With apologies to Mitch Albom, here’s my take on the five people a pastor needs in church.
1. A friend. Because pastors are human beings, we need a social network of friends. However, some pastors continue to believe that a pastor can’t be friends with people in his or her congregation. A pastor should not play favorites among church members, but that is far different than valuing the friendship of some members. Friends are the ones who keep your kids, invite you out to eat, drop by unannounced and care about what’s happening in your life. Friends know the real you, and pastors need friends in church who know us in all of our humanity.
2. A counselor. Pastors need friends, but they also need counselors. Usually you only need one or two, but you need a wise, thoughtful person in the congregation who will give you an honest assessment of your ideas, vision and goals. The Bible itself presents the idea that there is “wisdom in many counselors.”
3. A pray-er. Not a prayer, but a pray-er – someone who prays for you and the church. Daily. Regularly. Fervently. Paul encourages young Timothy to offer prayers for leaders, and church leaders need people who pray regularly for them. The legendary story of Charles Spurgeon’s “power plant” – the prayer room at his church – needs to be realized in our churches today. Pastors should be at the top of somebody’s prayer list.
4. A critic. Of course, critics seem to be in abundant supply in many churches, but pastors do need critics, too. They offer the counterpoint to our ideas, vision and dreams. While praise is wonderful, we learn from criticism, especially when it is honest, helpful and loving.
5. A supporter. In every church I have served, I have enjoyed great support from wonderful people. Supporters aren’t just fans of the pastor. Supporters are genuinely enthusiastic about the pastor’s leadership, the direction of the church and the vision the church shares for ministry. Supporters provide the labor for our dreams together, enabling the church to move forward.
Chuck Warnock is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Virginia.