Pastoral Rest: Shutting Down from Doing Ministry

June 25, 2024

Host: Dr. Steve Harrelson

Guest: Pastor Gary Weaber

Note: This transcript is taken from a Stand in the Gap Today program originally aired on 4/30/24. To listen to the podcast, click HERE.

Disclaimer:         While reasonable efforts have been made to provide an accurate transcription, the following is a representation of a mechanical transcription and as such, may not be a word for word transcript. Please listen to the audio version for any questions concerning the following dialogue.

Steve Harrelson:               Hello and welcome to this Tuesday edition of Stan the Gap. I am Dr. Steven Harrelson, president of the Virginia Pastors Network, the Virginia Chapter of the American Pastors Network, and I also have the honor of serving as the senior pastor of Mount Lebanon Baptist in Culpepper County, Virginia. My guest today has become very dear to me because he is my pastor coach. His name is Gary Weaber and he is with Standing Stone Ministries. He himself was a senior pastor for over 36 years, and now he’s a shepherd to shepherds. That’s where his heart’s at. And I just want to tell you that he has been a blessing to me because I’ve been on the receiving end of his ministry. In fact, the very things that we’re going to be talking about today, he’s actually leading me through to help preserve me and to encourage me in ministry.

Steve Harrelson:               And I’ve been so encouraged that I just had to bring him on to talk to you, our listening audience. The title for our program today is Pastoral Rest, shutting Down from Doing Ministry. And I’d like to begin today by sharing a story with you long ago. There was a pastor who was pastoring his first church and he and his family desperately needed a vacation, and so he left very specific instructions with his secretary that he was only to be contacted in case of a major emergency. Now, when the day of vacation finally arrived, he and his family were excited. They checked into the condo and immediately after putting down the suitcases, the pastor got a phone call from his secretary and she was calling to let him know that a sweet elderly lady in the congregation had just broken her toe and that she wanted the pastor to know about it and to call her to pray for its healing.

Steve Harrelson:               Now, many years later in the life of this same pastor, he and his family again really needed a break and they just couldn’t wait for vacation time to arrive because they needed their souls refreshed. They needed some time together as a family. So the pastor and his family went to the beach and as soon as they checked into the condo, he got a call that a young man in the community had passed away. And because he administered to the young man, he was asked to do the funeral, the pastor immediately had a broken heart and a lot of mixed emotions, not only because the fact that he loved the young man and he knew that the family was in pain obviously, but also because the pastor knew that this was the only vacation that he and his family would have, and now it was going to be interrupted by the need for him to go home.

Steve Harrelson:               And so the pastor found himself angry and upset because of the situation, and he felt torn between exhaustion, a sense of pastoral love and the potential for disappointment with his own family. Ladies and gentlemen, that pastor was me. I’ve heard so many things from pastor friends of mine, they’ll make statements like, man, I’m so exhausted, or I feel like I’m burned out. I’m feeling overwhelmed. I struggle disengaging from ministry and I feel like I’m not able to be there for my spouse and family. And oftentimes we just don’t want to admit how we feel because we don’t want it to come across as pastors like we’re complaining or that we’re somehow failing to lean closer into Jesus. I believe that most pastors need to admit that they’ve experienced one or more of these feelings. So I have a question for my listening audience. Maybe there’s a pastor out there that’s listening and you’re able to identify with this maybe your church member, and you didn’t know that pastors had this type of struggle. Well, George Barna reported in 2022 that the percentage of pastors that considered quitting the ministry the previous year was 42%. That is telling now maybe you’re feeling this way again, maybe you’re a church member and you know how hard your pastor labors and you know that he and his family need a break. That’s what our show is about today, learning how to rest, pastoral rest, shutting down from doing ministry. With all that being said, it’s my honor to introduce our special guest today, pastor Gary Weber. Welcome brother Gary.

Gary Weaber:     Welcome. Glad to be here.

Steve Harrelson:               Well, thank you Gary. In this segment we want to focus on the problem with pastoring. Now, first of all, in your professional opinion, what are some unfair expectations that churches often have of their pastors?

