Why and How to Encourage Pastors

pastors

This past Christmas, at the church holiday dinner, I was waiting for the “big presentation” that would surely come to thank our pastors and church leadership for all of their work in the past year. And it didn’t come. Not because people aren’t thankful, but because sometimes, when everyone is working their heart out, it just becomes routine, and we all forget that encouragement and gratitude can be life-giving, especially to those who are charged with so much responsibility. Or we think someone else is going to do it, like I did.

I shared my surprise about the lack of gift/appreciation to my husband and he said, “If you noticed it, maybe you’re the one that should do something about it.” O.k., fair enough. So I asked around, and it turns out that many, many people were willing to be a little bit more “strategic” in the way we encourage our leadership and we formed a small informal team that we dubbed the Leader Care group.

Some of our guiding Scriptures:

  • “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
  • “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13;17
  • “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:15
  • “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:3-5

What these verses indicate is that the role of the church leadership is unique in both the importance of the calling and in the  responsibility it entails. We as the body should BE the body to our pastors and elders because they are wholeheartedly trying to take care of the church.

When they choose ministry as a vocation, church leaders aren’t looking for accolades or gifts, but they will be on Satan’s radar as ones to discourage. As one blogger put it, “Isn’t a preacher supposed to get his strokes from God and not look to receive them from men? Well, I have a hunch that the enemy of God, the devil, has created an incredible climate of skepticism and cynicism toward those who represent God. Satan is constantly hurling feelings of unappreciation at the man who has poured his life into others.

Because they will be dealing consistently with strife, sickness, and sin, there are times when they get overwhelmed, tired and disheartened. When we are able, can we CHOOSE to create an environment of encouragement for our leaders that refreshes them as they continue to minister.

We can’t do EVERYTHING for EVERYBODY. No one could sustain that long term. But if each of us was looking out for our pastors consistently, hopefully their burdens would be lighter and joys greater. Maybe you could choose just one or two things to do for your pastor or church leadership this year. Some ideas that our group has brainstormed to encourage pastors and leadership:

  1. Have an encouragement box in the sanctuary, provide cards next to it. As people feel led, they can write an encouraging note with specific things that  they’re thankful for, point out what was meaningful in a sermon etc (It’s coming soon, so look for it in the back of the church!)
  2. Take your pastor and family out for dinner for no reason.
  3. Invite them into your home, just to hang out and get to know them.
  4. Surprise them with financial gifts as God leads.
  5. If you have a skill that may be helpful to them, offer it at a reduced cost or for free. (Plumbers, electricians, photographers, people willing to babysit, etc)
  6. Consider the things that you want to complain about to your pastor or elders. What are just your preferences and what is a true Biblical concern? Pastors and leaders hear about everything from the song choices, to the color of the walls, to the website to you-name-it. While people called to ministry are ready and willing to serve with all their hearts and expect some of this, check with the Holy Spirit before firing off every last comment you may want to say.
  7. Consider your pastor’s wife. A lot of times she is doing ministry right a long with her husband. Could she use some fun time? Time where can feel vulnerable to just “be”? Find out what would be encouraging to her.
  8. Celebrate- holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. Our group is sending gift cards and a card to the pastors, elders and their wives this year for birthdays and anniversaries.
  9. Consider a financial gift at the holidays. Closer to Christmas, we likely will ask anyone who wants to contribute to a cash gift to do so and give it to the pastors at the holidays.
  10. Thank them.
  11. Pray for them. See if there are specific prayer requests.
  12. Leave a gift card a coffee shops they frequent or where they study/sermon prep.
  13. When a church member has a crisis, it’s probably also a hard time for the pastor. Check in to see if they or their family needs anything.
  14. Meals. There may be a few times  a year that a meal might be a nice gesture for the pastor/elder families.
  15. Ask them! “What would be a meaningful way to encourage you?”

In our group, what we’re finding is that turning our attention to the care of our leadership is causing us to think about the rest of our church body; it’s spilling over! How about the mom at home with multiple children under age 5, wouldn’t it be fun to surprise her one day with a meal? Hmm, so-and-so is doing an amazing job in his new leadership role, maybe we should just let him know that we’re thankful for his service.

Thank God for those in leadership at your church today and pray that He show you how you might be an enoucouragement to them!

Blessings,

Heidi