Ministering to the ministers

I wrote the following e-mail yesterday and sent it to about 50 blogging pastors:

I’m writing to you and other blogging pastors because I have a question only
a pastor can answer. I’ve been growing increasingly aware of how difficult
the job of pastor can be. I know that pastors often receive a lot more criticism
than encouragement, and that can lead to all sorts of bad feelings. I think,
though, that most congregations truly love their pastors but don’t understand
how much encouragement is needed or how to practically provide that encouragement.
I also think that pastors are generally and understandably reluctant to ask
for
such encouragement or display any human weakness at all.

I personally love my
pastor, and I’m keenly aware of many things that beat him down in his ministry.
Most of those things are entirely out of my control
or
influence. I would like to provide encouragement to him myself and incite others
to do so as well. But I know enough to know that I have no idea exactly what
issues a pastor faces that members of the congregation could alleviate. I just
don’t know what to do or how to go about providing the most effective encouragement
for him.

My request to you is that you respond with a blog post (or a link to
a post if you’ve already written one) listing some practical ways a congregation
can
encourage
their pastor. If you’re reticent about revealing that sort of thing on your
own blog, I would be happy to post something you write on my blog and remove
your
name from it–sort of an "advice from an anonymous pastor" kind
of thing. I really want to know this, and I want the flock to stop being
unaware
of their shepherd’s humanity and needs.

If you decide to write a post about
this, please let me know so I can read it and link to it.

Sincerely,
Curt Hendley
The Happy Husband
http://www.thehappyhusband.com

This is really weighing heavily on me right now. Being a Godly pastor must
be the most difficult job in the world. CEOs of corporations must weather attacks
from competitors, and leaders of countries must deal with other countries’
leaders as well as politicians within their own countries, but pastors have
to protect themselves, their families, and their churches from attacks by Satan
himself. The fact that so many pastors get little love and support from their
congregations goes a long way toward explaining why so many pastors resign
every day.

I’m going to set up a permanent page on this site with links to pastors’ blogs
where they offer advice on how to encourage your pastor. I have already received
a few responses as well as a few promises. Check out these links and see how
you can serve
your pastor:

  • Steve
    Pedersen
    : "My Pastors’ Prayer Group met today on a 30 foot
    sailboat.…I asked the guys a question to start off our conversation:
    How can a congregation encourage their pastor? The guys on the boat responded
    with these ideas"
  • Tod
    Bolsinger
    : "If you ask any of my executive staff, they will tell you of
    how many people have come along side them, joined them in ministry and cared
    for them personally. And it is my confidence in this community of people that
    allows me to promise my staff that together we will all aim to have ‘a
    great ministry and a great life.
  • Mark
    Van Der Hurst
    : "What has my church done to encourage me? I have shared
    this with several pastor friends and have had a blogger ask for some ideas
    to encourage his pastor. So, here is my experience/feeble attempt at talking
    about a time OUT."
  • Craig
    Williams
    : "Begin here, trust and respect, until we prove untrustworthy
    or unreliable."
  • Glenn
    Buzbee
    : "Churches can be like middle school. Or like playgrounds beset
    by a handful of bullies. It only takes one or two kids on the playground to
    stand up to the bullies and say ‘Stop! No more!’ God just may be
    calling you to be one of those kids to stand up and speak out; but while it
    is scary to defy a bully in your congregation (and even a best friend could
    be one) if you don’t, then who will?"
  • Noel Heikkinen:
    "For me, [this question] takes more the form of ‘Things I Wish
    People Knew.’ I
    think if these things were realized, more encouragement could happen organically. "

I will share more responses as they come in, and I’ll keep adding them to
the permanent page once I build it. If you’re a pastor who doesn’t
blog or I didn’t include in my e-mail, please feel free to respond in
the comments or in an email to happy-at-atimelikethis-dot-net.


Update: I have created a permanent
page
with a link in the
sidebar. I will post further responses on that page alphabetically rather than
continually updating this post.

MCF’s Blog Party 4.0

Here’s my entry into MCF’s
Blog Party
, which asks for "Your top femme fatales
and/or formidable females of all time, from Comics, Cartoons, Television, Film
and MORE!":

No. 5 Formidable Female—Your Mom

If there is any single larger-than-life woman in everyone’s life,
it is Mom. Life giver, lawmaker, character molder, ruthless enforcer, and provider
of the tenderest loving care, Mom may be the biggest influence anyone has.

No. 4 Femme Fatale—Bathsheba

I’m never quite sure how much to blame her for leading King David
astray. On one hand, it seems like it would take an awful lot to seduce such
a man of God into such atrocious behavior. On the other hand, he was a man,
so maybe it took very little. In any case, both she and David were redeemed
through their offspring and became part of the earthly bloodline of Jesus.