Gary Weaber:     Well, before I answer that, let me just make a general statement. There are as many expectations as there are people in the church. They all have some level of expectation based on their background experience, some positive, what they want a pastor to be, and of course some what they don’t want ’em to be because of negative experiences they’ve had. But just if I could, lemme just share a few things. One is just to be perfect, to have it all together. And of course what that causes the pastor to do is to learn to hide and put on a facade and feeling like he really should have it all together. Another is to be always available. That’s like, Hey, 24 7, if somebody has a need, I need to be there for them. It’s my job to be there, to be there for every sickness, every hospital stay, every issue to do something, to address every complaint.

Gary Weaber:     Lemme just tell a quick personal story. So when the show’s over, I get to drive to the hospital and pick my wife off from surgery. So she had surgery on Thursday, had a little bit of complications. She’s still in the hospital and my pastor never visited and honestly I did not expect him to. He text, he kept up, he said, is there anything we can do? But let me tell you what happened. The body showed up, the groups were a part of showed up. People have said, what can I do? They prayed, some people have come, and I honestly did not have an expectation that my pastor needed to be showing up. Imagine if has to show up for everything and every need.

Steve Harrelson:               Wow. I think that’s awesome that the church body showed up and that is a very unique, but I believe biblical perspective. Gary, how much of this do you think the pastor brings on himself?

Gary Weaber:     So I think we’ve allowed ourselves to believe as pastor that we’re the most important person in the church. And there’s been a lot of that. Part of that expectation is we’re supposed to be the main speaker, we’re supposed to be the one to gets the vision, we’re supposed to one to have the answers. And I think we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that, especially the role called senior pastor, we’ve allowed ourself to believe that we are crucial and without us, the church falls apart. And so partly because of that, I think we’ve not done such a good job of training our people and the idea of the priesthood of all believers and that everyone has parts, but even more than that, even if we believe that everyone has a part, I think we’ve not raised up and empowered leaders to help shepherd to be with us in part of that duty instead of putting it all on this one person.

Steve Harrelson:               Gary, we’ve only got about a minute before the break, but between churches having unrealistic expectations toward pastors and pastors really having unhealthy expectations of themselves, can you just take a few seconds and describe what type of culture that creates in the church?

Gary Weaber:     Yeah, it creates this unhealthy hierarchy. It’s this one man, senior pastor guy, and it’s just this over emphasis on the senior pastor. And what we lose is literally that the leadership is shared and the weight is shared, the shepherding is shared, the care is shared, and it spreads it around as God intends and as we see in scripture.

Steve Harrelson:               Excellent. Well ladies and gentlemen, whenever we come back after our first break, we’re going to discuss some possible solutions to remedy this potentially unhealthy dynamic. I hope that this first segment has wet your appetite about what we’re going to be talking about. Please stay tuned as we continue with our special guest today, pastor Gary Weaver, in just a few moments. Few moments. Okay, we’re back for our second segment on Standing the Gap. Today. In our first segment, we briefly got into the subject of an unhealthy dynamic for pastors and churches that can potentially lead to dysfunction and even maybe devastation within the body. The question is what can we do about it? Now, Gary, you shepherd shepherds and you shepherd churches every day. So let’s talk about a path to healthy longevity and success in ministry. First of all, can you take a few minutes and just have one of these fireside conversations with our pastors out there? There’s a lot of pastors, Gary, that are probably thinking about throwing in the towel. What would you say to them at this point?

Gary Weaber:     I would say, please, you’re so needed. Your gifts are needed, your skills are needed, and you’re just such an important part. Notice that’s an important part of a body and it’s just crucial to give up. We just don’t realize that as a culture and as a Christian man, we’re just taught to be self-reliant, to have it all together. We’re taught to be singular individuals. One of the things we desperately need to help us when we’re feeling that is we really need, we need a mentor. We need somebody to walk alongside somebody that’s been further down the road. They’ve done things well, like myself, made mistakes, but they can listen. They can give us a place to process other than our wife, which is an important place by the way. They can help us handle issues and maybe think about how can we handle it so it is productive and not hurtful skills maybe we haven’t developed yet. We just don’t have to do it on our own. God has given us godly successful in the right sense of the word leaders to help us along.

Steve Harrelson:               Amen. Well, Gary, we know that there’s a lot of different forms of church polity and governance in American churches among Bible believing churches. I’d like for us to lay aside specific polity for a moment and can you take a few minutes and really describe to us what a healthy and functional leadership environment looks like within your average local church?

