October is Pastor Appreciation Month in some circles. I intentionally used the word “encourage” instead of “appreciate” in the title because appreciate has a more fleeting and surface connotation, while encouragement goes deeper and carries intentionality over time. It is important to lift our thinking up and away from a one time, one month burst of appreciation. Cake and cards are nice, but meaningful, intentional, and ongoing encouragement has a greater impact for both the pastor and the church long term.
I am passionate about seeing pastoral families succeed. I see the behind-the-scenes struggles, crises, and needs on a daily basis within our online support groups and my interactions with pastors’ wives all over the world. Sometimes they need someone to speak on their behalf to say what they cannot say for themselves. So I speak from my heart, as always.
If you love God, His church, and your pastoral families- YOU can make a difference. Yes, you. If one person can spread gossip and influence others to discourage their pastor and sow discord, think what one person could do to spread truth and goodness and influence others to encourage him and be unified as a church body?
What can you do to provide encouragement that lasts and impacts your pastor’s tenure and the overall health of your church? Here are 10 things, in no particular order. (I’m using the term “pastor” singularly, but I acknowledge that many churches have several pastors/elders. This applies to them, too):
- Pray for him every day, and tell him often that you do. Believe that prayer makes a difference. Do you need a guide to help you know what to pray for? Follow this link to download a free printable prayer calendar specific to your pastor’s needs.
- Pray for his wife and children, and tell him that you do. Pastoral families as a whole face the brunt of the enemy’s attacks, specifically on Saturday nights and before/after outreach ministries and counseling meetings.
- Offer to serve. Listen to find out what actually needs to be done, instead of coming with an agenda of what you want to do (or what you want him to do so you can do what you want to do.)
- Send him to a conference for personal enrichment. Collect the funds, and give him time away without resentment. Know that he will come back able to better serve you.
- Accept him as a human being. God calls imperfect people to serve as His shepherds. No one knows his imperfections better than your pastor himself, and no one knows better than him how it feels to have those imperfections on display. Give him the same space to wrestle and struggle that you would like for him to give you. Turn your discomfort over his imperfections into prayer, not into gossip or criticism.
- Allow him to get counseling if needed. Most pastors need personal counseling at some point in their life. He may happen to be pastoring during this time of need. It is not necessarily mutually exclusive to be doing counseling and receiving counseling at the same time. Instead of firing him for needing help, come alongside him with support.
- Don’t distract him on a regular basis with drama and petty complaints. Most church folk have no idea how many hours can get eaten up in the run of a week with listening to complaints and settling down drama. Can something be solved or resolved without involving the pastor? Do it!
- Be part of arranging a sabbatical for him. Sabbaticals are rare, and most pastors have served for years and never had a sabbatical. Sabbaticals are different from vacations, in that they have specific purpose and benefits for both the pastoral family and the church.
- Offer him hospitality. Don’t be afraid to open your home to him and his family. In some cases, you might be surprised how long it’s been since someone did that for them.
- Read and study the Word of God daily, so that you stay focused on the Gospel, on Christ. If every church goer made it their goal to keep a Gospel focus, can you imagine the unity we would have in our churches, and the Gospel advancement we would witness among our communities? Through the washing of the water of the Word, keep yourself oriented to what truly matters, and refuse to waste time on what doesn’t matter. This may sound like a very small thing, but the impact will be long and far reaching- to the glory of God.