Pastor Appreciation Month: How to Fight Discouragement and Find Focus
This month, we had the privilege of hosting a conversation with Monty Kelso, President and CEO of Slingshot Group, a team that helps churches and nonprofits hire well and coach existing leaders. The topic was timely because October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month.
Whether you’re a pastor or a church member, Monty shared tips on helping pastors maintain their resiliency, fight off discouragement, and stay focused in this age of COVID.
Feel the pressure of relaunching your church in the midst of the ongoing pandemic?
Get clear on what to do next to keep moving forward.
Pastors: It's Time to Pause
• Reflect on how you're doing
You’ve been running hard this year. How are you doing? Really doing? Schedule time on your calendar this month to pray and reflect on the state of your heart. Are you focused? Weary? Discouraged? Motivated? Lonely? Wherever you are, you are not alone. Whether acknowledged or not, many other pastors have tough seasons behind-the-scenes.
Monty shares, “There are a hundred ways we get there, but don't deny the emotional being that you are, and realize that frustration and discouragement is a part of human life.”
Reflecting on the year in general, he adds, “If you're not feeling some sense of discouragement or frustration now, you're likely not self-aware.”
• Seek additional insight
Once you have a clearer perspective on how you’re doing, Monty notes the need for pastors to share their experiences and responsibilities with others.
“People look to you for leadership. They look to you for pastoring. To maintain the pace of being that first responder, make sure you gather people around you, that you divide and conquer, realizing you can't meet the need of every person knocking on your door or every email in your box. Don’t be afraid to share the load and the weight of the responsibility for your own health and wellbeing.”
We know it can be difficult for pastors to share tougher experiences within their organization, and yet many are in dire need of guidance and support.
Monty reminds us, “God is with you. The Holy Spirit is our helper. At the same time, sometimes in the complicated world we live in, we need outside voices to come alongside us.”
He recommends reaching out to others and exploring resources like Soul Shepherding, which is dedicated to ministry with pastors. “Don't deny your own need in the midst of everybody else's need, for the sake of your church.”
• Focus on the main thing
Monty shares that it’s important to keep your attention on the main thing, avoiding a state of intense distraction where you miss your primary focus. These distractions can also lead to confidence issues when leaders begin to feel like they will be attacked no matter what they say or decide.
“I saw a quote from Jenni Catron on her blog that struck me, ‘Our confidence comes not from certainty, but from clarity.’ It's hard to be certain these days because there is so much that is unknown, and everything is fluid and evolving.”
Monty says it’s important for pastors to hone in and keep bringing people back to what they do know, the framework of scripture and the clarity of their mission.
“Now is a time to lead, not shrink back. It's a time to keep your eye on the main thing, not to shrink back and get convoluted and down in the weeds...”
Ask the following questions:
- As a church, why do we exist?
- What is our mission?
- Through the lens of our values, how will we behave?
- How will we succeed? How do we measure that?
- What is most important right now?
• Guide others to growth
• Reframe and release expectations
• Pivot, don't travel
Three Ways to Honor Your Pastor
Since March, we have all been in an adaptive mode of responding to new challenges. Related to church, we have worshipped in our homes and grieved the in-person gathering of our church families. We’ve missed the familiar connection and volunteer roles we love.
Our pastors and church leaders had to pivot, with the COVID reality shifting their best plans. Even pastors who have been in ministry a long time expressed experiencing new fatigue levels, especially in those early months. Monty points out that pastors have been functioning as first responders.
“First responders run to the crisis. They run to be there for people at the risk of denying themselves. And often, first responders deal with a one-time event. You're in and you're out. But with COVID, we're not in and out. This is being a first responder for the last eight months.”
How can you offer life and encouragement to your pastors?
1. Give: Express encouragement and gratefulness
“The state of the minds and hearts of pastors is just weary. We're worn out. We're tired. We're discouraged. We’re seeing that a lot of our ministry to pastors is to uphold them and encourage them, to speak life and possibility into them,” shares Monty.
In the midst of many divisive issues right now, pastors are also having to address things like the safety of the church gathering, masks, singing, and serving coffee.
Make a decision and plan to encourage your pastor and say thank you in a meaningful way. It could be as simple as writing heartfelt notes of appreciation. You could take time to recognize them during your online worship services by acknowledging that it’s Pastor’s Appreciation Month. Invite people to fill the chat with quick lines of gratitude. Blow up the chat! Let pastors know how you feel about them, that you’re praying for them, and how they have impacted your life. Encourage their family with a gift card or a meal.
2. Celebrate: Recognize the work of multiple pastors
As we encourage our lead pastors, it’s also important to remember other pastors in our churches who have been stepping up to help the church continue its mission.
Monty notes, “Executive pastors—hats off to you, you have been holding it together. When we talk about pastoral fatigue, we put you in that category. Executive pastors, administrators, technical directors, worship pastors have all had to step up way beyond your experience to pivot and accommodate church.”
Consider the additional leaders in your church who could use some encouragement. While we feel grateful in our hearts, we often don’t take time to express it. This month is the perfect excuse to reach out!
3. Commit: Make a long-term commitment to encourage
Finally, commit to a regular plan of encouragement for your pastor, even beyond this month. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, scripture tells us to encourage one another and build one another up. We would all benefit from being a giver and receiver of encouragement every day of our lives. No one says, “I can’t take any more encouragement!”
Perhaps the close of this year could be a time to reset how often we pray for and offer positive words to our church leaders. Monty reminds us that our pastors are in the business of shepherding 24/7, running a marathon, not a sprint. Runners need encouragement on multiple miles of the race, not just the start or the finish.
What could ministry look like if we continued to spur our pastors on with regular prayer and words of encouragement?