Gary Weaber:     Yeah, thanks. That’s a fantastic question and we’re going to go, whether you say elders, deacons, we have this governance board, whatever you want to call it. There’s two things I’d say that are crucially important. One is the pastor has to lower his level of sense of self importance. He just has to stop thinking himself as the guy, as the needed guy, the only guy, the main guy. And the second thing would be we have to be very intentional about developing leaders and sharing the load. No matter where you land, you’re always going to notice that it is a plurality of leadership. And so forget the title. It’s a shared leadership, not me with wait and then people to help me. It’s a shared leadership.

Steve Harrelson:               Interesting. Would you agree with me that there’s a lot of churches, maybe especially smaller churches that will view the pastor as the paid employee, and so we want to get the most bang for our buck out of them and the type of unhealthy dynamic that creates. And as you mentioned before, the pastor often will play into that and believe that. Do you think that that leads to yet more unhealthy dynamic within the church?

Gary Weaber:     Steve? Absolutely. There is no most important person in the church, but one, and by the way, his name’s Jesus Christ. He’s the savior, he’s the head of the church. And I think on paper we’d all agree Jesus is the head of the church. But what we’ve done is we haven’t done that. We have created this hierarchical structure where we raised the pastor up to the main leader and biblically under the headship of Christ. What we’re always going to find is healthy leadership is always shared leadership. It is always a plurality of leaders working together, sharing the load. All the expectation doesn’t come down into one person.

Gary Weaber:     He’s not the most crucial person. I mean, think of it this way. So you got to have this pastor leader and he comes to our church and then along the way he moves on. And so what do we need the next guy to come in and take his role? Maybe somebody that’s taking it in a little different direction, a little different idea. And if we have this developed leadership structure, then when a senior pastor role walks away, there’s something missed. But the body doesn’t fall apart. The body is still functioning like the body leaders are still making decisions. There’s not this vacuum of either power or decision making. Didn’t know if you have a follow up on that in any way.

Steve Harrelson:               Well, I remember in a conversation that we had, and I love interacting with you in this way. I was explaining to you that about nine years ago, whenever I made the move to go into the senior pastorate, again, I had been an associate pastor for several years and I really loved my pastor that I served with. He and I had and continue to this day to have an incredible relationship with each other. It was a great working environment. One of the things that I enjoyed about being an associate pastor was that I could use my gifts. I could live out my passions every day. And the book didn’t stop with me, Gary. In other words, everyone loved me. I didn’t have to make those hard decisions at times. And then I stepped back into the senior pastorate and I got to tell you, I pastored the best church in the world that I know of right now, but yet I felt a lot of pressure that I believe I was putting on myself in ministry and I missed being an associate pastor.

Steve Harrelson:               And so I reached the point where it’s like the Lord Jesus spoke to my heart and he said to me, obviously not with an audible voice, but within the inner man, it’s as if he said to me, why don’t you let me be your pastor and you just show up to the church every day and check in with me and see what I have for you. And I got to tell you, Gary, that lets so much pressure, and as you and I were talking about this, you made the statement that you’ve already made to our listening audience today that the pastor is not the most important man in the congregation. And then you also said that to believe that he is in a way is to step into God’s role. Now, can you explain to us what you meant by that?

Gary Weaber:     Yeah, so if we give ourself too much power and credence, I mean this is Jesus’s church. It’s his truth. It’s the spirit of God that works in this. It is, we believe in one Corinthians 12, all the gifts are important and there’s a multitude of gifts besides the role of shepherd and none are more important. I mean, we say all that, we believe it all on paper, but do I really believe that, and let me put it this way, I’m just going to stir up a little bit with this comment where of, in the Bible you described the role of a senior pastor and then in the role of someone else on staff pastor, are we talking about guys that are gifted with different abilities and giftings and isn’t just like what we call this job description sort of a manmade construct, not sort of, it is a manmade construct.

Gary Weaber:     I mean, what we’re really talking about is why can’t you be the same co-pastor as the senior pastor as you were when you’re on staff with somebody, why can’t you be there for one another? Use your gifts uniquely and if you need to be gone, someone steps into your role or handle something that needs to be handled. We’ve just created this unhealthy hierarchy inside the local church with senior pastors on top. And I’m not denying I’m going to get in trouble with your audience. I’m not denying that there’s importance there, or maybe he has a role of looking out for staff, but creating this, he’s the most important guy and he has to carry all the weight that is just culturally promoted. In some ways it’s nice because wow, I’m important, I’m successful, I need it. But we burn out because it’s not healthy.

