is a difficult task –and only the pastor knows the full gravity of the position. So at the end of a long day of pastoring the congregation, who will pastor the pastor?

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For most pastors, I suspect, the answer is, “nobody.”

Depending upon your denominational affiliation, it is quite possible that your pastor does not have any designated support structure to care for his needs. Even more, they don’t feel comfortable leaning on those around them. Why?

  • Pastors are worried that congregations won’t trust them if they reveal their problems. The pastor frequently presents the church as a “safe place” for sinners to confess their sin and share their burdens. Ironically, however, he feels like it is the most dangerous place to confess his own shortcomings.
  • Pastors are tempted to think they shouldn’t have problems. Although he preaches that “all have sinned,” and “there is none righteous,” the pastor feels as though he has been placed into a position where having problems is a sign of incompetence.
  • Pastors feel inadequate when admitting they can’t solve their own problems. Even though sin and shortcomings are inevitable for the pastor, they feel as though they must solve their own problems. Otherwise (they think) who would want to approach them for counsel?

All of these reasons for concealing burdens are based upon worldly thinking –not biblical thinking. Scripture repeatedly describes godly leaders as those who lean on others. For example: Moses leaned on Jethro, Aaron, and Joshua. David depended upon Jonathan, Nathan, and his mighty men. And Paul was supported by Barnabus and Timothy. (Those are just a few of many examples.)

Leaning on others for support is not a sign of incompetence, but rather a sign of maturity. Those who are mature in Christ recognize that they are unable to “go it alone.”

So what can the “lone pastor” with no staff or elders do to find help? Here are some ideas:

  • Find at least one spiritual man in your community who can shepherd you. Look for someone with whom you can be completely honest and trust. It would be preferable to find someone with age and experience in ministry –perhaps a retired pastor or an older deacon. You will probably want someone outside of your congregation to avoid putting them in awkward situations. The closer in proximity, the better so that you can meet face to face on a regular basis.
  • Inform leaders in your church of your spiritual mentor. Your church leaders should be glad to know that you have an accountability network. Further, it will help create a new culture in your congregation in which leaders are not expected to “have it all together.”  Take this initiative as an opportunity to demonstrate biblical leadership (dependent upon others) as opposed to worldly leadership.
  • Admit shortcomings regularly and publicly to your congregation. Don’t be afraid to let your congregation know that you are human. Contrary to what your instincts might say, your congregation actually appreciates your honesty and transparency. In most instances, it will help erase the barrier between the pulpit and the pew allowing church members to be more open and honest with you about their own problems.

What if you are not a pastor, but you want to help your pastor experience this kind of support and encouragement?

  • Don’t expect your pastor to be superhuman. It all starts with expectations. The next time you hear a fellow church member complain about the pastor’s shortcomings (ie. humanity), help them remember that he is a sinner saved by grace –just like everyone else. Encourage your fellow members to pray for the pastor and his family.
  • Encourage your pastor to seek fellowship with other pastors. Let your pastor know that spending a morning, afternoon, or retreat with other pastor in your area will not be considered “slacking off.” Encourage him to take advantage of such relationships. Let him know that you care about his spiritual health.
  • Offer to host a pastor’s fellowship at your church’s facilities. More than likely, your pastor would be blown away if you, your Sunday school class, or small group offered to host a “pastors’ brunch” or “pastors’ coffee and desert gathering.” Let him know that you want him to build relationships with other ministers and that you’ll do anything to help make that happen.

Maybe you have some more ideas. What are some other ways to help pastors receive the shepherding they need?