Russ on Encouraging Pastors

Rey pointed me to a post at The Happy Husband that is rather
interesting. How to minister to your minister….that’s actually a harder
question than many may think. First, and probably foremost, because most of the
pastors that I’m acquainted with would have a hard time telling people what
would be encouraging to them. Its not that we don’t need encouragement nor that
it doesn’t feel good to us to be lifted up, but I think that many of us are
sensitive to the fact that we don’t want to manipulate the feelings of those
that God has given us in order to bring glory to us. It’s a fine line that a
pastor walks – being human and needing support and yet wanting all the glory to
go to God. So, if you go to your pastor to ask him (I’m going to use the
masculine throughout this whole post since something like over 90% of pastors
are men…realizing that some of the readers may have women pastors – its more
because I have a terrible habit of not matching up my pronouns and plurality
:)…if you go to your pastor and ask him how you can encourage him, don’t expect
a very detailed listing – he’ll probably never tell you what would really water
his heart.

Which means you will actually need to get to know him. This
is difficult because the best way to get to know him would be to spend time
with him. However, time is something that is at a premium for most pastors. I
have worked in a family business and in a corporate environment – the time
given to ministry far outpaces them all. The reason for this with pastors is
that most of the time we have a very American view of pastoring. He is the one
getting paid, so he ought to be the one doing it. Unfortunately, this is wrong
on so many levels (we can start in 1 Corinthians 12…) that I won’t even go into
it. If you want to encourage your pastor, find an area of ministry that he is
doing that you can either come alongside him to help him with or actually take on
completely so that he can focus his efforts elsewhere. Not sure how you can
help – tell him you’re willing to help him out in any ministry in any way that
he sees fit – and then keep letting him know that over the next several months!
That will be an encouragement.

Then, out of that last paragraph all sorts of ideas come….A
pastor lives in a fish bowl. Everyone is watching him everywhere all the time
(its amazing that more of us don’t completely succumb to paranoia….but, then,
reading that last sentence, maybe I already have…). Though this is something
that the pastor (and his spouse, if he is married) needs to have dealt with
when they made the decision to go into ministry, if they have children, the
children have been thrown into this fish bowl by no choice of their own.

Pastor’s kids are normal kids. They will get in trouble.
They will hit other children. They will say nasty things. They will do
everything that your child did and, probably because of the fish bowl effect,
more. Don’t hold a pastor’s children to a higher standard than you would hold
to any child, including your own. Though I’m only 5 years into the
fathering/pastoring mode, my guess is that most pastors would find great
encouragement by knowing that they can be regular fathers while they pastor
their congregations.

And, since we’ve already mentioned the preciousness of time
and while we’re on the topic of family, please respect family time. If your
pastor does not have two days off during the week to spend with his family,
work to get it for him. Don’t worry….he’ll probably end up working at least
some time during those two days, but knowing that he has time that he can spend
with his family and not be doing ministry is very encouraging. If he already
has those days, don’t call him unless it’s truly an emergency (any type of
actual or potential death or injury, a personal or relational dispute that MUST
be dealt with immediately, or any type of abuse – physical, narcotic, etc.). If
it’s not in a league similar to the items listed, then before calling him on
his day off, ask yourself, “Will my entire world fall apart if I don’t call him
till Xday?” If not, then don’t call. This time off and the respect of it is
important. It does your ministry no good to have a pastor capable of running a
vibrant ministry whose family is falling apart. If his family disintegrates,
his ministry eventually will also. Build up and strengthen his family (which
will be an encouragement to him) and you will build up and strengthen his

In addition, learn how to complement him based upon his
gifting. What I mean by this is that different pastors have different
strengths. They also have different passions in ministry. As you listen to your
pastor teach, preach, pray and speak to people, you will begin to get a sense
of what passions and giftings drive him. Encourage him in these areas but don’t
just do it flippantly. Here’s what I mean by this. I have had people come up to
me a year after giving a sermon with an illustration or point from that sermon
that, quite honestly, I may have forgotten. That is a huge encouragement to me
as a teacher – it lets me know that God really is using me to impact the lives
of others through the things that I say (which, for me, is the intersection of
my passions and giftings). So, when complementing your pastor, its good to say,
‘Great job today!’ but if you can begin to hear his passion and gifting and begin
to understand the things that he hopes to accomplish through the use of them,
you will have a better idea of how to complement him in a way that is truly

Sooner or later, if you want your pastor to lead, he will
need to make decisions that you think are either wrong or misdirected. However,
to be a leader, he must press onward down the path that he feels that God is
leading him and the church. Every pastor should allow open conversation about
the decisions that are being made (I’m NOT suggesting a totalitarian,
authoritarian or cultish manipulation). However, when the final decision needs
to be made and you are unhappy with it, learn to trust the shepherd that God
has given you. Most pastors really do have you and your spiritual best interests
at heart.

Pray! Let your pastor know your praying. Ask for prayer
requests from him. And whether he gives you any or not, keep praying and keep
letting him know you are praying for him (and his family).

Finally, take Hebrews 13:17
seriously. Though I’m sure there are some out there, I have not met a pastor
who does not take seriously the fact that they will stand before God to give an
accounting for how they have shepherded you. In the midst of the solemnity of
that calling, make his work a joy. Let him laugh and laugh with him.

And now, on a completely lighter note, try to avoid saying
these things (all of which have been said to me or other pastors I know): “You
are not worth the pay that you receive”, “What’s it like working one day a
week?”, “I know it’s your day off, but…”, “You are doing the work of Satan.”
(that last one isn’t so bad when you consider the company of others that have
been told the same thing – most notably, Jesus). If you have any questions
whether any of these statements (even if its ‘truth told in love’) are
encouraging or not, you probably need to get someone else to communicate your
concerns to your pastor.

Your pastor loves you. He cares about you. He prays for you.
He works hard for you. Reciprocate those things and you will find that even as
he ministers to you, that you are ministering to him.    

 -Pastor Russ- 

Other responses at Curt’s site.

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