No. 3 Femme Fatale—Jo Polniaczek

For some reason I can no longer fathom, this character portrayed
by Nancy McKeon on the ’80s sitcom The Facts of Life embodied my prepubescent
ideal woman fantasies. She resembled no one I have ever met in real life, and
yet she was what I thought a woman should be. Seriously, I was just a kid.

No. 2 Formidable Female—Eve

We could argue all day about whether Eve ruined it for all of
us or Adam failed in his duties and thus ended paradise, but either way she’s
the mother of us all and casts a shadow over time and history that we will
never escape as long as we’re on this earth.

No. 1 Formidable Female and Femme Fatale—Mrs. Happy

For sheer life changing influence, this one trumps them all for
me. Shattering my notions of what I needed/wanted in a wife, she showed me
how much love I’m capable of and how much I could be cherished.

Marriage links for the week

Miss O’Hara is upset by the state of masculinity in the modern world and reminds
us of what men were like
before Queer Eye.

Steve Lynch begins
his review
of the book Covenant Marriage: Building Communication
and Intimacy
by Gary Chapman.

Jollyblogger
reviews
Julie Ann Fidler’s (of Fidler
on the Roof
) new book Adventures
in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst
. I have my own
copy and plan to offer
my own review
some time next week.

Keith Plummer advises
people contemplating marriage
to "consider what their
expectations of each other are and to enter into the covenant of marriage with
their eyes open to each others faults." He also reviews the
book Spiritual Relationships That Last: What the Bible Says About Dating
and
Marriage
.

Rey’s wife explains
Jesus
to their three-year-old son.

His and Hers: Multiple Media

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage.

What is the last song you listened to, book you read,
and movie you saw?

Mrs. Happy’s response

Song: You And I Both, by Jason Mraz
Book:Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz
Movie: Moonlight Mile

Curt’s response

Song: Oh My Child, by Matt Nightingale
Book:
Sutter’s Cross, by W. Dale Cramer
Movie:
Moonlight Mile

Dating

I have a tip for you if you want to sneak some heresy into my brain: tell
it to me offhandedly as if it really doesn’t matter. That way it might soak
into
my subconscious mind and eventually surface somewhere in my thoughts entirely
unexamined. On the other hand, if
you
preach
it
and
diligently try
to
convince me, I’m more likely to think you’re compensating for some weakness
in your argument. At least that’s what happened in a college Sunday school
class
once. The teacher was droning on and on about dating and how we have to be
so careful
about who we go out with and put God first and be content alone and not have
sex and not be unequally yoked with a non-believer and blah blah blah blah
blah.
I
can’t
remember
exactly
what
he said that triggered
my opposing thought—it had something to do with every date being a potential
mate—but I do remember that I interrupted him and said, "Why?"

He shot me an incredulous look. He was not the regular teacher, but he had
taught our college group enough to think of me as intelligent. He seemed
to think I should already understand this, because he wasn’t really saying
anything we hadn’t all been hearing in church since our puberty began. I’m
not sure why he was trying to teach these particular dogmas when he thought
we should already know them, but he finally either bored me enough or challenged
me enough to question him. He said, "Well, if you don’t approach a date with
the right attitude and perspective, then the relationship won’t last."

"So?" I said. "Would that be so bad? Is there anything wrong with two people
having a great time hanging around each other for a couple of weeks? When two
people feel sparks, that’s an amazing feeling. If it only lasts a short time,
then they go their separate ways, is there any harm done? I understand
that real intimacy is possible only under the conditions you’re describing,
but is there something morally wrong with just having fun for a while?"

The man had a fair amount of respect for me, but every ounce of it visibly
drained out of his face in that instant. His definition of a successful date
was one that eventually led to marriage. A date that did not lead to marriage
was, in his book, a waste of time and life for both parties. This
article at Christianity Today
reminded me of that Sunday school lesson.

I don’t quite agree with the CT article, which asserts that dating is "an
end in and of itself." But neither do I fully agree that dating is worthwhile
only if it leads to marriage. Reality must lie somewhere in between.

I
was never a successful dater. I have always been physically unable to feel
comfortable around people I don’t know well, so I make a horrid first impression.
That
goes
double for girls, and triple for girls I find attractive. I have had three
different girlfriends in my life. Apart from them, I never had more than two
dates with any girl. I had established friendships with all three
of my girlfriends before we actually dated. This leads me to believe that I
have no real perspective on dating as it applies to most people. I’m just glad
my best friend and I didn’t care to date for several years, and only dated
for four months before
I put the ring on her finger. So my only dating advice is to marry your best friend. That’s
working out pretty well for me, anyway.

