Pastors are Vital Resources

boxed christmas ornaments

+By Pr. Heather Culuris, Synod Minister

As December turned to January, our family followed our normal holiday tradition and carefully put our Christmas decorations away as the Christmas season faded into the Season of Epiphany. We take time to label and pack away the special ornaments that have been handed down by generations of family members. We gently put other ornaments into boxes that are filled with memories of places we have traveled as a family. Then we move onto the unique ornaments that belong to each of our children that show their interests through the years, like tractor ornaments or ballerina ornaments. We take the time and effort to do this so that these treasured items can continue to decorate our tree year after year. We care for these treasures so that we can continue to find joy and meaning in them.

Our congregations also have many resources and treasures that we are called to care for as communities of faith. We have our buildings, that we faithfully clean and paint and do other jobs to keep the buildings in good condition. Think about some of your recent updates on your church property. Maybe you have replaced the carpet or fixed the furnace or replaced the roof or done numerous other projects to care for the maintenance and well-being of your church’s physical building.

Many of our rural congregations also have cemeteries that they tend to, the resting places of those who have gone before us in faith. Our care for our cemeteries might include mowing the grass, keeping meticulous records, caring for flowers, and straightening grave markers. All these actions show our care for the people buried in these sacred spaces.

Our congregations' programs are also a resource that we work to care for. Whether it is our Bible studies or youth group, Sunday School or vacation Bible school, we strive to be creative and active so that our members of all ages have ways to grow in faith. Another resource our congregations pay attention to is that of our finances. Our congregations and leadership rightfully spend a lot of time focusing on pledges and budgets and how to be fiscally responsible in our context. Volunteers and staff are yet another resource in our congregations. We spend time nominating and recruiting them, training them, helping them succeed as teachers or musicians or council members or property board members. Our congregations of all sizes are blessed with amazing resources to fulfill God’s mission in our world.

Yet, how often do we think about our pastors and deacons as vital resources that we are called to care for? We know that in the ELCA at this moment in time, there are double the churches looking for pastors and deacons as there are ordained leaders available to be called. We know that the numbers of people enrolling in seminary are lower, much lower, than in years past. Our pastors and deacons are immense resources in our congregations, our communities, and in our greater church. They are not just the “employees” of one congregation, but serve God’s mission in very particular locations, but also in the greater church and world.

So just like we spend much time caring for and stewarding the other very concrete resources of our congregations, how do we care for and steward the amazing resources that are our pastors and deacons?

  • Show appreciation: Maybe it means sending a simple email after a sermon that made a difference for you. Perhaps, it is mailing a card that says, “Thank you for all you do”. It could mean dropping by the church office unexpectedly with your pastor’s or deacon’s favorite treat.
  • Honor days off and vacation and continuing education time.
  • Take your congregation’s commitment to fair compensation and paying synod guidelines seriously.
  • Encourage your leader to spend time in collegial and professional settings with other rostered deacons and pastors.

These are just a few of the ways that you can care for the amazing resources that are your pastors and deacons, a vital resource for your congregation, but also for the mission of Christ’s love and grace in our world.

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