Encouraging Pandemic Pastors

12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.

(1 Thess. 5:12-13 – NASB95) 

I did a little research online and discovered that the second Sunday in October is Pastor Appreciation Day and the whole month is Pastor Appreciation Month. Conspiracy theorists believe it was started by Hallmark to sell more cards… [In my research I also discovered that March is Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month. Who knew?!?] The Apostle Paul knew a lot about pastoral ministry, the sacrifices, hardships, internal and external struggles, long hours, rejection, disappointment, and even depression. He knew that elders (paid or volunteer) needed encouragement to keep on fighting the enemy and shepherding the flock.

This week I read an article by a man named Eddie Cole. He is a former pastor, district superintendent, and now executive vice president of national ministries of the EFCA. The title is: “Encouraging Pandemic Pastors: How a tough job got even tougher.” As I read the article my heart was moved for my fellow pastors around the country and world. Being a pastor is incredibly tough, and the last 7 months have been dramatically tougher. I’m a “Tigger” and I have felt the added pressure and discouragement. He makes a lot of great points and I encourage you to read the entire article (here), but one section stood out to me (below, in italics).

Will we lose many faithful servants?

Thom Rainer, the former CEO of LifeWay, has become a reputable, trusted Christian leader. He recently stated that up to 50% of pastors are planning on leaving their current ministries once a new normal is established after COVID-19. As many as one in five pastors will leave ministry altogether. There are six prominent reasons they are leaving ministry:

  1. Pastors are weary from the pandemic, just like everyone else
  2. Pastors are dispirited by the division among church members about the post-quarantine church
  3. Pastors are discouraged about losing members and attendance
  4. Pastors are uncertain about the financial future of their ministry
  5. Pastors are receiving much more criticism as they implement COVID safety protocols, address cultural challenges, steward resources and shepherd their flock
  6. Pastors’ workloads have increased greatly: on top of increased pastoral care needs, most have had to adjust their ministries to provide new online opportunities that were not being offered prior to COVID-19

In addition to COVID-related reasons, several other challenges are stretching pastors to their limits. I’ll name a few: the ongoing issue of racial injustice, conspiracy theories regarding government overreach and an abnormally hostile political climate. On top of all this, many church members share their unfiltered and highly partisan opinions on social media. I’ve spoken with pastors who can’t believe what they’re observing. A pastor-friend the other day posted the following:

“Working to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4) among the family of God in our miserably polarized culture is painfully, nauseatingly, exhaustively and devastatingly difficult. Please pray for your pastor! #ComeLordJesus #Lordhelpus”

That’s a fitting summary for this season of pastoral ministry. While this season is difficult for most of us, it is exceptionally challenging for many of our pastors—including yours.

He then gives some practical ways to help your pastors/elders: 1) Pray for them. 2) Encourage their personal soul-care. 3) Respect and show love for their family members. 4) Bless them in tangible ways. 5) Work with them toward strengthening your church family.

Please join me in appreciating and esteeming very highly in love all those who lead us at The Bridge. Let’s lighten their loads, encourage their hearts, support their families, and make our church the happiest place on earth for a leader to serve.

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