The next few weeks are busy with final edits for the book and the preparation of the farm. I have just 8 chapters left for close edits, and then I’ll do a full read-through before sending it out to my blessed Beta readers (You guys have those, right? Those folks who will give you an honest read of your work. If not, I’d cultivate them NOW.). At God’s Whisper, we have cleared much of the land, and we’ll continue to work on that to prep for animals. But we have a floor in the bedroom that needs to come up and painting that must be done.
So today I am blessed and excited to share a guest post from Lisa Taylor of Barnabas House of Oklahoma. The dream Lisa and her husband share is one I understand – the desire to provide a place of respite and rest for the weary. In their case, they are building a place specifically for ministers. I hope you’ll catch their dream.
I have an electric blue mohair sweater hanging in my closet – the only memento I have of my Mommy Moore. It’s an odd item for a diminutive Pentecostal Holiness minister to own. I can only imagine when it was purchased and where she chose to wear it. My grandmother and her husband Poppy Moore pastored for more than fifty years. In the days before televangelists, it was a given that this was a co-pastor position, and that Poppy would also work a day job. Bi-vocational wasn’t even a word yet, but that’s what they did. Yet in everything they did, from carpentry, to preaching, to raising five children, joy was present.
I have a few items from my parents – mostly photos since I’m the fourth child. I have Mom’s Bible that’s worn, highlighted, notated, and loved. It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit. My brother has Dad’s Bible and his Commentaries. My parents pastored for about ten years. Dad was also bi-vocational, a wallpaper hanger by trade. Dad left the ministry when I was just a baby and his sadness about his experience aged into bitterness that eroded his life until he passed at the age of 66.
I have my brother still. He has pastored for thirty years and will be retiring in the Fall. For a great deal of that time he was also bi-vocational. He and his wife are full of a deep, abiding joy and sweet spirit. They will tell you that it has been a privilege to serve together these years and they leave a healthy, thriving church in the capable hands of a couple that has been mentored there in love.
Three stories, three lives, three different experiences. What made the difference? It wasn’t money, leisure activities, or size of congregation. In retrospect it seems the difference was primarily a Sabbath rest and a support system – denominational, relational, personal. Current research shows that 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor, while 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors. Is it any wonder, then, that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches?* That’s a lot of pain for pastors, families, churches, and communities. The ripple effect is devastating to the Kingdom of God.
What can we do to make a change in these numbers? Encourage, support, cheer, volunteer, put action to the good thoughts we have toward our pastors. Forgive, change expectations, leave room for their Sabbath, promote healthy boundaries, bless them with a weekend or a week long getaway. Understand that they are people – faulty, sometimes broken individuals that often don’t feel they can be real without risking their position.
This winter I will once again wrap myself in that electric blue mohair sweater and the joy woven between each strand. I will choose joy and relationship, and I will sow that in my pastor’s life. And I will build a place where other pastors can come to receive restoration, refreshment, and renewal. What will you do?
What are your experiences of rest (or lack thereof) as a pastor or minister? How do you help your pastor find rest?
As a third generation pastor, Lisa has experienced first-hand the blessings and struggles of bi-vocational ministry. Doug and Lisa Taylor are the founders and hosts of Barnabas House of Oklahoma, a retreat home where wounded and weary pastors may be restored, refreshed, and renewed. You can also follow their work on Facebook – www.facebook.com/barnabashouseok
*Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care, Inc.