I’ve recently seen a new type of article in my newsfeeds. The title begins, “Check in on your friends …” and continues with “who have teens,” “who work retail,” “who are new parents” … you get the idea. Why should you check in on them? “They might not be OK.”
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. And as a pastor’s wife, I can say that this would be a great month to check in on your pastor. Here are four specific areas in which to encourage your pastor:
Our church does a good job of caring for its pastors. In fact, we received two meals this month from Angels in Aprons, our church’s awesome meals ministry. But often pastors can be overlooked. People in the congregation may assume that many people are caring for the pastor and keeping an eye out for practical needs to be met.
In Galatians 6:6 Paul writes: “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.” The Bible sets a precedent for those being blessed by their pastor to give back.
I have been on the receiving end of this many times. People have shared their vacation homes and camping gear with us. Others have given us gift cards to our favorite restaurants and stores. Families have blessed us with anonymous checks and by picking up our tab. Each of these gifts not only revealed the person’s care for us but also God’s provision through them.
When you see your pastors in the pulpit or greeting folks in the foyer, they probably seem happy, gracious and excited to serve. But pastoring can take an emotional toll. Your pastor is likely handling many heavy situations behind the scenes — most of them confidential. My experience has shown that pastors field far more complaints than compliments. Being a pastor can be a thankless job.
I know it means a lot to my husband, Kevin, to receive a simple card that expresses appreciation, or an in-person “thank you” or compliment. A few days ago, some friends of ours called to tell Kevin that someone in their small group had been impacted by the sermon he’d preached the previous Sunday.
When it comes to the emotional health of your pastor, a little praise goes a long way. Even if you’re yearning to offer some constructive criticism, try putting that on hold and look for something your pastor is doing right. Paul’s exhortation to “encourage one another” applies to pastors too! While they typically find themselves in the role of encourager, they are also in desperate need of encouragement themselves.
Being a pastor can be lonely. You can’t exactly talk about “work” problems at your Bible study. In some situations, you may even be viewed as a celebrity. (I remember not wanting to disturb the pastor of my large church in a coffee shop because I imagined that happened to him constantly.)
Congregants may assume that the pastor has many friends and social invitations, but this may not be the case. I recall times when someone exclaimed that our family must have multiple invitations to Thanksgiving or Easter dinner, when we didn’t have a single one. I’ve had women at church express that I must have oodles of friends because my husband is a pastor. I do have friends, but no more than the average introvert (and I’m always open to more).
The truth is, social situations can be tough to navigate as a pastor. A beloved pastor’s wife recently told me about how she wished she and her husband were invited to more social gatherings. If possible, invite your pastor over for a meal or to an event. At least strike up a conversation the next time you have the opportunity.
Pastors are constantly cranking out spiritual nourishment for others. Whether they counsel, preach or lead other staff members, spirituality is literally their job. This may lead us to believe that our pastors are doing great in their spiritual walks. I can think of multiple times where someone has expressed shock when I talk about having a particular struggle, such as envy or anger, because they assumed I was perfect.
Checking in on your pastor spiritually could mean asking some questions. What has God been teaching you recently? What has He been laying on your heart? Are you feeling supported? Burned out? How can I encourage you in your calling? The point of these questions isn’t to interrogate, but to express that you care about your pastor’s spiritual health.
Perhaps the best way you can build up your pastors spiritually is to pray for them. Pray for their families. Pray that God would give them wisdom and humility. Pray that God would protect them from spiritual attack. Ask your pastors how you can pray for them and then do it!
Even if you think your pastor is doing fine, consider “checking in” this month. Pastors have demanding but sacred (and God-given) jobs. Many of them put in long hours and sacrifice more than you ever see. Perhaps this is why God instructs us to show them double honor.
Find a way to encourage your pastors this month. No matter how composed they acted at church on Sunday, they may not be OK. They may need someone to pat them on the back and tell them they’re doing a good job. Also, a good meal or thoughtful gift never hurts.
Copyright 2019 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.