Fellow pastors: If you could personally help strengthen the churches in your area without having to spend a dime, would you do it?
Pastoral ministry can be an especially lonely profession. Working long hours and dealing with difficult problems may allow seasons of discouragement to creep in. One way ministers can get some fresh air and personal encouragement is to build relationships with other pastors. This is something I’ve been richly blessed by in the last 15 years of ministry. When I talk to other pastors, I rarely have to convince them of the need for this. Instead, the questions usually center on how to begin such relationships.
Here are five steps to get you started that I’ve found to work well over the years. The beauty of this is how flexible it is. It can work with one other brother or more than 50.
What if there was a way to strengthen churches in your area without spending a dime?
The first thing to do is to identify churches around you and begin praying for them. This immediately creates interest and a bond with them. By praying for the pastor and the church, you aim for the church’s good and God’s glory (here are some ideas for how to pray for the churches). It may be easier in some contexts than others to identify several churches in the area that faithfully preach the gospel. If the number is limited, then it may be useful to broaden out the radius to include a more regional approach.
After spending some time praying, reach out to the pastor and invite him to lunch or coffee. Let him know that you are praying for him and his church and that you’d like to get to know him better. It never ceases to amaze me that I go into these meetings aiming to bless a fellow pastor, but I come away encouraged.
After spending time praying for and meeting with other pastors, the next logical step would be to set something up where other guys could share in this fellowship. Depending upon your context, this may take on different expressions. What we do presently is host several guys who minister in the greater Boston area. We host a monthly lunch meeting where we get together to catch up, talk about various issues we might be facing, and pray together. The number of guys is not important. I’d meet with two or 20 of these gospel commandos. The point is carving out space and establishing the rhythm of fellowship. In these meetings, I facilitate discussion and prayer rather than formal teaching (think soccer player vs. quarterback). As with the one-on-one meetings, I come away receiving far more than I give.
What happens when pastors’ hearts are knit together in fellowship within a shared context and region? Then you naturally want to keep encouraging your brothers. Thinking like a baseball player, I want my brothers on the team to hear the claps and dugout chatter coming from their teammates. We can do this with regular contact. Send texts, emails, or cards. Pick up the phone and call them out of the blue. At a recent meeting of local pastors, two brothers brought a box of Gentle and Lowly to hand out to everyone for personal encouragement. The thoughtful and strategic words of a brother are always received well. They put wind in my sails, often amid the choppy waters and fierce headwinds of pastoral ministry.
There are many ways to support another church’s ministry. The easiest to implement immediately is to begin praying for these churches during your Sunday gathering. We insert a different church in our pastoral prayer each week. It’s an occasion for us to rejoice together in God’s kindness to this church and ask God to bless the ministry. Other ways of support will depend upon the needs. In the past, we’ve sent people to churches that needed help. We’ve sent money to churches that need financial support. We’ve partnered in church plants or revitalizations. This support comes out of these close-knit, personal relationships with local pastors. Partnering together with those closest to you in a shared mission is a win for the church.
If you could personally help strengthen the churches in your area, would you do it? Of course you would. None of these things I’ve suggested will take up a line in your budget, but they will take up a block on your calendar and an entry in your prayer journal.
Take it from me, an introvert who can get discouraged; this is extremely valuable. Get started today.