Thursday, May 19, 2011

The dirty secret of churches wearing out pastors

My son Jack goes through socks at a preternatural rate. One reason why is because he wears them, without shoes, all over the place-- in the yard, down the street, in the car. The other day I explained to him how sand and dirt working into the fibers of his socks aggressively advances the early demise of his socks, hoping this would stem the tide of our rising sock budget line.

I thought of that this morning as I read this piece from pastor and blogger David Foster (HT: Mark). Pastor Foster does a great job of exposing what he calls the "dirtiest little secret" of the American church:

"that we regularly, relentlessly, and without mercy beat-up, chew-up and spit-out our leaders."

Rev. Foster correctly diagnoses (and describes, more than I've reproduced here) five ways that many churches abuse their pastors:
  1. We starve them.
  2. We have outrageously unreasonable expectations of our leaders.
  3. We strip them of power.
  4. We let pretend leaders bully them.
  5. We leave them in financial peril.
While there are plenty of exceptions to Rev. Foster's list above (my congregation, for one, has largely avoided all of them-- of which I am quite grateful!), I know too many friends and (sometimes former) colleagues who have been burned by congregations in exactly these ways, some of whom have left the ministry as a result-- prematurely, in my estimation.

Quite pastorally, Pastor Foster also offers five well-articulated antidotes to his diagnosis in the same post:
  • Let's pay them a livable wage.
  • Encourage them.
  • Give them time off for vacation, for training, for restoration.
  • Stop the complaints you hear about them at their source.
  • Give them a safety net.
(Again, he elaborates on these much more than I have represented here.)

Even those congregations that don't regularly fall into the traps of the first five would do well to regularly re-evaluate their diligent attention to these five solutions. And congregations that are in transition would do very well to take a hard look at both lists; what an opportunity, in this season of change that is already upon you, to make healthy changes for the better!

I would encourage every church member, and especially every church leader, to read David Foster's blog post.

No comments: