There was a time when I was attending church as a volunteering member. It feels like forever ago… I remember sitting in a pew listening to a pastor’s sermon thinking, “I have no idea what he’s trying to say…” But somehow, at the end of each service I always felt like I had the best pastor in the world!
You see, some pastors are not the best preachers or communicators. They rabbit-trail a lot, laugh at their own jokes, have multiple unrelated points in the message, and sometimes even their exegesis is a bit shaky. Thankfully, these are not what determine a great pastor.
The word pastor literally means a shepherd. A good shepherd cares for the sheep, communicates with them while guiding their path. I have met pastors who are great communicators and excellent preachers, yet they were not the most approachable people. Some pastors simply disappear after service as if their sole responsibility is preaching behind the pulpit.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a church member, I desired to connect with my pastor. I wanted to get to know my pastor and desired to be known as an individual, not as part of the mass. But it wasn’t always easy… sometimes, my pastor seemed too busy for me and I didn’t want to be that needy church member.
Recently, I had lunch with one of my mentors. She just transitioned from pastoral ministry to executive leadership role. If you ever get to meet her, you will immediately recognize her pastoral heart. Despite her busy schedule that demands her presence across the nation and around the world, she would always carve out the time to invest in others. In doing so, she communicates that people in her circle of influence are valuable and worthy of investment.
As a lead pastor, I try to communicate how much I value and appreciate my church family as often as I can both publicly and privately. But I am learning that one of the best ways to show my love and appreciation for them is simply being present in their lives. Getting to know the unique stories and passions of my church family over a cup of coffee or a meal is such an honor and joy. These moments spent outside the church are one of the highlights of pastoral ministry! When leading a church, we must remember that we are not just leading a mass; we are shepherding individual souls.
When people start seeing you as being “too busy,” that might be a good time to pause and reflect on your priorities. I am preaching that to myself as well…
I pray that you and I can be the pastors that preach the sound Word of God while mirroring Jesus’ caring ministry as nurturing shepherds. But at the end of the day, if I have to choose one or the other, I would happily be a rabbit-trailing preacher who makes people feel loved and valued rather than an incredible communicator who makes people feel invisible and unwanted.