Pastor Josh Leadership

2020: A Pastors Perspective

Disclaimer: I write this not to clamor for pity, but as a call to prayer for God's people. I am not writing this for the people that I pastor in particular, but for any pastored person. 

I have been in church leadership for 27 years. I served as a youth pastor for the better part of two decades, and we planted and have pastored our church for the last eight years. I've pastored people through 9-11 and other national events that shook our nation, as well as through many personal trials and difficulties. For all humans, this year has been strange. It's also been a struggle. That's an understatement. It's really been the heaviest time for most pastors that I have ever seen. It's been a year.

We started this year with high hopes for a new decade, many declaring a 20/20 vision campaign of sorts. For us, we launched a fundraising campaign and some lofty goals for membership and baptisms. Then came March. Pastors were blindsided and scrambling to figure out how to lead their church. Many launched or improved their online ministry and social media campaigns to minister to their people. I'm so proud of the older and non-tech savvy pastors who did what they could to connect with their people. 

We thought this would have lasted a couple of weeks, so we all blew up the social media space with encouragement for the people we lead. We were exhilarated with adrenaline running through our veins as we dreamed differently. I was so proud of our pastoral team and how they dug-in creatively to lead through the crisis.

Online fatigue grew strong quickly. We watched the metrics drop... and the engagement slow down. A few faithful would watch online services and stay engaged with their local church. As pastors, we were troubled for our people. We hoped to have a fantastic Easter service. Nope. Most were shut down for at least six weeks. Finally, we opened up slowly, not with the celebration we longed for but with regulation protocols and smaller crowds than we expected. We were disappointed with all of those that said, "They couldn't wait to get back," only to discover they were nowhere in sight. Our volunteer bases were slim. Our ability to make hospital visits, attend funerals, etc., was hindered. We felt as though we couldn’t carry out God's mandate on our lives. It's been a year.

Then we dealt with the escalated race issues. Everyone wanted a statement from us. We were looking for the correct response. We wanted to handle racial tensions correctly. We wanted justice. For some, we did too much. For others, we did too little. It was, and still is a troubling time. We simply couldn't win. It's been a year.

We saw another surge of the virus in July. Many of us dealt with cases, some of us got the virus. In-person, attendance was shaky; online dropped to dismal. Fall looked hopeful, then doubtful, then elections, uncertainty. It's been a year.

Most of us are still making directional changes weekly as we try to navigate a church body through a pandemic. We are trying to feed faith while the media continues to hook people with fear and anger. We hope we are getting through to those we love. 

Pastoring is not for the faint of heart, and those called to it must be resilient. I've heard countless pastors explain how exhausted and depressed they are. I've watched several pastor friends call it quits. We've seen several public moral failures, deconstructions, and departures from the faith. It's been a year. 

Pastoring is not for the faint of heart

Quitting hasn't crossed my mind because I can't quit my calling. But I have sighed many times. I've grieved. I've wept. I've told the Lord often, "I'm tired." It's been a year. 

The heaviest weight of it all is the weight I carry for the people I pastor. I'm concerned about their health. I'm concerned about their finances. I'm concerned for their courage; this has affected everyone. However, I'm mostly concerned about their faith. I hope they have not drifted. Are they in the Word? Are they worshipping and praying at home? Are they depressed? I am continually questioning if I'm doing enough to pastor our people well. 

Online numbers have dropped, and not seeing people you care for deeply for 9 months is weighty. Folks are tuning in less to virtual services. They won't respond to messages. Many who have returned are incredibly inconsistent. We see folks are at school, at the grocery store, and everywhere else, but not church, not even online. We are worried that they may never return and that their faith may disappear. It's scary for us leaders because we care about the souls of those that call us pastor. It's incredibly weighty. We love the people God sent us deeply. The reality is that we as pastors take responsibility for the people that God has entrusted to us.

It may appear that I'm whining. Maybe I am a little; more than anything, I am trying to bring some perspective to the body of Christ. I heard someone say one time, "everyone needs a pastor." It's true! And pastors need encouragement from those they lead. Often!

Encourage your encourager:

In pastoral form, here are three things you can do to help your pastor; An opportunity for them to reap where they have sown, and for you to encourage your encourager:

1. Pray. It's the most significant thing you can do. And letting them know you took time to pray for them (not just post online that you did) will fill them with joy and courage. 

2. Engage. Show up! If you can't attend your services in person, then show up online—coffee in hand, in your PJs: however you roll. Get online and let them know you are there! If you are watching on social media, then share that post. It's a digital "Amen!" If you share the stream, it's kind of like inviting somebody to church. This will really blow some wind in the sails of your pastor.

3. Tell them. One of our board members, a businessman who does not attend our church, told me in a meeting a couple of nights ago how inspired and understanding he was of pastors during this time. He then applauded me and the other pastor present. I about broke down. The compassion was overwhelming. (And it led to this post) Text them, call them, private message them. Tell them you know it must be difficult and that you love them. Bonus: tell them something they said one time that really impacted you. This will fill up your pastor's tank more than you know!

If you are pastored, your pastor loves you. They need some courage from you this time. 

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord's work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13 (NLT)

Pic by: Bre Hargrove
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