We asked our bloggers what 3 things they thoughts pastors wish their congregations knew. This is how they responded.
1. I like it when you tell me what you really think… gently.
You may not know that I pour over that hymnal every week looking for just the right hymn to go with our Scripture lesson. So I am thrilled when you like the music; but, I am equally grateful when you tell me why you didn’t like it. That third hymn didn’t work for your alto voice? My soprano brain would never have thought of that! You are saving me from looking silly week after week by picking hymns only I can sing. Thank you! I appreciate when you tell me the truth about things—when you tell me all of the good reasons that you have always done things this way, when you privately share how my style of moderating a session meeting is driving everyone crazy, when you remind me that you can only take so much change at one time. Please don’t let me crash and burn just out of politeness! Pastors are human too—we are not extra holy, we don’t have a direct line to God on all of our decisions, and we are certainly not mind readers. We need your help! Honesty at its best can lead to forgiveness, to course corrections, to humility, to mutual respect, and most of all to trust. I cannot promise to always receive feedback well, just as you may not always succeed in giving it gently—but please, let’s both keep trying.
2. I would rather you be a Mary than a Martha… even if it leaves me to wash the dishes.
I know there are dirty dishes – but I’m pretty sure they can wait until after the prayer service. I would rather you take care of your marriage than serve on that third sub-committee. I would rather you enjoyed worshipping with your children instead of worrying about their noise. I would rather you sit at the feet of the master in prayer and worship and study than neglect those things in order to check tasks off of your church to-do list. You are so gifted and faithful and dedicated that I can sometimes ask too much of you. Always remember that you can say “no” if church turns into a burden rather than a blessing. Always remember that I want you to grow spiritually more than I want the dishes washed. In fact, if you would ever let me in the kitchen I might even wash the dishes myself just to give you a break. Even Jesus did some washing now and then.
3. You are the church.
Whether it is fixing the boiler, evaluating endowment fund investments or showing me where we keep the silver polish I rely so on your knowledge and expertise every day. Without you changing light bulbs, teaching Sunday school, and cooking for our neighborhood picnic our church just couldn’t be what it is. But your true impact is deeper than the work you do, the skills you share, or the meetings you attend. You are the spiritual heart of this place. You pray for me and you pray for each other. You care and you put your compassion into action – feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger. You keep on showing up week after week faithfully listening for God’s word. It is your love, your vision, your open hearts and your faithfulness that make this church a witness of God’s Spirit at work in the world. You are the church… I am just grateful you let me be a part of the work God is doing through you!
CAITLIN THOMAS DEYERLE is pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, where she lives with her husband James, their cat Calvin, and a very rebellious puppy named Molly.