What I wonder is this: “Can you love your pastor?”
While all pastors want to be well-liked, respected, and even loved, that’s not why we accept the call to professional ministry. Good pastors often have to make decisions that disappoint people or even anger parishioners. And God knows not all parishioners are loveable.
But we are called to love God’s people, to show them what the love of Jesus looks like, and to pray even for our enemies. Our job is to love them, not to aspire to be loved by them.
I believe this is one of the keys to effective ministry. This is why we need emotionally healthy church leaders.
If we have not experienced unconditional love ourselves, it’s very difficult to offer that love to God’s people. Clergy with deep emotional needs cannot themselves do the hard work of ministry until those needs are addressed. I remember Nadia Bolz-Weber saying “we preach from our scars, not from our wounds.”
Yes, even clergy have emotional needs. There are times when parishioners support their pastoral leaders with casseroles and hospital visits and get-well cards and prayer. Pastors get sick and grieve and experience difficult situations. But it’s not the congregation’s job to be the primary support system for the pastor. And God is supposed to be the object of our adoration, not the pastor who points to God.
Vulnerable pastors inspire growth. Needy pastors create unhealthy dependencies. What do you think?