I recently celebrated eight years serving as pastor of Living Oaks Baptist Church. My church family surprised me by having a party in place of our Sunday evening service. Folks shared testimonies of the many ways they had been blessed by God during our eight years together.
As I listened to their stories of appreciation for my service, a couple of things struck me. First, I was surprised at just how much they love me–more than I was aware. I never had a reason to doubt their love, support, or commitment; however, I had never really considered their feelings for me. I cannot begin to describe the overwhelming joy that filled my heart as I listened to their wonderful expressions of love.
I was equally surprised as each person shared how they had been touched by a specific event. It was surprising–I would have never guessed that those moments we spent together were so meaningful. As a pastor, you think you will be remembered for your powerful sermons, great vision, and strong leadership, and even though they were thankful for these, that was not their main focus. Late night visits at the emergency room, canceled family plans to be by their side after a loved one had died, calls offering help while their spouse was out-of-town, or just being available at their time of need were just a few of things they listed. I remember sitting there thinking, “God, I never realized just how much church members want a pastor, a shepherd, and a friend for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.
I am thankful for the way God has gifted me with a pastor’s heart. I am thankful for the godly men He placed in my path to train me up in the proper ways of ministry. I am thankful that early on in my ministry I learned that “If you want to be a shepherd, you have to smell like the sheep.” That one statement alone changed my outlook on pastoring. I pray, study, and work hard to prepare sermons and provide direction and leadership for the church. However, none of those things are important if the members do not believe that their pastor loves them, sacrifices for them, and protects them like they are his own family.
I was reminded of these things as I read an article by Thom Rainer “Ten Things Church Members Desire in a Pastor.” It is a simple list that should help almost every pastor in better understanding what our members really need from their pastor.
Many of my articles come from the perspective of pastors. That will not change in the future. I am an advocate of pastors and I desire God’s best for them. I have no plans to change my advocacy role.
As a change of pace, however, I recently asked a few hundred laypersons to write down what they desired of a pastor. Their responses were open-ended, and there was no limitation on the number of items they could list. Though my approach was not scientific, these laypersons did represent over sixty churches.
Here are their top ten responses in order of frequency. Since many of them gave one or more sentences as a response, I can provide a representative comment by each of the responses.
- Love of congregation. “If we know that our pastor loves us, everything else falls in place. If he doesn’t, nothing else matters.”
- Effective preaching. “I don’t have any expectation that my preacher be one of the best in the world, I just want to know that he has spent time in the Word each week to teach us effectively and consistently.”
- Strong character. “No pastor is perfect, but I do want a pastor whose character is above reproach on moral, family, and financial issues.”
- Good work ethic. “I don’t want either a workaholic pastor or a lazy pastor. Unfortunately, our last two pastors have been obviously lazy.”
- Casts a vision. “Our church has so much possibility; I want to hear what we will do to make a difference in our community and the world.”
- Demonstrates healthy leadership. “Most of the pastors in my church have demonstrated a good balance; they have been strong leaders but not dictators.”
- Joyous. “Our current pastor is a man of joy. His joy and enthusiasm are contagious. I love him for that!”
- Does not yield to critics. “I know that every pastor serving today has his critics. And I know it’s tough to deal with them. I just want these pastors to know that we supporters are in the majority. Please don’t let the minority critics dictate how you lead and serve.”
- Transparent. “Every pastor that I have had has been open and transparent about the church and the direction we are headed. It sure has made our church healthier.”
- Models evangelism. “Our pastor is passionate about sharing the gospel. His heart and attitude are contagious.”
What do you think about this list? What would you add from the perspective of either a pastor or a layperson?
Source: “Ten Things Church Members Desire in a Pastor.”