8 things deacons can do to help their pastors stay balanced, healthy, and effective

Never have the demands been greater or the pressures more stressful than for pastors today. Higher expectations, louder critics, and deeper personal problems in the lives of those they serve often become a prescription for imbalanced living. Many pastors are discouraged and depressed. Some face stress-related health problems. Others quietly wonder if they should continue in the ministry.

But I believe God has placed deacons and other leaders alongside pastors to make a difference. These co-laborers can, with compassion and courage, help pastors keep their balance and maintain a healthy and effective ministry. Consider these eight suggestions for deacons regarding the pastors with whom they serve.

1. Seek to understand the pastor’s unique challenges.

I’m not sure anyone other than another pastor can fully comprehend the pressures of preaching weekly, the large administrative burden, the frequent criticisms, the many late nights, and the time spent in crisis counseling. But deacons can seek to learn about the special burdens of a pastor and take on the role of supporter and encourager.

2. Pay him generously.

I’m puzzled by the attitude among some church leaders that pastors should not be paid well. Scripture says otherwise (1 Timothy 5:17, 18), and when pastors are paid appropriately, one avenue of potential stress and concern is relieved. When pastors are free from financial worry, they can focus on other things, enabling more effective ministry.

3. Encourage him to take a day off each week and use his vacation time.

Some of us don’t know how to take a break! The needs of the people whom pastors serve are great and never ending. Deacons should hold the pastor accountable for taking time off to refresh his spirit and spend time with his wife and family. (And churches shouldn’t be stingy about vacation time. For lead pastors, in light of the growing weight of ministry these days, I suggest at least four weeks of vacation a year.)

4. Provide the time and means for ministry sharpening on a regular basis.

This might include pursuit of ongoing education at the church’s expense, in addition to at least one ministry seminar or conference each year. I also encourage churches to provide funds for the pastor to be a regular reader of books and magazines (online, electronic, and print) related to his ministry so he can stay informed, current, and motivated in his work.

5. Be concerned about his personal health.

Before I began serving in my last pastorate, one church leader informed me that the church was committed to my health and wanted to make sure that I had an annual physical; they would pay for any expenses not covered by insurance. I know of some churches that provide the pastor a fitness center membership as an encouragement in the area of his health and fitness.

6. Give him a weekend away with his wife each year.

Pastoral marriages can become strained, and little expressions of support and encouragement like this can go a long way.

7. Consider the value of a sabbatical.

The pressures on lead pastors are unique and more intense and demanding than on anyone else on the church staff. The weekly preaching commitment over the years is stressful, and the oversight of the entire ministry is a heavy burden. I’m encouraged that more churches are becoming aware of this challenge and are giving their pastors an 8- to 12-week sabbatical (apart from annual vacation time) after 8–10 years of service for the purpose of study, writing, or for what one pastor described as “refilling the well of [his] heart, soul, and mind.”

8. Pray for him.

A group of praying deacons is the single most important support ministry that can be provided for a pastor. Take the time to get to know your pastor and pray specifically for his needs and ministry on a regular basis—in both public and private. His ministry will be significantly impacted!

Jim Vogel (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) pastored for 30 years before becoming state representative of the Empire State Fellowship of Regular Baptist Churches. Jim can be reached at jvogel@esfrbc.org.