Pastor's Pastor

Pastor's Pastor: Ministering to ministers

Pastor's Pastor: Ministering to ministers

"When our cup is drained, we've no place to turn,"

Floyd Bresee is the Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association.

Who pastors the pas tor? One of the most consistent concerns coming to the Ministerial Association from both pastors and their spouses goes something like this: "We're all the time ministering to others; yet when our cup is drained and we need spiritual help or counsel regarding our ministry, we've no place to turn."

The problem is not unique with Adventists. United Methodists surveyed 1,900 of their pastors and learned that 46 percent didn't feel free to seek counseling. Only 5 percent said they would turn to their bishop for help. We would like to think that our pastors feel freer than that in seeking out their conference president. Unfortunately, many don't.

The Ministerial Association encourages the ministerial secretary to be the pastor's pastor, friend, advocate, and, when necessary, liaison with the president. The ministerial secretary should not represent the pastor against his president and defend the pastor's mistakes, but he should represent the pastor to his president so that together they can ad dress the pastor's needs. The ministerial secretary should stand with one foot in the president's office and one in the pas tor's study. He represents the president's program to the pastor, but also the pas tor's needs to the president.

Typically, our presidents are outstandingly capable and compassionate men. They want to feel close to their pastors. The president, however, faces at least three big obstacles in filling the role of pastor's pastor:

1. Presidency isolates. The conference president is a powerful person, not necessarily because he chooses to be, but because the office thrusts considerable power upon him. The president's problem is that he must lead so many workers that it is terribly difficult for him to make himself as available to any one group as he would like to be.

He usually finds it easy to let the education director represent the teachers to him, and the publishing director represent the literature evangelists. But he may find it hard to let the ministerial secretary represent the pastors.

The president's pastoral concern for his pastors should be applauded, not discouraged. After all, he was ordained to the gospel ministry and he doesn't want his presidency separating him from his pastoral ministry. Usually he can't pastor a church, so he may feel his ministry is pastoring his pastors and their families. His frustration is that he hasn't the time to do it adequately.

One of the secrets to success in the South American Division is that so many of the ministerial secretaries visit and pray with pastors and wives in their homes. Wherever presidents find time to do this, it seems greatly appreciated, but most presidents feel it is terribly difficult to find the time.

2. Presidency insulates. Again, the problem is not with the president, but with his position. Most presidents have been outstanding pastors and continue to be caring people. The problem is the hat. Putting on the presidential hat creates a degree of separation between the president and his workers no matter how much he may wish it did not.

3. Presidency intimidates. Successful and aggressive pastors will come to the president for counsel--and that's good. The trouble is that the less successful and less aggressive may need help more and be less likely to come.

For these reasons we do not feel it is ideal for the president to be the ministerial secretary. It is very difficult for the employer to be the liaison between employer and employee. It is usually better for an other minister to serve as the ministerial secretary and to make himself available as the pastor's pastor. Chances are, however, that no one person is adequate to meet everyone's needs. Some will choose their president or some other conference leader; others will choose a fellow pastor. Pastors' wives often look to another pastor's wife for spiritual guidance.

The ministerial secretary is responsible to sit down with his president and develop a program to help every pastoral family find someone to whom they can look as their pastor.

Such a program might consider the creation of peer groups or special advisors--possibly retired pastors. Conferences have been urged to designate professional counselors from whom they will accept billing without being told counselees' names.

The ministerial secretary needs to publicize this program so that every pas tor knows where to look for help before pressures build up, problems become unsolvable, and someone is lost to the ministry. Every pastoral family has both the need and the right to be pastored.

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Floyd Bresee is the Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association.

June 1988

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