This week’s post is by Karl Vaters, lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley California. Pastor Karl has been in ministry for over thirty years. His website, NewSmallChurch.com, encourages, connects, and equips small church leaders. Below is his article about the importance of community for small church pastors.
Hey! Small Church Pastors! Stop Doing This Alone!
by Karl Vaters
Why are you doing this alone?
That question is printed on a card that sits on my desk every day. It reminds me not to fall into the trap that too many Small Church pastors get caught in.
Being a Small Church pastor is one of the loneliest, most stress-filled positions in the world. We have all the work and responsibilities of our big church counterparts, but we operate with a sliver of the staff, the money, and the time.
People come to us for answers and comfort, but we often have nobody we can go to when we need answers or comfort ourselves. The stress builds, and our health and effectiveness falters.
I’m not stating this as a complaint, but to set the stage for the need to deal with this challenge in a healthy way. In today’s post I’ll pose four reasons why most of us spend too much time alone, followed by three simple ways to break that unhealthy cycle.
Why Do Small Church Pastors Do So Much of Their Work Alone?
1. Lack of Time and Money
Conferences, seminars, golf, and even a lunch meeting cost more money and time than most Small Church pastors can afford. For those who work a second job, or if pastoring is their second job, it’s even harder.
2. We’ve Developed Bad Habits
It starts with lack of time and money. But for many, even if the salary grows enough to where that’s not the issue anymore, our behavior doesn’t change because bad habits have set in.
3. A Lot of Us are Introverts
This is me. Big time. And if studies are to be believed, this is the case for a lot of pastors in churches of all sizes.
I love people. But being around them wears me out. It’s like physical exercise. The more I need it, the less I want to do it.
I think this is #1 on most of our lists. We’re the boss, the teacher, the counselor, the administrator, the one with all the answers. We’re not supposed to have needs; we’re supposed to meet needs. But the idea that I can do this alone is unhealthy, unbiblical, stressful and – I’m gonna say it – sinful.
Jesus did almost nothing alone. And even when He found Himself alone, it usually wasn’t by choice. If Jesus needed friends, how do we think we’ll make it without them?
How Can We Break the Cycle?
1. Use a Lifeline – Phone a Friend
On the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? if you get a question you can’t answer, one of your three lifelines is the chance to phone a friend and ask him for help. I fear there are too many Small Church pastors who, if they were given that lifeline, wouldn’t know whom to call. That has to change. Now.
Pick up the phone and call five people you trust, or whom you think might become people you could trust. If they don’t pick up, leave a message. Then send an email, a Facebook message, and a Twitter DM. And keep at it with all five of them until at least three people agree to meet you over coffee.
Why three of them? Simple. You aren’t going to mesh with everyone, and if you strike out with one, you need backups. And what’s the worse that could happen? You end up with three new friends instead of one? God forbid.
2. Reach Up, Out, and Down
UP – Find or reconnect with a mentor, a long-term Small Church pastor, an old seminary prof, or anyone else with more ministry miles and wisdom. Download some of that experience and wisdom into your heart and spirit.
OUT – Find a peer who shares your life experience. There’s another Small Church pastor in your town who’s in the same situation as you.
I’m not talking about calling a bunch of pastors to start up a monthly fellowship breakfast. If you do that, you’ll just be in charge of another meeting. You don’t need another meeting to organize or attend. You need a friend.
DOWN – Find a younger person, or a younger one in the faith, who would feel honored to have you, a pastor, take him under your wing – maybe someone who’s shown a potential call to ministry. Then, when you visit someone in the hospital, pray at the next Chamber of Commerce meeting, or drive to pick up tools for the church’s next spring cleaning day, take him along. He’ll feel honored, you’ll have company, and you both might learn something new about ministry.
3. Let Your Church Be Your Church
This is the main ingredient I missed out on for years – and the one that has blessed me the most since I started doing it in recent years. As pastors, we constantly tell our church members not to neglect being in fellowship — that they need to be connected to a home church to receive essential spiritual nourishment. But most of us aren’t doing that ourselves. We’re not in fellowship. And we’re suffering because of it.
Your church needs to be more than your workplace, and you need to be more than its pastor. Your church needs to be your church, and you need to be a church member, including all the blessings that go with it. I understand that there are risks with this. But I’ve found that the benefits are worth the risks.
So what do you think? Do you have any ideas for connecting with others in ministry without costing a boatload of time or money?