We have been discussing the development of a greater awareness of the stress of ministry and the way in which the session can develop a framework in which the pastor can feel supported. This does not directly address the emotional cost of ministry that was surfaced in earlier discussion. Awareness of the continuing emotional challenge of ministry among the session can sensitize them in being supportive of the need for the pastor to take time in continuing education, vacation, spiritual retreats, etc. It might also lead to them being supportive of a pastor having a monthly meeting with either a spiritual director or a counselor in order to process his or her experiences.
As the session and pastor discuss both the satisfactions and frustrations inherent in ministry and the challenges facing the congregation in their future, they might also look for the spiritual challenges behind such discussion. These could then result in some sermons addressing these issues and/or some adult education classes.
When a specific challenge has been articulated for the congregation, another way that the session can assist the pastor in addressing the issue is to develop some very specific questions that they would like to address to the congregation. Try to reduce it down to no more than four questions. Then from the church directory, choose a random selection, for example, every tenth member, and have the members of the session call them and conduct a random poll of the congregation. You would be surprised at how this can be a fairly quick way to take the temperature of the congregation and provide both the pastor and the session an understanding of how they can approach the issue before them.
By reporting back to the congregation what has been learned, the congregation is made aware of the conversation and the variety of opinions present. This will enable them to see the challenge before the congregation in a healthy light.