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The Shepherding Pastor

A main challenge to a healthy pastoral relationship is in dealing with conflict. A pastor will have to engage in conflict with every effort of ministry. Every relationship that exists in ministry involves the pastor either directly or indirectly. The conflicts that involve the pastor directly include personal encounters with individuals as well as with groups. These conflicts between the pastor and congregation can arise at any moment and range between which direction the parking lot stripes lay to the vision statement of the church. Other indirect conflicts that draw the pastor in are those such as arbitrating a conflict between two members or two clichés. Still there are other conflicts that arise between the pastor’s family and a congregation that are probably the most trying of all. In these areas the pastor not only has to deal with the conflict between the initial parties, but the friends and families of those involved as well.

Another challenge to the pastoral ministry is in the perception of availability. Availability takes on a different definition with each parishioner. To some, being available means keeping respectable office hours and being present at all church functions. To others it is in the pastor’s awareness of their life situations and how often the minister is present at those moments of crisis. And to some it is in how well a pastor relates to them while he preaches on Sunday morning and if they get a handshake on the way out. These varied definitions of availability boil down to how each parishioner views the pastor’s interest in their life. If they feel like the pastor is concerned with their well-being then they are more receptive to the ministry. If their perception is that the pastor is too busy for them or that they are overlooked then there is a slight barrier to be breached in order to minister effectively. A minister cannot cater to the microscopic desires of each member in a congregation; however, a sense of being available to the congregation is necessary in order to minister on a more personal level.

Discipleship is another challenge to the effectiveness of ministry. A minister has to be able to correct a congregation as well as individuals in order to help them mature in their Christian walk. The need for correcting false doctrine or poor living practices cannot go unattended. How well a pastor can correct a congregation is directly related to how much trust and confidence he has won in their lives. Once again relationship development is seen as a pivotal point in the forward progress of ministry. For a pastor to overcome an individual’s emotional tie to something such as folk theology or to be allowed a glimpse into an individual’s living practices for discipleship purposes, a relationship must first be established that will facilitate that purpose. That relationship has to be one of earned trust. Discipleship can be accomplished.

Finally, for a pastor to be able to ministry to an individual’s intimate spiritual needs, that individual must choose to allow the minister access. The hidden needs that lay beneath the façade of everyday living must be breached. It will not suffice to only preach inspiring messages and maintain programs of numerical growth. The pastor, as describe metaphorically in the scriptures, must be able to mend the wounds of the congregation. These wounds sometimes are visible for all to see, yet many lay hidden beneath thick layers of wool. How does the pastor develop a spiritually successful ministry? This is accomplished when the congregation accepts the pastor as the one being used by God guide, provide, protect, and be a part of the healing process in their spiritual lives.


Originally published on the Pneuma Foundation (parent organization of website on January 27, 2004.

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2017

About the Author: David Redden, D.Min (Pentecostal Theological Seminary), M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), is a US Army chaplain with years of pastoral experience in crisis counseling, teaching, and preaching. LinkedIn

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