During October in many areas of the world, churches of all denominations honor their pastors for faithful ministry. Typically, this involves a public acknowledgment of gratitude during the worship service or even the presentation of an appropriate gift of appreciation.
Since pastors labor diligently— often with few tangible rewards or, sometimes, not even a kind word—when church organizations plan a coordinated time of the year to express thankfulness for pastors, the importance of these “frontline” servants to the church is highlighted.
I encourage ministerial secretaries everywhere to alert the elders throughout their territories about the appropriateness of giving honor to whom honor is due (see Rom. 13:7). Leadership could provide a certificate of appreciation, a practical resource or book for each pastor, and encourage their local congregations to consider a gift as well.
Include pastors in decision-making processes for objectives in their districts rather than imposing goals that may or may not be relevant. Asking your pastors to strategize which areas of emphasis would be most successful for their particular jurisdiction would be beneficial.
Involve pastors in strategizing where relocation assignments might best suit their talents as well as their family’s needs. I remember Pastor Wallace Coe coming to my parents many years ago, and thoughtfully inviting them to relocate near the academy for the benefit of my younger brother.
Invite the spouses and families of pastors to participate in pastoral meetings at the organization’s expenses. Remember, these dedicated ministry partners often have provided food and accommodation in their own homes for traveling leaders and most spouses labor earnestly for no remuneration.
Develop pastors in skill areas where they personally sense a need, not on the basis of achieving goals but upon the reality that those whose performance is less than optimum may be the ones most in need of continuing education opportunities.
Affirm the role of pastors in the eyes of the laity, especially the elders and other officers. Before listening to members complain about their pastor, determine if they have followed the Bible principle of going first to the individual to attempt reconciliation.
When difficulties mount, make certain the minister senses that administrative leadership serves as a pastoral advocate who will act with equity and benevolence.
Converse with the pastors. Friendly, informal interaction can build far more goodwill than formal instruction. While both teaching and preaching are essential components, listening actively rewards both the listener, who learns from the discussion, as well as those who are grateful they are being heard.
An excellent example occurred a few months ago when I was privileged to travel with Adventist world leader, Jan Paulsen, to Belize for the dual celebration of that country forming a new union of churches and a special taping of Dr. Paulsen’s recurring broadcast, Pastors in Conversation.
Six pastors from various Caribbean nations engaged in open dialogue with the General Conference president, and their open, unscripted questions brought candid answers. Although many ministers may not have viewed the live satellite broadcast, the program was duplicated and distributed widely so that anyone can benefit.
In addition to that broadcast taping, Israel Leito, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division, brought all the pastors from that region together for a much longer dialogue in which he and his fellow division administrators carefully listened and noted questions, observations, points of concern, and ideas. Those of us who are ministers but not currently serving as church pastors, including Dr. Paulsen and myself, experienced personal growth and experiential learning as we listened to the interchange.
Beyond such one-time events, next year’s General Conference session in Atlanta, Georgia, will feature church pastors from around the world preaching every devotional message, as well as presenting a five-part seminar series emphasizing the important role and function of pastoral ministry in the church.
These special topics include (1) pastoral leadership—the function of ministry to oversee God’s church; (2) pastoral nurture—the function of ministry to nurture and shepherd God’s church; (3) pastoral formation— the function of ministry to recruit, call, educate, and resource others for the best service to our Lord; (4) pastoral evangelism—the function of ministry to seek the lost, evangelize the world, and disciple new believers to maturity; and (5) pastoral fulfillment—the necessity of an integral, holistic ministry that impacts first the minister’s own life and family.
So, in seeking to engage each other to stimulate creativity, excellence, and our ultimate goal of saving souls for God’s kingdom, let’s keep the conversation going!