This month is — among many other emphases — Pastor Appreciation Month. We have days for just about everything now, and months with various recognitions. I totally missed the recent national grandparent day, the first year I could actually celebrate it! We have national popcorn day and donut day. I’m guessing we have more of those than national salad day or eat healthy day, but I don’t keep up with these anyway.
I’m a pastor, part time though I am. I teach current and future pastors, and I spend a lot of time speaking to and meeting with pastors. I love pastors and I love serving as one. Here are a few things you can do to encourage your pastor or pastors. Yes, I confess, these will sound like I’m standing up for pastors and even defending them almost to a fault. Guilty as charged. The pastors I spend most of the time with are passionate, hard working, evangelistic, godly folks who put their heart and soul into what they do.
- Pray for your pastor. Really. Pray, daily if you can. It’s hard serving as a pastor. REALLY hard, some days more than others. He is shepherding a flock, and sometimes sheep act like sheep. And, he has to deal with wolves at times, many of whom dress remarkably like sheep. Prayer matters. You don’t know the burdens he faces, because the fiercest ones are those he can’t talk about. He loves his Lord, he loves his call, and he loves you. He understands what he signed up for to be a shepherd to people who are all over the place spiritually. But he wants and needs nothing more from you than your faithful prayers.
- Let your pastor be human. Jesus already walked this earth. He alone was sinless. Yes, your pastor should set a standard of godliness. But he is neither an angel nor a part of the Trinity, so allow him to be human. You don’t know his inner battles, but they are there and they are real. He generally can’t share those with you, but that doesn’t make them any less true.
- Love your pastor’s family. In some ways it’s even harder to be a pastor’s wife or children than to be the pastor. Go out of your way to speak to the children, and let his family be real (which means imperfect). Pray for them. Encourage them. Include them in your world, but give them space not to be “on call” all the time.
- Write a note of encouragement. I don’t mean one of those “It’s Pastor Appreciation Month so we have to get a card” deals. Don’t get me wrong, those are appreciated, and sometimes those are the only notes a pastor gets (if those). Just randomly write a little card. Or better, write a card about something specific your pastor said in his message or something he did well. Most pastors hear plenty about what they and their church are not doing well. I just got a text from a new young pro who just wanted to thank me for some things I said in my teaching the past couple of weeks, things that specifically helped him. This unsolicited kind word from someone fairly new to our group means a lot. It is possible that some pastors get too much attention from their church, and too much praise. But in my experience of being in over 2000 churches that is the very rare exception. You aren’t likely to praise your pastor too much, especially if you always give God glory in your gratitude. I don’t personally know a single pastor who deeply loves his call who is getting too much encouragement.
- Protect him from himself. Most pastors I know work really hard and rest very poorly. Yes, some pastors are lazy, but I don’t encounter those fellows often. More are likely to burn out than rust out, but they shouldn’t do either. Make sure he takes vacation times (you should as well), has solid family time, and has something in his life — a hobby, for instance, outside the church. He needs margin, and so do you.
- Don’t be a pain. By this I mean be aware of what is on his plate. If you have a genuine concern or complaint, feel free to share it. Just don’t do so right before or after a service. Preaching/teaching the Word is exhausting spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Whatever problem you have will probably still be a problem the next day, so in most cases it can wait. Another example: don’t be a leech. You don’t have to have your pastor’s ear about everything (you can go to the Lord, which is better!). And please, after a service if several people are waiting to speak with him, don’t take 15 minutes explaining your latest interpretation you found for an obscure verse in Zephaniah (I could tell many stories here). If you have a genuine need, tell him, but think about the timing.
- Walk with Jesus. This is the most important thing you can do. There are enough knuckleheads in your church, people your pastor and others invest in over and over and over again who continue to choose to walk their way too often, to treat Jesus like a mascot instead of their absolute master. Don’t be that one. You aren’t perfect and neither is a pastor, but the more you walk with Jesus, the most joy you will have and the more joy will come to your pastor.
If you are a pastor reading this, and you feel alone, discouraged, and maybe even want to throw in the towel, let me tell you how precious you are in the sight of the Lord. You are called by God! What an honor! Rest not in your productivity; or, don’t fret over the lack of the same. Remember your identity is in your Savior, not in your trying to be someone’s savior. Don’t compare yourself to others. Look to Jesus. Remember Romans 8:1 is also for pastors. Fulfill your calling for an audience of One.