What Our Pastors Wish We Knew
"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." 1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV 1984)
My friend shocked me. She and her husband, a pastor, were not just resigning from their church, they were leaving the ministry all together. "It's just too much," she said with tears streaming down her face. "We gave all we could. But there were too many people who felt what we did was never enough."
My heart sank. Sadly, this pastor and his wife aren't alone.
According to research 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
These numbers are heartbreaking and convicting. I'm passionate about understanding how to love and support those who lead my church. But I have to admit, I'm still learning how to apply the biblical principle of our key verse, 1 Timothy 5:17.
Paul knew that supporting and blessing the pastor was remarkably important when he said these words to Timothy and now to us all.
A wise, incredibly humble Texas pastor once told me, "Some would think double honor sounds excessive, but the reality is no one fully understands the pressures on your pastor at any given time as they carry with them the burdens of many in the congregation quietly and confidentially. This is not work that you can leave at the office, it weighs on you. I believe it is for this reason Paul calls us to double honor."
So, how do we apply this? Here are some insights shared with me from pastors and their wives all over the country:
Do the basics consistently.
The greatest way to bless your pastor is to be one of those faithful people who attends, serves and gives consistently. This offers such assurance to a pastor and their staff. One of the most well-studied pastors I know on church leadership said, "When people do the regular basics and never make a big deal about it, the other stuff you do for your pastor is so much more meaningful. Some people try to bless their pastor on their terms and they are loud about it. They don't tithe, but ... 'Hey pastor, you can use our lake house with strings attached.'"
Let's bless our pastor and his staff with the basics. Give gifts without strings. And don't toot our horn about doing so.
Let go of the unrealistic expectations.
Almost every pastor addressed the issue of inviting he and his family over for dinner. While it seems like something we're doing for the pastor, it usually isn't the gift they need. More than spending time with our family, they need to spend time with theirs. Bless them with gift certificates. Or schedule to drop off a meal — especially during those busy times like Easter and Christmas.
Of course, they'll have friends where a dinner with that family is completely comfortable and refreshing. Give them the freedom to have close friends and not feel guilty or exclusive in doing so. One pastor's wife said to me, "I think the thing that discourages me the most is people commenting on my friendships. Using the word clique to describe my friendships, rather than just being happy I have a community, is hurtful."
Let's bless our pastor and his family with freedom. They need friends. And it's okay if we're not dinner buddies.
Love the pastor's wife.
Two pastors wrote, "Please give my wife face-to-face affirmation," and "When my wife hears negative things about the church or me it crushes her."
Another pastor's wife gave insight into how to greet her so she doesn't feel like a heel for not remembering everyone personally. She said, "It's hard when people say, 'Do you remember me?' Instead, introduce yourself and remind me where we've met before."
Let's commit to our pastor's wife the gift of kind words. As a woman in ministry, when someone commits to saying kind and affirming things about me, my ministry, and my family, it makes me feel so safe.
Don't assume other people are encouraging your pastor.
Send notes of encouragement. Write the email telling what a difference that sermon made in your life. Don't assume they get plenty of positive feedback—usually they don't.
Let's commit to not just be someone who appreciates our pastor in our hearts, but let's let them know over and over.
Keep studying how to bless your pastor.
Become aware of how your pastor best needs to be blessed and step into that role. Make it a family mission to be one of those foundational families at church who stays out of the drama, seeks to give and not take, and stays for the long haul honoring him all the way.
And don't forget the other pastoral staff members who serve so faithfully as well.
It's biblical. It's good. And while I've got a long way to go, I'm committed to honoring my pastors with much more intentionality.
Dear Lord, thanks for the gift of my pastor, his wife, his staff, his time. Please show me ways to give them double honor, and help me follow through on it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Sit down with the Lord and ask Him to show you a few ways to bless your pastor this week.
While in prayer, get honest with God. Have you had unfair expectations of your pastor, his wife and family, or his staff? Repent.
1 Thessalonians 5:12, "Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you." (NIV)
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