Steve Harrelson:               Instead of a biblical model, more of a corporate business model as if you’ve got a board of directors sometimes and the pastor is the paid CEO and he’s expected to perform. We kind of hinted at that while ago, but you asked me a very interesting question one time. You said, what shape is your table where you sit down and have meetings? And what you were getting at is it needed to be at least figuratively speaking a round table. And then you began to instruct me on what it means to build up leaders. I know we’re going to be talking about that in another segment today, but that is something, Gary that has really hit home with me ever since you began ministering to my own heart about this. And it is the need to in a lot of ways, work myself out of a job as I build up leaders, as I pour into them, as I disciple and as I don’t hold everything to myself, but leadership is empowered and you have a council of, like you said, some people may call it elders. We can just call them leaders where we can sit down and we can discuss these things together. I know that’s important. Is there anything that you’d like to say concerning that?

Gary Weaber:     So you’ll never work yourself out of a job. The point is that part of the job is to train and empower leaders. It is to share leadership. It’s to develop people to know how to shepherd, to know how to take care of care, to be able to step up and help with the hard decisions or the things that have to be done so that we aren’t doing it by ourselves. It is the sense of the round table, not even I’m setting it the head of the table. You’re there to support my ideas. There’s just a lot of strength and power in wisdom that sits when you have different men with different gifts, different abilities, different perspectives, different personality. There’s just a lot of strength in Wises decision making and to wise leadership and to help a body go to where it needs to go.

Steve Harrelson:               Excellent. Ladies and gentlemen, whenever we return, we’re going to get even more practical. We’re going to talk about practical steps that the pastor can take to achieve the rest that he needs in ministry. You don’t want to miss the next segment on Standing the Gap today. Welcome back everyone. This is Pastor Steve Harrelson and we are entering into our next segment today on Standing the Gap. Our theme today is Pastoral rest, shutting down from doing ministry, and we have Pastor Gary Weber is our special guest today. Brother Gary. The pastor teaches though he must solicit his own classes. He heals though without pills or a knife sometimes he’s a lawyer, often he’s a social worker. He’s something of an editor, a bit of a philosopher and entertainer, a salesman, a decorative peace for public functions. And he’s supposed to be a scholar. He visits the sick, he marries people, he buries the dead.

Steve Harrelson:               He labors to console those who are sorrowing and to admonish those who are sinning. And he tries to say sweet and be that way. Even when chided for not doing his duty. He plans programs, he appoints committees when he can get them. He spends considerable time in keeping people out of each other’s hair and between times he prepares a sermon and then preaches it on Sunday to those who don’t happen to have any other engagement. Then on Monday, he smiles when someone jokes with him and says, man, what a job. You only have to work one day a week. I tell you what, even reading that, Gary is exhausting. And I want to tell you in my 20 plus years of being in ministry, there have been so many times where I have just been so mentally and emotionally exhausted even during a time covid that it’s hard to maintain joy in ministry. And Gary, I know that you would agree with me, pastors can be among the most stubborn individuals and if we’re going to learn how to rest, I know that our mindset needs to change. So can you take some time and share with us how a pastor’s mindset needs to change? Because even as you’ve been coaching me, I find that it really takes a lot of effort to start putting these things into practice.

Gary Weaber:     So we’ll probably take more time for each question as we go. At the end, we get very, very practical. But the first thing we have to say is we just have to decide, look, we are not to be available 24 7 for everything and every one. That’s just not sustainable. We will burn out. We will be exhausted. So we say we cannot be available all the time for anyone and everything unless we’re willing to say, look, this is not good and I’m not going to continue with this. Nothing is going to change. And then just kind of on the practical side after that, it’s okay. So let’s say we have 50 hours a week to involve or 55 or 60 in ministry. What is the best use of the time that God has given me based on the gift he’s given me to be able to impact the church he’s placed me in so I’m not available 24 7 to everyone and everything. And then what is the best use of my time? I mean, there’s only so many things I can do and it’s helpful to think and prioritize like, okay, these are the four most important things I can do for the church for a ministry.

