Caring for your Pastor
Over the next week or so, every FIEC church will be sent a new Code of Best Practice which offers advice and guidance on how churches should care for their pastors. We asked Richard Underwood to introduce it for us.
Churches that thrive spiritually are led by pastors who are thriving spiritually. Why? Because the condition and health of churches is closely related to the condition and health of the pastors who serve them.
One factor that affects the spiritual vitality of pastors is the terms and conditions of service which they agree with the church. So the pastoral well-being of pastors and their families is a key responsibility of the church family.
In fact, it is one of the privileges of Independency that each church and each pastor is responsible for agreeing the terms and conditions which will ensure pastors are well-nourished and sustained in their Christian service.
To help pastors and churches in this area, we have produced a Code of Best Practice under the title, Caring for Your Pastor. Of course, many of our churches are doing this extremely well already and I hope this Code will be a great encouragement to you.
We have developed it in association with Living Leadership and it’s designed to promote positive, grace-filled relationships that reflect the gospel, foster a culture of spiritual health throughout the church and bear a good testimony to the world around us. It is a purely voluntary and advisory document: it does not constitute legal advice.
In establishing and maintaining the relationship between congregations and their paid ministers, we recognise that there is a judicious blend of the legal and the spiritual. It is our conviction that these two in no way conflict.
So I am planning to send the code to every church in an envelope marked for the attention of the wider leadership team to help all of our churches to think through this important topic. Let me explain why.
Pastors who are not burdened by unnecessary anxieties over terms and circumstances of ministry are best able to concentrate on the work of the gospel and leading the church in the joy of the Lord. The breakdown in the relationships between pastors and their churches is both devastating to those involved and an obstacle to the spread of the gospel.
By contrast, churches should be shining lights when it comes to caring for their pastors. It is a sad irony if it ever appears that secular organisations are more concerned for and committed to the care of their employees than are churches to the care of those who serve them. This means that the highest possible standards should apply to the way in which the terms of appointment for pastors are determined and implemented.
Five Core Areas
The code lays out a number of core scriptural principles and values to help promote good practice in the following five areas:
- a covenant of care between pastors and congregations;
- terms, conditions and expectations;
- personal support and ministry development;
- consultation and communication; and
- dispute resolution.
FIEC Practical Services has prepared separate draft policies on the subjects of disciplinary, grievance and dispute resolution procedures.
Using this Code
Each of the five areas of the Code is addressed by:
- a statement of ideals which churches and pastors are encouraged to adopt and formally agree together; and
- a number of specific proposals are then set out for each area of well-being, which a church may wish to consider adopting or adapting as an expression of good practice.
It is for each church to tailor its own policies under each set of proposals in order to meet its own needs. Not all will be equally applicable to all situations. The important issue is that each church and each pastor shapes and agrees their own arrangements in ways that that reflect the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and adorn the truth of his gospel.
The Way Forward
It’s very hard for pastors to talk about the terms of their own appointment, so that’s why we have written to the leadership teams of the churches we serve to ask if the elders/deacons would be willing to invest time in digesting the contents of the Code.
As they feel able to embrace its spirit, they will then be in a position to initiate a discussion with their pastors about ways in which they and their family can best be cared for and the terms of their appointment clarified as appropriate.
The outcome? Those with the responsibility of feeding others will be well-nourished and cared for themselves. And churches are more likely to thrive because they are led by thriving pastors.