June 20, 2013
10 Things Pastors Need to Hear from Their Congregations
Just a few ideas.
This is a re-post from Eric's blog.
Yesterday, Rachel Held Evans posted a list of 11 things she, as a layperson, wished that we pastors said more often. I commented that I thought the list was fantastic, and a fellow commenter suggested making a companion list of 10 things pastors wish their congregations said more often.
This is my attempt at such a list, and it should not be construed as a direct criticism of my parish--indeed, some of these items are things they already say to me that I wish other churches would say more frequently to their pastors!
1. How can I be praying for you?
I do a lot of praying with people and for people while rarely asking for prayer in return. But I definitely need prayer in return, because I am not Super-Pastor. Some days, I barely even feel like an ordinary, un-super pastor, because on my own, I am simply a very, very weak man.
2. I'm sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.
This is a direct copy-and-paste of Rachel's own #2 item, because it definitely fits for us as well. Pastors have to withstand a lot of second-guessing and--in unhealthier situations--ad hominem criticisms, but we are called to turn the other cheek rather than repaying meanness for meanness.
3. Enjoy your time away.
For pastors, vacation time is sacrosanct and vital to our well-being, but I have had to engage in educational efforts to show why my vacation time (of which I get four weeks per year) is so vital, so that I might stop being asked, "How come you get so much time off? I only see you once a week!"
4. Let's give it a try.
I think that while pastors may have a very hard time saying "no" to their congregants, congregations can be quite skilled at saying "no" to their pastor and their pastor's ideas. It doesn't even have to be a "yes"--just agreeing to give something the old college try is often enough.
5. Here's what I liked/didn't like about your sermon today...
Don't get me wrong, I'll take the "good sermon today, preacher" compliments. But you know why we love it when you engage us on the substance of what we said, even if you disagree with us? It shows that you were listening, and it reminds us that our preaching and teaching is valued by you.
6. How can I help?
A lot of our volunteers have set tasks that they do--and do well--at our church. And I love that--reliability is a huge gift in the church. But I also love it when someone comes to me, willing to help out wherever they can, because it shows they care about the church's needs, whatever they might be.
7. Is everything okay?
Part of serving a smaller congregation means that my congregants and I grow extremely familiar with one another, and many of them can tell if I didn't bring my A-game that day. Showing concern for me first--rather than reaching immediately for criticism--means an awful, awful lot to me.
8. Don't stop being yourself.
I am lucky to serve a church that not only doesn't mind that their pastor enjoys scotch, plays poker, and is a loudmouth Kansas City sports fan--they embrace it, even if a stereotypical pastor would not drink or gamble. Quite simply, I am affirmed for who I am. They affirm Eric, not just "Pastor Eric."
9. Whenever you can make it is fine.
Pastors get a lot of invites to a lot of family events in the church--and I love going to such events, but when my schedule begins to crowd up, please do not be offended if I am only able to make a token appearance, or am running late. It doesn't mean that I, or God, loves you any less.
10. Be not afraid!
I saved the biggest (for me) for last--quite simply, I am sometimes afraid to try things and risk either failing or upsetting church matriarchs/patriarchs. But risk is a necessary dimension of ministering in the name of Jesus Christ, and pastors today cannot afford to be risk-averse!
Those are just my top ten, written more or less off the top of my head, based on my own experience and on the experience of my friends and colleagues in ministry. What things do you wish your church would say more often to you (if you are a pastor) or to your pastor?
Eric Atcheson pastors First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Longview, Washington. He blogs at The Theophilus Project.