An Open Letter of Encouragement for Pastors
This season has been long!
In the last year, you moved your ministries online, adjusted to everchanging health measures, learned to work and minister from home, and navigated growing mental and physical health concerns in people’s lives (including those in your life and in the lives of your family). It is been a tough season, and everyone is exhausted. Tiredness has begun to devolve into fatigue and hopefulness has unravelled into helplessness.
If you are feeling this, you are not alone. I don’t mean to normalize exhaustion or depression (resigning to its tenacious grip) but to acknowledge the pervasive nature of this season and that your feelings are not because of a personal deficiency or lack. You are tired because you are running a marathon not because you are out of shape. As a result, you may be tempted to give up (look for a different job) or give in (stop pursuing and caring about your church’s mission and vision).
As a means of hope and help, allow me to offer some much-needed encouragement and some practical suggestions in navigating the coming days using the acronym F.O.C.U.S.
F – Focus on Vision
“Where there is no vision the people perish” Proverbs 29;18a, KJV.
This passage is often quoted in regard to organizational and corporate vision, but I think it can be equally applied personally. When helping people through conflict and difficulty, one of the first things I try to do is provide a picture of what reconciliation and/or a God honouring future might look like. Give yourself, your church and your people vision for this season. Help them see with hope and vision for their marriages, relationships, ministries and church. This is one of the more important things you can do. Do it for others, do it for your church and do it for you.
O – Outreach
Reach into your neighbourhood and community. One of the temptations in difficult seasons is to become self-centric as opposed to others-focused. However, when we serve others and offer love and hope, we often experience it ourselves. Love is best experienced when given away. Find ways for you, and your church, to reach into your community on mission and show and share the love of Jesus (write cards to people in care homes, serve at your local food bank, do something fun for your community, etc.).
C – Community
Build community at every opportunity. In a sea of online content and digital connections, people are desperate for community. You are desperate for community. Help people gather together in smaller groups and grow your discipleship ministries. Help people discover each other and foster community. Find ways to do this yourself. Although we can’t do this fully in-person, there are means to do this digitally. As a pastor, be sure that you are also doing this. Connect with other pastors and friends you haven’t seen for a while (call, text for video conference). You will be blessed as you are a blessing to others.
U – Underline Care at Every Turn
Everywhere you can, care! Find ways to show your personalized care for people in your church. Organize personal calls, write personalized cards, deliver personalized care baskets, etc. Whatever you do, find ways to personally care for people. Not only will this bless the people in your church, but it will also bless you, your staff and your leaders. Ministry in the blind can be depersonalized. Find ways to ramp up personalized care for people in this season. It will bless your church and it will bless you!
S – Share Hope
I connect with a lot of pastors and denominational leaders and this is a very hard time. Pastors and church leaders are tired! This season has been relentless, and it isn’t over yet (although it might seem like we are weeks away from a new normal, it will be months). Although we are at the end of ourselves, it is often at our end that we discover more of God. God will meet us in this. Jesus has been, is, and will continue to be faithful. Whatever situations or challenges that you are facing in your life and ministry, Jesus has not abandoned you and because He is with you, you have a Living Hope. We do not necessarily have hope in a better tomorrow, but we do have an unswerving hope in a good God who will never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus is the head of the Church and He knows what He is doing, even when we don’t. Just as the sun will rise and set tomorrow, our hope remains steadfast in Him.
Above all, focus on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith! Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Jesus is with us and He will not fail. Therefore, persevere with renewed F.O.C.U.S.
In your corner,