Supporting your Pastor in Times of Turbulence

As the aircraft descended from 30,000 feet, the thick cloud cover wrapped itself around us.  The plane began to shake and bounce, causing the passengers to grasp the armrests as beverage cups filled with soft drinks sloshed from side to side on the tiny tray tables.  We tightened our seat belts as our bodies jostled in our seats, wondering when the worst of it would end.

There was no word from the pilot, no calming voice of reassurance to let us know that everything would be all right.  The flight attendants carefully maneuvered their ways up and down the aisle collecting trash while balancing on their chunky high- heeled shoes.  Some people looked more nervous than others, gazing out the windows into the gray blanket that impaired all vision.  There was no indication as to how long the rough ride would last.   When would we land?  Would we be safe? Oh, please, Lord, let us make it to the ground in one piece!

Turbulence.  It’s a frightening thing when flying through the air.  But it is also a genuine and terrifying reality of life in this world, which affects all of us in a variety of ways. We all face turbulent times.  Times of uncertainty and peril. Times when we don’t know when we will again feel joyful when everything around us seems unsteady and far from sure.

Our churches are not immune to the turbulence of life.  And our pastors, the captains of our ships, often take the full force of the storm.  They are blamed when there are conflicts in the congregations.  They are seemingly responsible for any decrease in financial giving.  Some say their job is on the line if attendance figures drop.  They often suffer from loneliness and depression.  Because of their positions, many pastors say they have few close friends, few confidantes who can stand with them during the tough times.

We, as their congregants, have a duty to stand with them in the turbulent times.  God has given our pastors to us as our spiritual leaders and, in good times and bad, we are called to loyalty and support.

Turbulent times are emotional: Show support through encouragement.

Pastors give selflessly of themselves in a vast variety of life’s circumstances.  Members of the congregation demand attention, counseling, comfort, and reassurance on what seems like an hour-by-hour basis.  Pastors rarely get the needed rest that their positions deserve.  These heavy demands and lack of rest can take a hefty emotional toll on even the strongest of church leaders.   Members of the congregation can show support during turbulent emotional times by making an intentional effort to encourage their pastors.  Take a few minutes on Sunday morning to greet the pastor with a hearty handshake and express your appreciation for all they do.  Send a thank you note in the mail.  Write a meaningful email.  Drop in to the office during the week simply to say thanks.  These small gestures will go a long way in helping your pastor regain emotional strength in times that seem to have obliterated their emotional strength.  Our pastors need us to encourage them.

Turbulent times are frightening: Show support through stability.

Pastors facing turbulent times may have a variety of fears.  Fear of failure. Fear of losing their jobs.  Fear of disappointing God.  Fear of missing their callings.  These fears can overwhelm our pastors and lead to depression.  It is in times like these that our pastors need us to be a calm and steady source of support.  Our consistent church attendance and joyful volunteering can demonstrate a great deal of backing for all that our pastors have been called by God to accomplish.  Our steady support and partnership in the Gospel can help our pastors navigate the turbulent times with confidence rather than fear.  Our pastors can know that there are those who will stand with them and give them the needed certainty and surety of faith to keep on keeping on despite any fears.

Turbulent times require stamina: Show support by staying the course.

Very often in the life of the church, pastors are required to weather storms that seem to never end.  There are personal conflicts that must be mediated.  There are financial challenges that seem impossible to manage.  There are staffing challenges that drain pastors emotionally.  These long-term problems require an enormous amount of stamina and our pastors must somehow summon the strength to fulfill their professional, personal, and God-given duties.  During these times, we can best support our pastors by being consistent in our commitment to them and to the life of the church.  During turbulent times is not the time to raise petty complaints that are better left unsaid.  Maintaining a disciplined approach to the vision and mission of the church can help right the ship when conflicts threaten to sink it.  The pastor will gain strength from seeing their people rally around the health of the church, seeking to build one another up, and using the turbulent times to grow their relationships.  Our pastors will be sustained for the long haul when they witnesses people enjoying camaraderie and fellowship even in the toughest of times.

Just as in an airplane, eventually the turbulence will end.  Life will once again stabilize and allow everyone the much-craved breathing room of peace and tranquility.  Until that time, however, we can be intentional in giving our consistent support, encouragement, and appreciation to our pastors as they lead us through all that God has ordained for us at this time.

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