The Benefits Of Honest Praise

One of the counsellors that I spoke about clergy wellbeing to said that it is really important to talk to lay people about encouraging the clergy. I slightly ignored what she said – I guess I wondered who might talk to the lay people – is it the clergy? How would that sound?Praise me… Encourage me… I’m not needy, honestly! Mmmm.

Two things have made me come back to the words that she said that I discounted. The first is an article entitled, ‘Appreciation: A Pastor’s Emotional Fuel’, in it the author says:

For some strange reason, people tend to be silent about positive changes in the church until something goes against their grain. In many cases the result is that the pastor becomes tentative, uncertain, and feels overworked and underappreciated.

Gary Gonzales

The article is worth reading in full – he talks about two issues ‘The Omnipotent Pastor’ when he was trying to live up to impossible expectations and ‘The Invisible Man’ where he was working really hard but people in the congregation were complaining that they didn’t see him and there was the hurt of rumours circulating. He got to the end of himself ans then this happened:

It was hard, but finally I brought the issue before our board: “I can’t do everything people seem to expect. I am a limited human resource. I need your encouragement, counsel, and help—and everyone else’s, for that matter—if this ministry is going to function as it should.”

That frank admission prompted several months of positive, productive dialogue with the board. We discussed my role, but also the unique strengths and weaknesses of each board member. We sought specific ways to nurture one another’s personal growth. Each elder ended up with a terse, well-written job description that was the product of group process, and hence, we all sensed we were part of the ministry.

It made me realise that often we struggle on without seeing the help of the PCC (in the case of Anglican Churches).

The second thing that made me think about appreciation is a book I’m reading at the moment by Martin Seligman called ‘Flourish‘ who finds that you can tell which companies will succeed depending on the ratio of positive words to negative. He says that that ratio needs to be about 3:1 in business but in marriages it needs to be much higher – 5:1. The numbers don’t really matter, but it got me thinking about how we all can cause each other to flourish in churches – how kind words and loving attitudes make such a difference. And clergy are simply not immune to this. Perhaps we need to talk frankly about the needs of our clergy – or to be even more direct, perhaps as clergy we need to be much more willing to be vulnerable.

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