How is your pastor? No really, how are they doing? It might be hard to tell through the screen during a Sunday service, but recent research indicates that there’s a good chance that they are worn out.
Nine in ten Sydney Anglican ministers are reported to be feeling exhausted or tired. In a survey conducted by the Centre for Ministry Development examining how pastors are coping with changes since coronavirus, ministry teams expressed they were feeling tired but hopeful for what is possible over the next few months.
“We’re not surprised by the research at all,” says Rev Dr Raj Gupta, Senior Minister of Toongabbie Anglican Church and Co-Director of the Centre for Ministry Development. “That’s what we’re hearing on the ground.”
Since church services closed in March, ministers scrambled to adapt their teaching to online delivery and pushed through until Easter. After Easter, a new reality set in that “triggered a grief process as well,” says Dr Gupta. Things are a long way from being back to normal for our pastors. “I heard Australia Post make the comment that a decade of change has been thrust upon them in a few weeks,” says Dr Gupta, believing the same comment can be made of our churches too.
With these things in mind, it’s more important than ever for congregations to be looking out for the wellbeing of their pastors. It’s a good time for the sheep to encourage their shepherd. The good news is that there are simple ways we can bring great joy to our ministers and help them to keep going when their reserves are low.
1 Pray for them regularly
Without the help of the Lord, our pastors cannot do their jobs. The future is uncertain, and stress levels are high. So commit to praying for them as they strive to serve God’s people well. Dr Gupta also recommends an article by Christopher Ash titled “How to pray for your pastor during lockdown”
2 Ask how you can pray for them
Dr Gupta says letting your pastors know that you’re praying for them is a great encouragement. Taking the time to communicate you are praying is very uplifting for them. “A guy once messaged me and said, ‘Raj, we were talking in growth group about how we can encourage our pastors. Can I ask you, would you like to pray or meet up? What can I do to encourage you?’ It was so special,” Dr Gupta says.
He encourages people to check in with their pastors. “We don’t get asked how we’re going often, even outside of COVID-19. There’s an assumption people make that everything is ok, or that they can’t ask you for some reason, Most of the time we can say something about how we are going, and we appreciate their concern.”
3 Engage with them
The lack of in person feedback has been challenging for pastors. Instead of preaching to people, they now stare down the lens of a camera, or speak into a microphone in an empty room. There’s no reassuring nods or moments of eye contact to give them any indication of whether the sermon is connecting. “When you preach to people in the pews, you can pick up how people are going. We’ve lost that,” Dr Gupta says. “Drop a note of encouragement to those involved. Let them know how you’re growing spiritually and what they can pray for you.”
4 Offer to serve
Whether you have specific skills, or are just happy to help in any way, ask your ministry staff teams how you can contribute and what you can do to lighten their load. Our pastors are finite people and it’s not possible for them to do everything alone.
5 Don’t assume your pastor is too busy for you
“It would be tempting for a congregation member to think, ‘I’m not going to hassle my pastors because they have too much to do,’ but one of the hardest things is not knowing how people are going,” says Dr Gupta. “Most pastors have gone into ministry because they love people and now we can’t meet. One of the foundational joys of ministry is not there.”
Images are from MBM Rooty Hill.