Steve Harrelson:               That’s good. So what if a pastor doesn’t do this? Gary, what if a pastor persists in burning the can at both ends? What do you think, in your opinion, your professional opinion, what lies ahead for him? What lies ahead for his family?

Gary Weaber:     Well, I’m about to describe what some of your listeners are going to go, oh, that’s me. That’s how you started the show. First off, it’s exhaustion and burnout. We’re not present with both our time and are emotionally available for our family. More times than not, I’ve heard of guys I say, my wife has said, you’re not present, you’re not here. You’re sitting here, but you’re not here. And our personal relationship, God suffers. We’re so busy that we are exhausted and we’re not really going to the one that loves us, the one that empowers us, the one that has everything we need.

Steve Harrelson:               I got you, brother. Alright, so this is a big one and it’s so very important. Can you please explain to us the Sabbath principle because God gave it for a reason.

Gary Weaber:     Yeah. So Sabbath, the word Sabbath simply means to rest for deceased. So in Exodus, I’m just going to read the scripture there. Is that okay? Are you still there?

Steve Harrelson:               Yes, absolutely. Go ahead.

Gary Weaber:     Thought they cut out. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy and the Sabbath just means the rest day or cease day six days, you shall labor and do all of your work. But the seventh day is a rest day or a cease day of the Lord. Your God. In it you shall not do any work you or your son or your daughter or your male or your female servant or your cattle or your surgeon who stays with you. So it is intended to be this day that I don’t do any work whatsoever. And of course the model of that. So you go back to Genesis one and two, and that’s what he quotes in verse 11, where in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth and the sea and all that is in it. And he rested on the seventh day, therefore the Lord said, bless the Sabbath day and made it holy. And while there’s not a New Testament mandate that says, Hey, we’ve got to have a Sabbath, it’s required. It is just a spiritually wise practice. It is the opportunity to trust ourselves to stop working.

Steve Harrelson:               So Gary, what does that look like in practice? I agree with you and I know that a lot of pastors would agree I need to do this, but then life kicks in. What are some practical things, even though they may be difficult steps, and we may kind of rebel against the idea at first, what can the pastor do to change his ways so that he can achieve rest? What does that look like?

Gary Weaber:     Yeah, so let me just talk you through some practical things. First, we have to commit to rest day. I mean, we have to go, look, this is my off day. I’m going to keep it sacred. I’m not going to do anything that’s church work. I’m not going to read a book on leadership. I’m not going to go by the office. I’m not going to respond to a call. I’m literally shutting off from my work. If you or I grew up back in Bible times and we went out in the field and we were resting, it was easy. When you’re done, you’re not working in the field, you’re just going to go home and rest. But much of the pastor’s work is mental. And so even if we take a off day, I find most guys have trouble shutting off their brain, shutting off their mind.

Gary Weaber:     And some things that help that are to begin to kind of unwind the night before to kind offload things that we’re struggling with or that are going on. And another is just to stay off electronics. You get on, I’m checking my Facebook, somebody made a comment, takes you back to work, there’s an email, oh, I’ll deal with it tomorrow. But it’s from the person always complains. And so as hard as it is, I would say stay off all electronics, just don’t do it. And a practical suggestion I’ve always given is get a burner phone, a go phone, right? It’s very cheap and you just pay for the minutes to use so your wife can connect with you on your off day, but you’re not going to be like, we’re not going to be going to our workplace, which everything’s on this phone, right? Text, emails, Facebook, and we just have to shut down and we just have to relax ourselves. Any follow up with that?

Steve Harrelson:               So as you and I have discussed these things, you’re absolutely right. It irks me whenever I get a text or an email as I’m scrolling through, I really have a hard time waiting until tomorrow. I know that I need to, but I don’t want to disappoint someone. And again, this is one of those areas that I personally struggle in because I don’t want to disappoint someone. And those are some things that you and I have talked through. And so you would say, well, what is it that you enjoy doing? And you would encourage me to do things like turn my phone off. Although that shocked me when I first heard it. I have a volunteer associate pastor, and so he has agreed to be on call on my day off. And so I went and I took your suggestion, I got the go phone, I gave him the number, and I said, okay, you’re on call.

