1. Have a Pastor Congregation Religion Committee
Mountain States Mennonite Conference conference minister, Amy Zimbleman wrote a Mennonite Church USA blog post about the importance of a Pastor Congregation Relation Committee (or team). A PCRC is a support system for your pastor. Here a pastor can have a sounding board, talk about congregational antagonists and have a financial advocate. Zimbleman reported that 16% of women and 5% of men surveyed have experienced sexual harassment as pastors in MC USA. She also said 12.8% of women and 2% of men were unsure if they had experienced sexual harassment as pastors. Zimbleman concluded that while a PCRC does not prevent harm from happening, there is a correlation between less harm befalling a pastor and having a PCRC. As a conference minister, I wholeheartedly agree!
2. Be mindful about being bivocational
When I was finishing seminary, the United States was thrown into the Great Recession. Many churches looked at their budgets and cut their staff, advertising half-time and quarter-time positions. For many seminary graduates, this was not enough employment. Many of us had to turn to bivocational ministry. This is a trend that continues today. I think many people take for granted how hard being bivocational is! When someone holds down multiple jobs, every job demands attention as if it’s the only job. It’s understandable as an employer; of course, an employer want the best out of someone. It’s hard, however, on the pastor who feels torn in different directions. Remember, your bivocational pastors are doing their best to balance their vocation, their jobs and their lives. It’s doable if they’re supported well, and the people around them are flexible.
3. Your pastor is human
We are so happy you’re supportive of us. Also, we’ll let you down! Like anyone else, we may say or do something that you don’t like, or don’t agree with. While everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment, mistakes can happen and wrongs can be done. Please approach your pastor or your PCRC with concerns like this. Many times, apologies can be made and relationships repaired, or you may come away seeing things from a different perspective. If this is in the territory of misconduct, please contact your conference minister.
4. We know
As pastors, we know when you’re at your best and at your worst. We can tell from your body language, your tone of voice, your word choices and your overall demeanor if things are not okay. It’s fine not to share everything with your pastor. However, I would hope that people don’t feel as if the pastor “needs” a certain response, attitude or demeanor. If you need a break from church, it’s okay to tell us. It’s okay to tell your pastor “no.” It’s okay to call your pastor with a pastoral care concern after you just called two days ago with another pastoral care concern. We want to help, and we want you to be at your best. You don’t need to act like everything is fine when it’s not.
5. Give us space every now and then
A pastor needs a vacation just as much as the next person. As a congregation, it’s so helpful when leadership and congregants support and encourage the pastor to have time away. Whether it’s visiting another church, leaving town with friends or family, or taking some much-needed retreat time, we love it when we can leave and feel like there’s a good system in place in our absence. This could involve having deacons on call for pastoral care needs, getting pulpit supply for a week or two, or holding off on that meeting until the pastor gets back. And it’s our job to remember that things will not fall apart when we’re gone! It keeps us happy and healthy, and it shows us that you care about our overall well-being.