Being a pastor is not an easy job. Sure, there are the very rich mega-pastors in their mansions and private jets, but your every day local pastor most likely isn’t like that. They work hard for you. They are there for you at the most joyous and broken moments of your life. They perform your wedding, bless your children, and walk you through the painful death of a loved one. They deal with the highs and lows of life directly every single day. They are always on call. If you could find a way to bless your pastor, would you? As a now grown-up pastor’s kid, I hope your answer is yes.
I remember being very young and a friend at school asked me, “So what else does your dad do?” I didn’t understand. I said, “Well he’s just a Pastor. That’s what he does.” The kid looked at me and said, “Well what does he do the rest of the week then?” Funny how kids see things, right? But the truth is many adults don’t understand what sort of relationship they can have with their pastor on a regular basis, and how they can support him or her. So I decided to help out and list a few practical ways you can support and encourage your pastor (or priest, for my catholic friends!)
- Come and talk to them. Most pastors have gone to 7 years of college to study the Bible and pastoral care. That’s a lot of knowledge to share. Licensed lay-ministers go through three years of training and studying as well. Do you have a question about a verse you read in Romans? Come ask! Please! That’s what they are there for. They love to engage with their church about topics. They are also there for you if you need prayer. Or if you need advice. Schedule an appointment and go see them. It’s part of what they are there for!
- Don’t Spread Gossip. Is there anything more scandalous than news about the local “holy” guy? Nope. Which is why rumors about your pastor spread like wild fire. Most of which, just like rumors that get spread about you, aren’t true. If you hear gossip about your pastor, don’t spread it around. And if it concerns you, go to him and ask him about it. I’ll say this again: go ask him about it. Did we all get that? GO ASK HIM. Rumors can destroy a pastor’s ministry in a community in a flash. Bring them to your pastor’s attention because they will want to address them and put out fires as soon as possible.
- Support your pastor’s strengths. Your pastor might be amazing with youth and struggle with the elderly. She may be absolutely amazing at pastoral care and visitation but horrible at children’s ministry. Here’s the thing. You cannot expect your pastor to be good at everything. She is human too. She has her strengths and weaknesses just like you. So rather than get in a fuss about it, encourage your pastor in those areas and find ways as a church to build up the weaker ministries. Don't like the preaching style? We'd all like our Pastor to be a perfect mix of Jim Gaffigan and Billy Graham, but that's just not going to happen. Find something you enjoy in the sermon. Listen to additional podcasts during the week that are your style. Either way, encourage your pastor and ask questions. Don't tear them down.
- Give your pastor's family a break. Oh those pastor’s kids. Trouble makers. Right? Yeah, they certainly are. Why? Because they are people just like the rest. Let me tell you. As a pastor’s kid, I know how difficult it can be. You and the rest of the 3rd grade Sunday School class are running full speed through the halls and a woman stops you, singles you out and says, “YOU should know better" as the others run on. People have expectations for pastor’s families that are not fair. The kids should behave. They shouldn’t be broken. But even good parents have children who make poor choices. Yes, even pastors. And they struggle to parent them the same way you do yours. And one more thing: You did not hire your pastor’s spouse. So many have expectations set up for what a pastor’s wife or husband should or should not do. He or she does not have to be involved in every single women’s or men’s ministry that’s offered. Or any, if they choose. And that’s ok.
- Respect your Pastor’s privacy. There’s nothing quite so embarrassing and alarming as the board chair pointing out how many pizza boxes he found in your garbage... in the middle of a meeting. Yep. This happens. People notice how often your lights are on. They come over without notice. They do this because they see the pastor as their employee. Yes, you hired your pastor. He works for you. But please respect his or her boundaries. What she drives is none of your business. What she like to spend her money on is none of your business. If he likes to do ultimate fighting on the weekends, that’s none of your business. How much pizza her kids eat during VBS week when she’s working till 9pm every night is none of your business. If its not hurting anyone, don’t worry about it.
- Invite your pastor and his family over. I remember the families that invited us over for dinner. For Barbecues. For New Years. We are still in touch with them. It was so nice because it didn’t happen with a lot of families. People sometimes seemed intimidated to invite the pastor’s fam over or even out. I do understand, though, but allow me to ease your fear. Most pastors aren’t going to be offended by your beer in a koozie at your Super Bowl party. Some might even have one with you. They feel included and blessed when you don’t shy away from them. They don’t want to make you feel shame. They want to be a part of your life! So don’t be afraid to extend an invite now and then.
So what are some even more practical ways you can apply this and encourage your pastor?
- Pray for them. Not just at home. Actually go up to them and say, “Pastor, can I pray for you?” and then do it.
- Encourage them. Maybe you don’t like their preaching style. But is there ONE thing you took from it? One thing you enjoyed? Tell them.
- Bless their family. Let a Pastor’s kid know that you see them. That you understand they are under a lot of pressure too. Do they like to play music or paint? Give them a special gift to encourage them. MENTOR them. They need to hear teaching and instruction from people other than their parents.
- Commit to not gossiping about your pastor. Really, let’s just not gossip about anyone, but commit to talking to your pastor directly if you’re upset.
- Get him or her a gift. A small gift to show you care goes a long way. What does your pastor and his or her family enjoy doing? Going to movies? Buy them tickets! Do they enjoy camping? Fishing? Tip: A lot of people will give pastors books as gifts. This is a kind idea, but most pastors have book funds for continued learning and they have lots and lots and lots of books. Just like teachers getting “#1 teacher!” mugs every year. If you want to bless your pastor with a gift, really think about what they love, and get creative! Make it fun!
- Invite them to things. Dinner on some summer night. The party you're inviting everyone around town to. Go to lunch. Sometimes they may decline, often because they are exhausted or have other plans, but don’t be offended. It meant a lot to them that you asked. And ask again!
- Schedule an appointment. Make an appointment to meet your pastor at his office to talk about life and faith. Most pastors are trained counselors and they are there for you. Pick their brain about the Old Testament. And remember, they are busy just like you, so make an appointment and they'll set aside time for you.
- And finally, get involved. Do NOT volunteer for every ministry, you’ll burn yourself out. Your pastor doesn’t want you to be overwhelmed. But do find ways to get involved in your church and help out, especially in those areas where your pastor’s gifts do not reach.