Over the past 20 years I have pastored other pastors, taking the role of providing “covering” for them personally. It’s a little different from accountability. Although there is a component of accountability, in the covering relationship the pastor’s pastor has a level of authority.
I illustrate this from Luke 15:22-24, the waiting father’s response to his prodigal son’s return. The father gives his son four things: a robe, a ring, sandals and a fatted calf, which the father kills for a welcome-home banquet. His generous response and care are his covering for his son, the “covered.” Here’s how it works out between a seasoned pastor and other pastors under his covering.
The robe symbolizes the father’s willing-ness to cover his son’s challenges.
For the covered pastor, this may be a personal problem or a marriage or financial issue. He or she has a safe place to confess, deal with issues and recover. I expect truthfulness.
Covering: The robe hides and covers the pastor’s inadequacies. I commit to providing the cover pastors and their families need when faced with personal or ministry challenges. I hold these moments in utmost confidence.
The covered: I expect pastors to be willing to openly and honestly share when there are problems or areas that need to be addressed. I consider honesty and openness cornerstones for strong and successful relationships.
The ring symbolizes identification.
I ask pastors to inform their elders or leaders that they are in relationship with me. These church leaders can tell me when the pastor is out of whack or not listening. They have the right and responsibility to make me aware of the challenge.
Covering: The ring acknowledges the relationships that exist. I commit to identifying with pastors as their covering. This identification makes the resources and tools within my realm of authority available to them.
The covered: I expect pastors to share the nature of our relationship with their church leadership. This includes giving them freedom to contact me if they ever feel there are problems or situations that appear to be impenetrable. I make clear that my relationship is not with the church but with the pastor.
The sandals represent guidance and direction.
If pastors seek me for guidance, I expect them to give what I say more weight than if they were talking to a peer.
Covering: As a pastor, making decisions can be lonely. I commit to being available to discuss areas that are a concern.
The covered: I ask pastors to have a spirit and heart to believe God can use our relationship to provide guidance for their lives. It’s not my intention to lord authority over another, but there may be times when I give direction they may not agree with. I expect them to submit to my counsel. Demonstrating submission is a vivid illustration of the principle of “structured authority” — a principle every church must implement to be successful.
The fatted calf
The father kills in preparation for the banquet represents his willingness to invest in his son’s future. I use every resource available to me to help pastors succeed personally in their marriage, family and ministry.
Covering: I commit to investing my resources, time and finances in the pastors’ future. I sincerely believe God blesses us as we bless others.
The covered: I ask each pastor I cover to contribute financially, based on his or her ability and heart, toward the ministry we provide to help him or her (Phil. 4:10-19; 2 Cor. 9:6-8).
John Jenkins, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden
John K. Jenkins Sr. is pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Landover, Maryland.