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Here’s the Best Way You Can Help a Small Church Pastor Today

small church pastor

Small church pastors labor under a great deal of discouragement.

They work unbelievably long hours (often full-time at a paying job in addition to pastoral ministry) with very little money (many supplement the church from their bivocational pay) and very little encouragement.

They are the unsung and unseen warriors of the church.

So, if you’re in a position to help a small church pastor, here’s what we need from you more than anything else.

4 Ways To Help A Small Church Pastor

1. How To Reach Out

If you’re

  • A member of a small church
  • A deacon/elder at a small church
  • A denominational official
  • A seminary professor
  • A church growth writer or speaker
  • A pastor at another church, whether large or small
  • A family member of a small church pastor

Or in any other position of influence and relationship with a small church pastor, I want to ask a favor of you.

Call up a small church pastor you know. Offer to buy them coffee, lunch or something else that fits their very tight schedule. Don’t give up if they’re hard to pin down (we’ve been burned by offers of “help” before, so many of us are wary of this.)

Then, when you sit down with them, do one thing.

Shut up and listen.

That’s all.

2. Just Listen

Want to help a small church pastor?

  • Don’t talk about your latest successes
  • Don’t tell us what you think we need to hear
  • Don’t give us a copy of the latest church growth book
  • Don’t tell us about when you were a small church pastor before your church grew
  • Don’t tell us what we must be doing wrong
  • Don’t tell us how much you admire our sacrifice
  • Don’t condescend to us
  • Don’t try to fix us

Just listen to us.

3. The Value Of Listening

Ask us what we’re going through.

Listen to our joys, our challenges, our frustrations, our anger and our hopes.

Let us vent.

Don’t correct us when we say something you disagree with. Wounded people always say stupid things that we don’t even believe ourselves. But we need to say it, anyway.

Cry with us, laugh with us, celebrate with us, get angry with us. Pray with us.

Then, after a few weeks pass, call us again and repeat the entire process one more time.

Not so you can earn the right to be heard. Not so you can get enough information to know how to “really” help us. Just because knowing that someone is listening is valuable all by itself.

4. Together In Ministry

We need you.

Not your advice, your ideas, or your newest church growth methods.

Just you.

And you need us.

Not as a project to fix, a problem to solve, or a church to rescue.

But as friends. As family. As peers in ministry.

If we have a question, help us answer it. If we share a need, help us meet it. If we have advice for you, listen to it. And if we have questions we want to ask you, answer them honestly and lovingly.

Ministry is hard. Small church ministry is relentless.

Doing it alone is impossible.

Knowing you’re there for us is a treasure.

This article originally appeared here.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.