What Pastors Wish Deacons Knew

by Derek Gentle

I appreciate you more than you know
There is not a greater blessing in a pastor's life than a godly deacon who loves the Lord and loves the Word of God. I feel that I couldn't have a more wonderful relationship with them. I wish every pastor were so blessed. Just looking out in the service and seeing you there is an encouragement. Knowing you are praying for me motivates me. Knowing you share the vision of a growing, evangelistic church and impacting our community challenges me to my best efforts! God bless you godly deacon. You are appreciated!

Not only do I appreciate you, I need you. Let me list some reasons why. These items represent a general view, based on the experiences of numerous pastors at multiple churches.

Pastors need their deacons to understand the level of stress they live with
There are several causes of this stress. Pastors deal with life and death issues regularly. They are always on call. They live with constant deadlines. There is the unrelenting creative process; every Wednesday and every Sunday they have to be ready to preach and teach. If they take some vacation time, but have to come back to preach on Sunday, they are not fully on vacation, and are not completely with their families. They have to spend a lot of "think time" preparing their work. Then, they have a large number of people who go home and evaluate how they did. In fact, every decision they make, from personnel matters to the order of service is under constant scrutiny. They go into monthly deacons meetings not knowing if someone will be upset about something. Usually, there isnít a problem, but they never know. If someone goes into the hospital and they donít know about it, there are those who complain to fellow church members that the pastor didnít visit. Your pastor needs you to remember that this stress is a part of his daily life. Sometimes they need you to come to their rescue when it gets to be too much.

Pastors donít have all of the spiritual gifts
Pastors are expected to be preachers, administrators, hospital chaplains, and friends of the home bound. They are personal evangelists, counselors, leaders, and visionaries. How many times does a church lose its pastor and then vow to find a man who will do what the last pastor couldnít? "Brother Joe was a fine preacher, but he wasnít good to visit; our next preacher will be more of a pastor!" Then, after Brother Sid leaves: "I loved ole Brother Sid; he sure was good to visit, but he couldnít preach a lick, bless his heart. Our next man needs to be able to preach!" Why canít church members figure out that one man is limited to one personality, one driving passion, and one spiritual gift-set? The truth is, even if a man were gifted in every way, he wouldnít have enough time to do everything well. Like you, doing what I am gifted at energizes me; doing the things that I'm not drains me. Accept your pastor for who he is and then staff and use volunteers to balance his weaknesses

Pastors have multiple constituencies with whom they must deal
Many church members have only to please their immediate supervisors. Pastors don't have one supervisor to whom they report. (True, they report to the Lord, but letís face it, how long they get to stay at the church and if they get raises, and if their leadership is supported... well, these matters arenít always determined by the Lord). There are the deacons, the personnel committee, the stewardship committee, the senior adults, the young adults, and on and on.

Pastors donít have the power many think they have
Some church members own and run their own business free from "political considerations," but the pastor isn't able to run the church his own way. Often, pastors are given responsibility without being given the needed authority. For example, he is given the responsibility of supervising the rest of the ministerial staff. However, the pastorís input often isnít even sought at budget time when raises are being discussed. He may have to go through a committee, the deacons, and a church vote to dismiss a staff member. Sometimes, staff members have a group of supporters in the church who would make such a move risky. The pastor is dependant on the good will of each staff member and his own ability to lead others based only on his moral influence. The occassional bad-apple staff member will realize this and use it to his advantage.

There are often unrealistic expectations placed on the family of the pastor
The deacons and church should know that they did not call an additional staff member for the price of one. The call to pastor is unique and the pastor's family has the role of supporting him, but not the role not being the unofficial staff. Also, children are children whether they are pastor's children or not.

Getting time away is difficult for pastors
First, Pastors are generally concientious about taking their vacation time. They will put the church calendar first and take what's left. Though they should, many will not take all the time they have coming. Further, church members can get away for a few weekends during the year. Some pastors have a difficult time taking two days in a row off. If a pastorís wife holds a job and has to work on Friday, it is particularly difficult. For example, in one church, we had a stretch in which we had to postpone or come back early from 80% of our vacations. Someone had died each time. It became something of a joke, "Uh oh, the pastor is going away." One can imagine how such experiences could hinder pastors' children's attitude about having a dad in the ministry. These situations are almost always unavoidable, but a little alertness on the part of deacons can help their ministers make up for lost vacation time. Is there someone there to see that he is getting (and taking) enough time off? Many deacons would be shocked if a pastor of, say ten years, asked for a sabbatical to study and refresh himself. We have to take in more than we put out or we burn out. Many churches fail to realize that they are using the man up and draining his internal resources. If you look out for him, he will be more effective... longer. As Vance Havner said, referring to the practice of Jesus, "If we don't 'come apart', we will come apart." It is to the church's advantage to encourage their minister to get away for a break now and then.

Respect his training
A pastor may have a college degree, a masters degree, perhaps an earned doctorate... he may have have been to innumerable training events... He may have shelves of books of commentaries and hundreds of books on theology, evangelism, and church growth. He may have given his life to learning about pastoring since his teens. Yet, occasionally, the burden of proof is placed on the pastor to "prove" the details of his recommendations in deacons meetings. No pastor minds answering questions - and most ministers aren't bothered when people of good will disagree. But sometimes, such a discussion is a case of people pooling their ignorance. They may be arguing with the only person in the room who knows what he's talking about. Feel free to ask the questions (or to vote no, if necessary), but respect the pastorís training.

The meeting ainít deac-ing
Attending meetings and giving orders to the paid employees of the church is not "serving" and it is not fulfilling the office of deacon. Itís more like Lou Holtzís description of football: Twenty-two people desperately needing a rest being watched by 60,000 people desperately needing some exercise. One minister wrote me to say, "I wish all deacons were familiar with, not only the qualifications of a pastor which they expect to be adhered to, but also the qualifications of a deacon which should carry the same weight and commitment."

In most churches, there's no one with the job of looking out for the pastor
The deacons and personnel committee are sometimes called upon to deal with personnel crises as they arise. On the other hand, most churches have no one who understands minister's taxes or who, during the budget process, takes the time to look over the history of his compensaton. Many don't think to check when he last received a raise or to look at the inflation rate for the previous year. There is always that group determined to see that he doesn't get too much, but often there isn't a group to see that he gets paid enough.

The dog isn't sleeping just because it's not biting you
Sometimes, a pastor will have a member dealing him continuous misery. When he asks for help in dealing with the situation, he might hear something like, "Pastor, let's let sleeping dogs lie." However, a sleeping dog is one who isn't bothering anyone. That dog isn't likely to bite unless provoked. If a member is harassing your pastor, he isn't a sleeping dog, he it's a biting dog. Go to his aid!

The church is not General Motors
The church does not exist, as does a business, to make a profit or to hoard money. The church is on a mission. The main work of the whole church for the whole age is evangelism. The church is content oriented and the Bible is its source of authority. It's about Jesus! Deacons have the opportunity and influence to help the entire church family stay on message.

Pastors would rather hear bad news from their friends than from their enemies
Sometimes, we pastors are going to mess up. And sometimes someone has to tell us the hard facts. When this is true, we would rather hear it from our friends than from our enemies. Our friends want us to succeed. They will tell us in love, without trying to embarrass us or wound us. They have our best interests at heart. We need you to be that kind of friend.