Steve Harrelson:               If there are any emergencies, then feel free to call me. And I cannot tell you, Gary, how liberating it is to ship my phone off at this point, to not be looking at emails, to not be looking at text. I also got off of Facebook now I still have my Facebook account because we have a couple of private pages within our church that I need to post on, but I don’t scroll through Facebook anymore. And I’m able to take all that time that I used to use on social media and now I’m using it reading, but reading things that are going to help me. Sometimes it’s a fiction book, sometimes it’s just a book on the Christian life that can build me up personally. What are some other activities that pastors can do? Maybe sports, maybe hunting, hiking, whatever. What do you think would be some good practical things that they can do?

Gary Weaber:     Yeah, first off, I just want to repeat. Do no work, meaning do no church work. So I like to cut the grass on my Sabbath day because it’s physical. That’s the day my wife and I used to go. We used to go on, kids were in school. We would go off to a date to the park for the day, get out and enjoy fresh air. Go sit at a lake with a bobber and a hook and no bait with a cup of tea and watch that little bobber float around for three or four hours maybe just to reflect and enjoy the beauty of creation. It’s anything but that’s going to not take you to church work. It’s getting away from that. And let me follow up. I think we have time for this before a break, let’s just talk about vacation. So commit to a rest day. But then the other thing is I’ve met with guys, it’s like I barely get a week’s worth of vacation. Well, I feel I have to preach when I get back and I’m thinking about church and I can’t let it go. So I think at least two weeks of vacation is good. Knowing who’s going to cover you while you’re gone is good. Sometimes not walking right back into the pulpit is good. It’s okay to take a real legitimate break and to be off for vacation.

Steve Harrelson:               Amen. Wow. Ladies and gentlemen, when we return from the break, we’re going to turn our attention to churches and other leaders. What can churches do to help pastors to help themselves? We’ll approach this in our final segment. Stay tuned. We’ll be back in a moment. Welcome back to our final segment today on Standing the Gap. I’m Pastor Steve Harrelson and we have been discussing pastoral rest, shutting down from doing ministry, brother Gary. In our final segment today, we want to turn to other leaders in our churches besides ourselves, and we want to give some practical advice to elders or deacons or church leadership boards on how to help our stubborn pastors that love us so much. We want to help them because we don’t want to see them place ministry over their own walk with Christ or over their families or over their health. And so we ended the last segment by talking about encouraging necessary vacation rest. Can we go back to that idea and tell us how important that is?

Gary Weaber:     Yeah, there’s nothing worse than you have a pastor you like and he burns out and then you’re out a pastor. And so for the church’s sake as well as for the pastor and family’s, it’s just important to have this extended time where we’re just not ministering. Not just one day, but we used to take three weeks and back in the early days, it would take me a week to unwind. I’d get a week of vacation and I have a week. I’m thinking about church life, which really wasn’t all that healthy. No, it wasn’t healthy at all. And what I learned to do is to begin to shut down and release things so that about a day into vacation, I was actually vacationing. And I find I got to a place where two weeks felt like three and one week felt like two. And I’d love to coach any pastor that wants to know how to pull that off.

Gary Weaber:     But it’s really, really amazing. But we really have to take true vacation time. That is, we need somebody to cover needs that come up. We need to make sure we know who’s in charge. We need to get the pulpit covered so we’re not walking back out of vacation on a Friday and preaching on a Sunday. One pastor, I minister two, I mean in his case it’s like, well, I feel I have to be there. It’s expected of me. And maybe, but that’s, that’s not a valid expectation. I think a healthy expectation is my pastor needs some downtime with his family and rest so that he can be all that he needs to be and his walk with Christ and in his role to help us as a shepherd.

Steve Harrelson:               Notice that you said something very important. You said that you need to prepare yourself to be able to take a vacation. You need to take some practical steps ahead of time in your vacation so that you can enjoy your vacation. I’ve noticed that you’ve also said the same thing to me when it comes to my day off. You’re coaching me right now and how to disengage my brain so that I can enjoy my day off. So there’s something to be said about learning how to disengage your mind. You’ve said some practical things that I can do. Is there anything pressing that I need to do so that I’m not worried about it on the following day? Do I have all my bases covered? As you were talking about this, it occurred to me that if there’s no one to care for the church or to step up and lead in my absence, it really is a failure on my part to train up leaders. Let’s move on. Kind of in that same vein, what practical advice would you give to leaders that are present in the church?

