You are a pastor. You preach and teach, care, and console. You manage and maneuver, love and lead. You pour yourself out. You “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2, ESV).
You also need a pastor.
Every pastor needs a pastor. Every pastor needs someone who does the things the pastor does for others—encourage, equip, coach, console, support, love, and lead. Unfortunately, very few pastors have that kind of relationship, which helps to explain why so many burn out or drop out—and why many others say they would leave the ministry if they thought they could.
Few denominations and church staff systems allow or encourage the establishment and maintenance of a pastor-to-a-pastor relationship. Unless you’re in a very rare situation, the chances are good that you will have to take the initiative and do the work of filling that need in your life. But it is a need, make no mistake. It is not an option, if you plan not just to survive but also thrive in ministry.
So what can you do? Where do you go? Here are a few suggestions to help you do what (of course) you encourage your flock to do—have a caring, capable pastor in your life to lead, teach, encourage, and equip you:
Approach someone you already know. Someone who is already in your circle of relationships. It may be a retired pastor or someone in an entirely different field. It shouldn’t be someone in your church but could be someone you’ve crossed paths with. Someone who impressed you, maybe. Or someone who reached out to you. If such a person comes to mind, consider asking him or her to meet regularly with you, perhaps just as a sounding board at first. Let the relationship develop from there.
Consult a spiritual director. Spiritual direction may be a new concept for you, but it can be a transforming experience to have someone to meet with regularly who will listen–not only to you but also to the Holy Spirit–and offer sensitive wisdom and guidance.
Find a good Christian counselor. Years ago, my church planting coach would ask me and my co-pastor every time we met, “Do you have a shrink yet?” He clearly considered it not only important, but also urgent. So I started meeting regularly with a counselor, and boy was I glad I did. A good Christian counselor can often be like a pastor to a pastor; mine was to me. If the first person you consult isn’t quite a “match,” don’t give up. Keep trying. Ask others for recommendations or start here.
Use available resources. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of an actual, on-site, flesh-and-blood person to pour into you as you are pouring into others. But in rare circumstances, that may not be possible for you. If that is the case, make sure to utilize all available resources, such as:
“Thriving Pastor,” the ministry to pastors of Focus on the Family. They also provide a Facebook page, Twitter account, and pastoral care line (844-4PASTOR).
Podcasts. I have been fed and encouraged over the years by the podcasts of various pastors–some that provide encouragement specifically to those in ministry and others, like Erwin McManus or James MacDonald, that podcast sermons or Bible studies. Here is a helpful listing.
Retreats. I’ve posted previously on this blog about retreat centers and getaways that are offered specifically for pastors (here). While some hosts at such places leave you alone, others make themselves available for those who want to talk. Such encounters may lead to a more enduring relationship, magnifying the benefit of the retreat.
These are just a few ideas. But please believe me when I say you need a pastor. What’s good for the sheep is good for the shepherd. It will strengthen you and your ministry, making you even more of an example to the flock.
Bob Hostetler is a literary agent, an award-winning writer, editor, pastor, and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His thirty books, which include The Bone Box and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream), have sold millions of copies. He has co-authored eleven books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling Right from Wrong (What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices), and the award-winning Don't Check Your Brains at the Door. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others. Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. Bob was ordained to the ministry in 1980 by the Salvation Army and earned degrees in English Bible from Cincinnati Christian University and English Communications from Bloomfield College. In 2000, Bob (with his wife, Robin) helped to co-found Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. They have two children and four grandchildren. He has been a disc jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor, and (with Robin) a foster parent to ten boys (though not all at once). They live in Hamilton, Ohio. You can follow Bob at @bobhoss.