I love church. I really do. I love the Church with a capital C—the church universal that Jesus died and rose for, filled with every tribe and nation and people and tongue (Rev. 7:9). And I love our particular church that meets every Sunday in a building that used to be a funeral home (a reminder of the beauty of going from death to life every week!). And after years in church ministry, as a pastor’s wife and now as a seminarian’s wife, I can unequivocally say that while church is messy and challenging and sometimes deeply painful, I know that there’s nothing else I will give my life to—because that’s what Jesus did. If he gave his life for the church, then I will give my life to the church, to love and care and serve his people.
While my husband and I are not in full-time ministry right now, I know what it’s like to be married to a pastor, and one of the many things learned in those years of ministry is that most pastors live in the simultaneous reality of loving what they do and also being tired. Sometimes pastors are just kind of tired. But other times they are exhausted. Getting to pastor the people of God is an incredible gift, but it is also a job that doesn’t have very clear starting and ending times. Ministering is fluid; people don’t have important questions and life crises only between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm. Work and ministry and life bleed into one another. And yes, sometimes pastors need better boundaries. But sometimes life and ministry are one and the same thing—and that’s ok. And tiring.
I don’t know who your pastor is, and I don’t know what kind of season your pastor is in. But this is the pastor that you have in this season of life, and he is meant to be a gift to you and your church family. The flip side of the equation is that you are meant to be a gift to your pastor, too. One way to do that is to intentionally encourage him and the other staff members at your church. So, as we head into Pastor Appreciation month, here are some simple ways you can encourage the pastors in your life:
Say thank you. Say thank you when you see him on Sunday. Send a quick note of thanks to the office. Write a thank-you email regarding something specific that meant a lot to you. This will go so, so much farther than you can imagine.
Drop off coffee or food at the office. Find out when the weekly staff meeting is and drop by with donuts or coffee. You might just make the staff’s entire week! They will know they are loved and thought of on days other than Sunday.
Invite the pastor’s family over for dinner. They may not be able to come, but either way they will feel loved and pursued. And, if they can come, great! Get to know each other a bit better. And if they can’t, don’t take it personally. They might be overwhelmed right now with the needs of the church.
Speak well of your pastor behind his back. There’s a lot of pastor-bashing out there, and every pastor knows it. Having someone who will say kind things about you to others–consistently and honestly—is a true gift.
Give your pastor a break. Was the sermon this week maybe not the best you’ve heard? Did he seem a little grumpy after service? Extend the same grace to him that you want extended to you on your tough days. We never fully know what’s going on behind the scenes; maybe his child is struggling at home or maybe there’s a difficult pastoral situation that has broken his heart. We all have rough days—or weeks—at work and in life. But unlike most of us, the pastor still has to get up in front of a hundred or a thousand people after a tough week to preach and minister and shake hands. That’s a hard and holy calling, and it’s not possible for our pastors to be perfect or happy all the time. Acknowledging that your pastor is a broken human gives him the space he needs to extend grace to himself, too.
Pray for your pastor. Perhaps more than anything else, your pastor needs prayer. Pray for his personal strength and purity; pray for his family to thrive in the often-challenging demands of ministry. Pray that he will love God and his people, that the Lord will protect him, and that he will take joy in his calling to shepherd the flock of Christ (1 Peter 5:2). And then thank God for giving you a pastor!
October is Pastor Appreciation month; there’s no better time to start encouraging your pastor than today!
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