Gary Weaber:     So even in a small church, there’s other people that are godly. Hopefully it’s not just the senior pastors, the only person with any kind of godly, but let me just make four suggestions, practical suggestions. One is we have to decide, look, I’m going to share the load with my pastor. I’m going to step up and learn to help be a part of the shepherd care even when he’s here and especially when he’s not. Second suggestion is to develop realistic expectations of our pastor. If we’re a part of a deacon board, elder board, whatever our polity board, our leadership structure, let’s go back to the scripture and go like, what’s a realistic expectation? He’s got 45 to 50 hours in a week realistically to put into ministry. If you want him to stay healthy and put the other things in his life he needs with family and just self-care and food and sleep and the things, go with it.

Gary Weaber:     I know in my case, 20 hours went into a Sunday morning sermon and then I taught a small group. I led a bible study. So the prep for, that’s another 10, 12 hours. So when it’s done and I’ve got administrative things, visiting people, leadership issues. So set realistic expectations. Third, it’s educate the congregation of what does it mean to rest and look after our pastor and sharing the loath. We have to educate the body. And I think part of the responsibility of a lead pastor, he is the teaching guy to help do that. But it’s also the body responsibility of the deacons or the elders to stand shoulder and shoulder and say, Hey, this is what it needs to be like. And even if somebody’s coming up to educate them on why that’s important. And then that comes to a fourth practical suggestion, which is we have to defend our pastor against those unrealistic expectations or charges. He wasn’t there for me. He didn’t call when we returned his call and say, Hey, he’s just one man. He’s only got so many hours and there’s a whole body of people here that want to minister to you. And so it’s literally the job of leadership to go, I got to share the load. I got to develop realistic expectations. I have to educate my church family and I have to defend our pastor from all these expecting too much.

Steve Harrelson:               Alright, so Gary, those are four really tremendous helps. So let’s put the spotlight back on the pastor for a second. So if the pastor is fortunate enough and blessed enough to have people step up that are doing these four things, what does the pastor need to do at that point?

Gary Weaber:     Well, he needs to realize that he has people that can help. He doesn’t have to be the guy to back off, to not feel like he has to prove himself, show himself, be there, make everybody happy. It’s to put himself back into a more realistic work week with more realistic internal expectations. So he just doesn’t wear out. And if we don’t change our internals, we can have people in place to help us. But if we still think we have to be that guy and we have to meet everybody’s need, we’re going to still feel wore out because our job is more of an emotional wearing job. It’s not as much of a physical action job.

Steve Harrelson:               In other words, pastors just need to cooperate if they’re blessed to have that type of leadership. But we only have a couple of minutes left, brother Gary, but this is extremely important. Can you take a couple of minutes and explain to us about a pastoral sabbatical?

Gary Weaber:     So yes, I can. I got my first one at 26 years. It never dawned on me. And then someone said they started reading about sabbaticals. So that’s how our conversation got started. And of course now we have a policy that was created by our elders. And every seven years we are entitled to a 30 day sabbatical, and that’s fully paid. And the word sabbatical comes from Sabbath. It means rest. And because pastors have so much demand, it’s not an extended vacation, it’s the chance to just let go of the weight of the pressures of ministry. There’s just a lot. And Paul refers to it about all he went through. And on top of that, there’s the worry and concern for all the churches. And we have a concern for, we care about our sheep, we care about everyone in the body, and it’s a chance to let it go, let it go down.

Gary Weaber:     And so if you’re a church that’s never done sabbatical stuff and do some research, Steve can probably let you know how I can send you a little bit of information. The church wrote now on the employee handbook, there’s all our pastors, not just senior pastor, anybody on staff. They get four weeks to six weeks every seven years. And trust me, they need it to be healthy. They need it to be able to unbreak and let go of the pressure so that they really can come back and be all in for what God’s called into at the place they’ve called them.

Steve Harrelson:               Amen. Father Gary, you are withstanding stone ministry and you are all about, you have a heart for shepherding shepherds and for helping churches to see the need for good leadership structure and good relationships with their pastors. I’m so grateful to you and your ministry to me. If people want to find out more about what we’ve been talking about today, you can take a look at Standing Stone Ladies and gentlemen, that’s all the time that we have for today, brother Gary, thank you so much for being our special guest today and for being such a special friend to me. May the Lord bless all of you. I’m Pastor Steve Harrelson and thanks for tuning in to Stand in the Gap today.