Pastors Aren’t Toilet Paper
The elders who direct the affairs of the church are well worthy of double honor, especially those whose works is preaching and teaching.
1 Timothy 5:17
Pastors and toilet paper serve an important function in our lives; both help clean up the messes we make. Unfortunately, like toilet paper, pastors are often discarded after use. Here is the problem; pastors aren’t toilet paper.
It’s normal for ministers to counsel people outside the confines of their congregations. When dealing with sensitive issues, this offers an additional level of privacy. Pastors recognize the temporary nature of these arrangements. They pour themselves into helping the individuals knowing full well the relationship will end sometime soon. That’s expected. What happens oftentimes is this. People in the church under the pastor’s care develop serious problems. The pastor spends enormous amounts of time and energy helping these congregants navigate the difficult storms of life. Hours are spent listening, counseling, praying with and for these folks and then…poof, they disappear. Emotionally drained, the pastor is left alone without as much as the courtesy of a phone call or personal visit to say, “I’m leaving.” Many times they learn about the person’s departure second and third hand.
I’m not suggesting that ministers use pastoral counseling as a means of recruiting and maintaining church members. The shepherd’s responsibility is to care for the flock. Sheep don’t go out looking for a new shepherd; they won’t follow an unfamiliar voice. People aren’t always that smart.
There are times when leaving a fellowship is the right decision. My pastor shared with me that at times God gives him a heads up that a change is coming. This doesn’t make a person’s departure any easier, but having the assurance that it’s God’s will for both parties lessens the pain. When people disappear without a trace, it hurts. Pastors have feelings too. Knowing people will use them and walk away comes with the territory, but it doesn’t make it something they can just shrug off.
Paul wrote Timothy that those who serve in responsible positions in the church, specifically those who preach and teach, deserve double honor. Pastors fit in that category. Part of showing honor is extending courtesy and respect. Pastors don’t want people to leave, but its part of life. If you feel it is time for you to go, don’t vanish into thin air. Tell your pastor, in person, that you’re going. They may not agree with your decision and even try to talk you out of it. That’s just part of being in a relationship. Ultimately the choice is yours alone to make. Letting he/she know will help make your leaving a little bit easier and will keep the lines of communication between you both open. Sometime in the future you may need them again. Unlike discard toilet paper that is gone forever, you’ll have a “clean sheet”, so to speak, to start fresh.