It’s not only the most obvious people around us who are weak and weary. Beyond the surface of Sunday smiles and confident public speaking, many church leaders are sinking in a sense of failure and unmet expectations. According to researcher Thom Rainer, the rate of depression among ministers is now higher than the rate of the general population. He reports that only one in ten full-time church leaders will retire as a full-time church leader. Many of them are currently battling debilitating levels of loneliness, discouragement or depression that can result from the unique challenges that church leaders face.
The good news is that, with even minimal effort, anyone can be used to effectively build up a church leader–especially if they’re willing to step beyond cliches or the often-used suit or tie compliment. If it’s still true that it takes over five positive affirmations to even one negative comment in order to build healthy marriages (see The Gottman Institute and Smart Marriages), the church family needs an effective go-to strategy for building up its leaders with positivity.
Here are two simple ones for starters.
Willingly learn from them.
It’s unlikely that your church leader will ever break the top 10 list of preaching and teaching podcasts or YouTube ‘sermon jam’ videos, but they don’t have to be a world-famous teacher or preacher to make a significant impact on people’s lives. It would be worthwhile to think of all the good that has come from their lives and thank God for them. Even the most minimally talented leader provides some kind of example to follow. And don’t forget, your church leader has been put in place not just to cheer you on, but also to coach and correct aspects of your life that need improvement. Let God use them by willfully submitting to the loving correction and restorative discipline of their leadership.
Wholeheartedly love them.
To show honor, great respect and wholehearted love to church leaders, learn how to get beyond Sunday morning catch phrases like “good word, Pastor.” Start here: never attach your affection for a church leader or their family to their performance. Of course, it’s easy to love, honor and respect someone who is performing well and liked by everyone, but real wholehearted love that builds leaders up digs in and overflows even when their performance is questionable. Like anyone else, there’s nothing quite as discouraging as feeling appreciated when you are successful, but disposable when failing. Loving someone for who they are and not what they do is the kind of love God offers all of us. Most church leaders are overburdened with legitimate reasons for their loneliness, discouragement and depression. Even though the healthiest of church leaders will struggle with their own unrealistic expectations and tend to be highly critical of themselves, it wouldn’t take much to lift and strengthen them with some well-aimed and consistent encouragement. Remind them regularly that you’re praying for them and their families.
The hurts, suffering and troublemaking of the very people church leaders love and care for can leak over into their hearts. To strengthen them under the weight of it all, take the time to proactively give them reasons to do their work gladly, not with sorrow. Be the one they speak of when they’re thanking God for those followers who make their work a joy. The simple steps of loving them and learning from them can provide your church leader with support they need to keep running with endurance the race set before them (Hebrews 12:1).
The Holy Bible ( New Living Translation) References
Ac 16:4; 1Ti 5:19; Heb 13:7,17, 1Co 9:7-14; Php 4:15-19; 1Ti 5:17-18 , Eph 6:19; 1Thess 5:12-13, 25, Heb 13:17