By Kyle Matthews
Minister of Pastoral Care
First Baptist Church, Greenville 

After years of writing church newsletter articles admonishing our congregation to care well for others and themselves, the installation of a new senior pastor at our place has made me realize a glaring omission! I’ve never written a word about minister care, and it’s long overdue!

While notes and cards are always encouraging to a minister— and while I’ve never seen one refuse chocolate— church members might be surprised to know that the things that us ministers appreciate the most are not things at all, but habits of relating. I share these suggestions knowing how much we all want to care for the ministers who care for us! 

The gift of being direct: Some people are so conflict-averse that they have a habit of routinely going to a third party in order to avoid direct communication. Therapists have a word for that: “triangulation,” and there’s a reason it rhymes with “strangulation.” It’s toxic to relationships, it’s gossip by another name, it erodes trust, and it’s a way of avoiding our most basic responsibility to be honest with one another. Jesus said “go directly” (Mt. 5:24) and Paul wrote: speak the truth in love. 

The gift of utilizing the staff structure: There is too much going on at the church for each minister to know the details of what is happening outside of their areas of responsibility. So, it’s a gift when church members familiarize themselves with how the church is organized and go directly to the right person or department. Most answers are readily available at the website, in the weekly newsletter or church bulletin, or the main number where you can be directed to the right office. Some administrative assistant are better equipped to help you with a particular issue than the minister! 

The gift of rationing communiques: During the pandemic when ministers were working from home, we often used our cell phones and personal emails out of necessity. As we try to return to a more sustainable work/life balance, it is a gift to us when members use our church office contact information and choose modes of communication that suit the urgency of the need. For example:

  • Email is great for non-urgent business because it give the minister a record of correspondence, but email only exacerbates conflict when used to express a criticism or complaint. In person meetings are better!
  • When emailing, please avoid hitting “reply all” unless necessary! It adds another email to the inboxes of everyone in the thread.
  • Texts are good for quick questions and reminders, but they are terrible for long conversations or important information for which we need a reliable record.
  • Emergency phone calls after-hours and on weekends need to be made— not to the minister you happen to know best— but to the minister who is On Call through the Pastoral Care Emergency extension.
  • Our church office phone numbers are always preferable to our cell phones. 

The gift of sharing your background: Because they know their ministers so well, church members often assume their minister can retain names, dates, family relations, and medical histories. We relish the chance to get to know you, but we also need the grace of not being expected to remember everything, and the occasional reminder is a deeply appreciated gift!

The gift of prayer: Of course, the #1 thing you can do for us is to simply pause to pray for us. Prayer helps us all to examine our needs and feelings before we speak or react, to seek wisdom about how best to engage others, and to consider what’s best for member and minister alike!

Kyle Matthews