Meme3

I spent the evening in the company of my wife and a visiting pastor and
his wife, which has left me no time to blog. I always mean to blog six times
a week,
but I usually only post five times, and one of those typically bears the title
RLTB.
I didn’t blog at all yesterday, and
I’m getting antsy about not writing. I guess I’ll take this opportunity to
complete the
meme that Jerry tagged me with
:

Three screen names that you have had: eeyore, flapwilson,
TX Curt

Three things you like about yourself: toenails that curl
upward, a dry wit that few recognize, the fact that my wife finds me both lovable
and attractive

Three things you don’t like about yourself: my (at times)
debilitating insecurity, a burgeoning pot belly, a mild case of tinnitus

Three parts of your heritage: Christian, East Texas, West
Texas

Three things that scare you: life without God, loss of my
wife or child, bears

Three of your everyday essentials: physical contact with
my wife, verbal contact with my wife, emotional contact with my wife

Three things you are wearing right now: wedding ring, eyeglasses,
gym shorts

Three of your favorite songs: The Old Rugged Cross (hymn),
King of the Road (Roger Miller), If I Stand (Rich Mullins)

Three new things
you want to try in the next 12 months
: be a father, buy a house, get
a dog

Three things I want in a relationship: respect, loyalty,
love

Two truths and a lie: I have milked a goat, eaten rattlesnake
meat, and wrung a chicken’s neck

Three things you can’t do without: the Bible, my wife, books

Three places you want to go on vacation: Disney World, a
cabin in the Rockies, California

Three things you just can’t do: punch someone (except, once,
MCF), use God’s name in vain, a back flip

Three kids’ names: Victoria, Isabelle, Gummo

Three things you want to do before you die: meet an angel,
save someone’s life, write a book

Three Celeb crushes: Kate Hudson, Salma Hayek, Orlando
Bloom

Reasons I love my wife, 81–90

Ten more reasons:

  • She has a childlike sense of wonder.
  • She appreciates children’s sense of wonder.
  • She likes dogs.
  • She likes to read.
  • She will not throw away a pair of socks until they are no longer recognizable
    as socks. (This actually annoys me a great deal, and yet it’s somehow endearing
    nonetheless.)
  • She can recognize a crazy ambition in me, and she lets it run its course
    rather than actively squelching it.
  • She knows the difference between its and it’s.
  • She doesn’t mind waking up to Benny Goodman music in the morning.
  • She lets me comb her wet hair sometimes.
  • Everyone in my family absolutely loves her.

Marriage links for the week

A British couple celebrates their 80th
wedding anniversary
. Their advice to young
couples: "[D]on’t sleep on an argument, always share a kiss and hold hands before
going to bed." (Link
via
Amy Scott.)

Rey ponders the
source of love
in marriage.

Matt Hall responds to Henry Cloud’s assertion that dating has nothing
to do with marriage
.

John
Schroeder
and Jeff
the Baptist
both respond to the psychological study
of marriage success that I mentioned earlier this week.

Rick at Kingdom Agenda celebrates his ninth
wedding anniversary
and offers
his own advice on how to build a successful marriage.

Jollyblogger reviews the book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect
It by Jerry Jenkins
.

His and Hers: Completing each other’s sentences

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite others to do the same with their spouses as an exercise in
celebrating marriage.

Write the first five words of five different sentences.
Give the sentences to your spouse, and complete the sentences your spouse
gives you.

Mrs. Happy’s response

These sentences were started by Curt and completed by Mrs. Happy.

  • The apple could go places…the bananas could never go.
  • No one knows
    exactly what…trouble I’ve seen.
  • My nicest dreams take place…out in the country, under a million stars.
  • Hello, my name is Inigo…Passerello, you whacked my Padre, prepare to fry.
  • Whenever I attempt to make…pancakes, I sneeze uncontrollably.

Curt’s response

These sentences were started by Mrs. Happy and finished by
Curt.

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches…killed Elvis, and I won’t let them
    do it to me.
  • Whatever the case may be,…I simply can’t go back to McDonald’s.
  • What in the world possessed…that girl in The Exorcist?
  • A noise in the distance…is one step away from silence.
  • Tropical fish did not always…have three eyes and call each other "izzit."

RLTB™

Mrs. Happy and I began leading a small Bible-study-type group earlier tonight. We’ll be going through a study on creativity as an integral part of Christian spirituality. I’m excited, but it will leave me no time to blog on Thursdays. I’m trying to figure out some way to compensate, but real life trumps blogging at least for this week.