We’re re-running an “oldie but a goodie” in this week’s blog.
This past Saturday I was like a kid in a candy store, wide eyed and star struck. Why? I was at the Horseshoe (and no, I’m not speaking of the casino), the home stadium of the Ohio State Buckeyes. If you’ve never been there before, it may be a challenge for you to fully appreciate my exuberance. Suffice it to say, just being there is, in and of itself, an experience; add in the hype of it being Homecoming weekend, and it was like the biggest, feel-good party on the planet.
This was a much different experience than the last time I visited “The Shoe”. That was three years ago, and I wasn’t there to watch a football game but rather, was at mile 21 of the Columbus Marathon. The route took us running around the stadium, and by the time I finally passed it, I felt like I had run to Kansas and back. Contrast all of that physical exertion with the game when I was one of 107,000 fans who were probably in desperate need of exercise after sitting for a long period of time on padded seats, eating nachos, and drinking pop. All of this while watching 22 exhausted players, desperately in need of rest, playing their hearts out.
Ironically this same picture of could be used in describing the Church of America. Since Christianity has become a “spectator sport” driven by consumers’ needs rather than spiritual desires, Saturday’s football game resembles Sunday morning worship service in too many American churches. In too many cases you have the 20% making it happen for the 80%. The faithful few teach the Sunday School classes, serve in the children’s department, and give the bulk of the finances so the “fans” can show up at their convenience to “watch the big show.” Then when the big show is over, it’s all about tailgating and talking about the big game.
Now lest I sound too negative and critical let me be clear that I am over stating the case, but here is the true reality. There were more people at the Ohio State game on Saturday than all of the churches in Akron combined on Sunday. The truth is many sporting events draw bigger crowds than church services.
So, what’s my point? We just wrapped up Pastors Appreciation Month in October. In fact, our Love Akron Connect marketplace group did a fantastic job encouraging, praying for, and even providing gifts to pastors in attendance at our monthly breakfast last Wednesday. Pastors have one of the hardest jobs, in my opinion, as they try to minister to their flock, increase attendance, deal with crisis situations, all on many times a shoestring budget, while trying to balance their personal lives. I’m happy there’s one dedicated month just for clergy, but I think pastors should be encouraged and appreciated all year long.
Each congregation chooses to express their collective appreciation in different ways. For some they build an entire service of appreciation around the pastor in many creative ways. Other churches encourage the congregants to individually express their appreciation through cards, gift certificates, or other personal touches of love and grace. I want to personally encourage those of you who are reading this blog to ask yourself how you, your small group, or church family can show appreciation YEAR ROUND, of not only the Senior Pastor, but of all of the other associate or staff pastors who work very hard without the title, perks, and accolades. Don’t leave them out of the equation. And, one other thing, don’t forget their mates and the contributions they make to the church family.
I’m sensitive to this kind of thing because I nearly completely burned out twice in 27 years of pastoral ministry. Pastors are often chided they only work one day a week, wink wink, and play golf the rest of the week. Well, the truth is that pastors are some of the hardest working people on the planet. The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc. study showed that 90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week, and 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job. They sure don’t do it for money; rather they are compelled to serve because of their love for Christ and people.
The Pastor can be compared to the Head Coach. If the team is winning, here’s the way they are often scored, A=attendance, B=buildings, and C=cash or offerings. Just as the Head Coach from the University of Maryland was fired after the OSU game due to his win/loss record, pastors are dismissed as well for the same reasons. One statistic says 1,700 ministers leave the ministry every month; I truly hope that number is wrong.
One final word as I close. To the pastors reading this, I beseech you, from one pastor to another, to find another trusted colleague to meet with regularly for encouragement and accountability. Don’t know where to meet other pastors? Give me a call. I’d love to connect you with others in our Network. Just like Ohio State football, it truly does take a team.