By Warren Bird, Ph.D.
“How does your board care for the senior pastor?” This was an open-ended question in ECFA’s recent survey of church boards. To my delight, 66% opted to reply (577 out of 878 total responses), and almost all were positive statements.
As the word cloud below shows, the word time was most cited, with a form of prayer, sabbatical, vacation, encourage, and support close behind.
• Common how-we-care themes were to meet for prayer and encouragement, provide adequate financial support including retirement savings, offer counseling, ensure time away, fund continuing education, and initiate occasional appreciation gifts. Specific ideas ranged from “provide babysitting for date night” to “we pray over our pastor at every meeting.”
• Numerous comments indicated that hard-working pastors need accountability not to be pushed, but to slow down or be better paced. One response: “make sure our pastor takes vacation and time off.” Another spoke of the pastor’s “accountability for self care and personal rest.”
• Many approach care as a conversation. Typical: “Ask questions about how life is going and challenges.” Another said “the pastor reports on his health and well-being.”
• Only a few indicate a specific plan, such as “every pastoral staff member … has an assigned elder board member” or “We have a pastoral care plan, which includes … planned marriage retreats, and planned time at home but away from monthly responsibilities to focus on long term goals.”
Looking Specifically at “Soul Care” for the Pastor
We also asked church boards specifically about “soul care.” Our survey statement was, “Our board chair (or a designated board member) regularly encourages our pastor to address ‘soul care’ topics in his or her life.” Responders were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed.
To clarify, the survey offered this definition: “In today’s culture, boards are increasingly recognizing the responsibility to attend to the senior pastor’s spiritual and emotional health – also known as ‘soul care.’ (This might include encouragement and accountability from the board that the senior pastor has regular times in the Word, prayer, reflection, taking a weekly day off, taking a full and uninterrupted vacation time each year, and following sound practices for personal accountability.)”
The table below analyzes the responses.
A formal report on this survey has not been released. It will be announced on this blog, and at other ECFA channels including this link for survey findings. Meanwhile, please add your comments and questions to this blog. Also, see here for other blogs in this series.