Reflections from Our Conference Minister: Pastoral Stress
Your pastor is under a lot of stress. This bears repeating, your pastor is under a lot of stress. By "a lot," I mean unlike any other amount of stress your kahu faced before. The debate (or is it a fight in your church?) over in-person worship services or not, singing or not, finances and staffing, the curve to understand online platforms that address security and accessibility, limits on the numbers of people at weddings and funerals, and the myriad needs for pastoral care, and spiritual guidance called upon at this time. And, your pastor also has personal responsibilities and issues, as we all do. Your pastor is under a lot of stress. Your pastor has probably said very little to you about this stress—little about how weighty it is and how heavy the burden has become. What can you do to help your kahu?
Stop complaining if decisions about your congregation and COVID-19 are not to your liking. Understand that what happens in a congregation is often the result of a system of compromises built up over years and this system of compromises will most likely determine how the church leadership will react during this pandemic more so that any theological or ethical stance will.
Let your pastor know that he or she can take time off away from the church. COVID-19 is not going away; it will still be with us after your pastor returns from vacation. Give your pastor permission to attend to self-care and family well-being above the needs of the congregation for a period of vacation time as should be outlined in the pastor's call letter.
Recognize that meeting personal political tenets is not the mission of the church. We exist to promote and to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world during our lifetime. We are not here to ensure that our church is politically right or politically left on any issue.
Show appreciation for your pastor. Nothing helps to empower a minister more than hearing from her or his congregants that the time and effort and extra miles that are being put in are noticed and appreciated.
Realize your minister is human and that all those moods, frustrations, ups and downs that you are feeling are also being felt by your pastor. Be gentle with one another and remember that none of us has a road map. We don't know when COVID-19 will end. We don't know how communities of faith will be reshaped by this pandemic. What we do know is that the God who walked with the church through its most difficult times also walks with us today and into the future.
David K. Popham, Conference Minister