The Flourishing in Ministry Project from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business is a must-read for every church personnel committee and pastor. Matt Bloom, Associate Professor of Management, reminds us that, “The traditional business model says you get people to perform well by giving them the right rewards and aligning those with what you expect them to do.”
Sadly, too many pastors are consistently paid minimum salaries, expected to serve at a level that no parishioner (whom the Bible also identifies as a minister) would ever serve, with dated tools and limited resources. And then these pastors are expected to transform their congregations, “bring in new members,” choose their congregations over their families, and be grateful.
Happy pastors = happy churches. For that matter, happy church staffs in general, whether they are paid or volunteer, make for happy congregations. And happy pastors and congregations tend to be flourishing pastors and congregations. For the purpose of this post, I’m concentrating on professional ministers.
How do we promote well-being for our pastors?
- Are our pastors spending the majority of their days dealing with minor annoyances and grievances? Why? Jesus did not die, nor was your pastor called by Jesus, for these things.
- Do our pastors feel appreciated and are acts of gratitude towards our pastors’ service heart-felt or contrived?
- Do our pastors have lives apart from the church? Do we encourage them to have non-church friends, to spend time with family away from Church World, to have interests that have nothing to do with their professional ministry? Do we love it when we hear that our pastor is taking a Thai cooking class or learning how to play golf? Or do we wonder where he/she is finding the time to do this when there is so much work to do for the church?
- Are we quick to remind our pastors of their strengths so that when we talk about their growing areas, they do not feel devastated? Or do we assume that “they know what they are good at” and go directly to constructive, or not-so-constructive, criticism?
- Are we aware that we don’t and actually can’t know what our pastors do all day, but we trust them to lead, make decisions, pray, think, and care for the community?
- Are they growing professionally, spiritually, emotionally? Do we encourage them to take classes, attend conferences, stretch outside their comfort zones?
- Do we expect the pastor to conform to the congregation’s expectations rather what God might be leading him/her to be? Or do we encourage our pastor to be her authentic self? Do we allow him to be his own person?
- Are we as engaged with the mission of our spiritual community as we expect the pastor to be engaged? Do we consider our pastor to be the sole purveyor of religious goods and services? The lone professional pray-er and servant?
- Do we encourage our pastor to “recover” after particularly busy and/or emotionally taxing times? Do we encourage an extra day off after a week with two funerals? Do we grant an extra week’s vacation after the pastor’s own father dies? Do we appreciate the pastor’s request to close the office the Monday after Easter to rest from the labors of a very full Holy Week?
There is a troubling tendency among many churches I visit to drain every ounce of energy, every moment of time, and every spark of individuality from the pastors “whose salaries they pay” as if pastors are hired hands rather than spiritual mentors called to equip them to be ministers too. According to The Flourishing in Ministry Report, the pastors studied rated themselves a 4.9 on the Happiness Scale in which 1 = extremely unhappy and 7 = extremely happy. 4.9 is not terrible, but it could be better.
The Flourishing in Ministry Report was shared with me by the extraordinary Carol McDonald, Executive of the Synod of Lincoln Trails.