Looking at the Pastoral Ministry section of almost any Christian bookstore, you might get the idea that congregations want great preaching, inspiring vision, and larger-than-life leadership from their pastor. While those extraordinary gifts are possessed by some pastors, most church members want four very simple things from their pastor:
- Your time. Your members know you are busy, but most of them want to spend some time with you — a meal, a cup of coffee, a conversation, or a moment where you both connect. You can’t give all your time to all your members everyday, and they know it. But make it a point to give some time to someone everyday. I try to spend my afternoons visiting, calling, or meeting with my members. My schedule doesn’t always work out, but when it does I am always blessed.
- Your ear. People like to know they have been heard and their opinions valued. You may not always agree, but you can always listen. Most people want a fair hearing even if the outcome is not their preference. Really hear what your members are saying to you, acknowledge their comments, and assure them that you appreciate them sharing with you.
- Your presence. When people go to the hospital, they need the presence of their pastor to strengthen them. When family members gather at the bedside of a dying loved one, they need their pastor. When a father loses his job, or a single mom faces surgery, or an elderly couple makes the decision to move to assisted-living, they need a pastor to talk to. Your presence represents God, their church family, their faith, and their hope. Nothing else will do in those times except your presence.
- Your prayers. Concerns about family, worries about health, decisions, and mistakes — members have asked me to pray for these concerns and many others. Take those requests seriously, pray earnestly, and follow-up later find out how you can continue to pray.
Great preaching and inspiring vision are a plus for any pastor. But the real work of ministry happens in real life situations, especially in the small church. Spend time with your members. After all, it’s a compliment to your ministry that they want to spend time with you.