Every Tuesday morning the pastors of the North Canadian Baptist Association (NCBA) gather for a time of fellowship, encouragement, and prayer. These men actively pray for each other and share about what is happening in their local churches, but the most beneficial aspect of these meetings is simply hanging out with other pastors. One of the greatest benefits provided by any local association is the fellowship of pastors. Most churches do not have large staffs, so the work can become quite lonely. Providing some sort of fellowship for the pastors can help alleviated some of that stress and consequently improve the health of the pastor and his church. These fellowships will help…
Prevent Pastoral Burnout
My pawpaw once told me the story about the pastor who used to watch the train roll through town every day. When asked about the unusual habit, he would simply reply, “I watch the train because it is the only thing in this town that I’m not pushing or pulling.” Sadly, the load carried by many pastors is heavier than anyone in his congregation realizes, and in most churches the pastor is carrying that load by himself. He has no one to talk to about his problems, and if something goes wrong, he is the one to call. Overtime, this can lead to pastoral burnout. However, the local association and the pastors who participate provide an excellent remedy for burnout. Simply being around other pastors and hearing that they are dealing with many of the very same issues can really help reduce burnout.
The Tuesday morning pastors’ fellowship at the NCBA is usually followed by lunch and, if the weather permits, golf. Some of the greatest learning experiences I have had in the ministry have happened around the lunch table. These lunches are about much more than just good food, it is an opportunity for the pastors to build one another up. Never underestimate the power of a lunch or a round of golf to lift the spirit of the pastor. Regularly participating in these simple things is like staying up to date on vaccinations to prevent pastoral burnout.
Increase Pastoral Tenure
I know this information is only anecdotal, but I do believe there is something to it. The pastors in the NCBA seem to stay at their churches longer than the national averages. The average is around 4 years, but in that particular association many of the pastors have been there since I was in high school, and some even longer than that. I think one of the major contributing factors to the extended tenure is the quality of the fellowship provided by the Director of Missions and the pastors of the association.
It is much easier to stay somewhere when hard times come if you have such a solid support system. When I had a hard week, I always knew that there would be a circle of great men waiting to encourage me and push me forward at the associational office on Tuesday morning. That group of men made my first years in the pastorate, mistakes and all, a truly wonderful experience. If that was true for me, I am sure the others feel the same way, and I am quite confident that this reality helps them stay in their churches much longer than the statistics suggest.
Promote Church Health
Healthy pastors lead healthy churches. The association has a direct impact on church health every time they schedule a pastors’ breakfast or a mere round of golf. If pastoral fellowship has such a strong effect on the health of the pastor, and I believe it does, than every step taken to help him is helping the church as a whole. If pastors are staying in churches longer and they are not dealing with the issues associated with burnout, than our churches will be the better for it. The good news is that any local association can provide opportunity for pastors to fellowship. Which means that every association can take great steps toward promoting healthy churches with even the smallest of means. Let the North Canadian Baptist Association serve as a positive example of how this can actually work out.