There's an old pastor's one-liner that goes something like this: Ministry would be much easier if it weren't for people. Of course there would be no ministry without people, but this cheeky statement is a "half-joking" way of saying something serious - ministry can be difficult because people can be difficult.
Pastors know this and willingly, albeit joyfully, embrace this reality as part of the privileged call they have received from God to shepherd, serve and sacrifice for His body. It's part of the job. In many ways it is the job.
Every job carries its own inherent occupational hazards - concussions for a football player, enemy attacks for a soldier or, yes, maybe even carpal tunnel syndrome for a data entry clerk. For pastors and ministry leaders the primary occupational hazard is relationships with people. Some will be incredibly loving and supportive and encouraging and others will be biting, undercutting and at times blatantly un-Christlike. Jesus experienced it in His ministry and told us to anticipate it in ours. It should come as no surprise. People are broken and messy - ministry will be too at times.
However, for those who genuinely want to love and care for their pastors, here's 7 ways to serve your pastor that offer real encouragement and deep, meaningful support as they work hard to love you well:
1. Tell Him What God Is Teaching You
One of the most encouraging things for your pastor to hear is how you are learning to love Jesus more. Saying "Good sermon, pastor!" is not enough - tell him why it was. What did you learn about loving Jesus more through it? How is his ministry to you helping you grow in your relationship with God? Hearing those things keeps him going - they remind him the hard work is worth it…that your love for Jesus is worth his sacrifice for you.
2. Fill A Need When You See One
The Church is not a restaurant where you sit and expect to be served, it's a dining room table where everyone has a part to play in preparing the meal, setting the table and cleaning up afterwards - otherwise no one gets fed. Rather than simply point out problems to your pastor, offer yourself up as part of the solution. He's probably far more aware of the issue than you are, he's simply waiting for someone like you to step up and play your part. If you don't it's likely that many won't be fed as a result. Not acceptable.
3. Be His Friend, Not Just His Church Member
Because people are his primary occupational hazard, isolation can be one of your pastor's primary relational defaults. Who can he share his deepest and darkest struggles with? Is it possible to trust anyone like that? As well, he's constantly pouring out and needs to be poured into - always being pulled from and rarely being pressed into. Don't just take from your pastor, give to him. Be a friend, buy him a drink, take him fishing or golfing and DON'T TALK ABOUT CHURCH! He is more than the church. He's a real person.
4. Give Him The Grace He Gives You
Your pastor is not perfect. He is a man learning to love his wife better, lead his children better, handle his finances better, stay connected to Jesus better and juggle all his responsibilities better just like you. His spiritual life is not any easier than yours - it may actually be more difficult because of the warfare he encounters on your behalf. He gives you grace in your struggles and needs the same from you. Forfeit the temptation to expect more from him than you do from yourself. Kill the double-standards.
5. Help Him Keep First Things First
Most people would agree that a pastor's family is his first priority over the needs of the church. However, many people don't function that way when they need something from him. The bible actually says that a man who cannot lead his family well cannot lead the Church with integrity (1 Timothy 3:5). Therefore, the health of your pastor's family should be of utmost importance to you. Fight for it on his behalf. Help him win at home. Demand your church leadership build that into his job description. It's too important not to.
6. Love His Wife Well
I recently wrote about how being a pastor's wife is a great honor that often comes at a high cost. She too is growing, struggles and is in constant need of grace. She's raising normal children and supporting her pastor husband under the curious eye of potentially hundreds or even thousands of church people. She wears many hats and bears much ministry burden. Learn to serve her in ways that uniquely minister to her heart and home. Give your pastor the peace of mind of knowing that his wife is being loved well by you.
7. Pray For Him
Above all, pray for him. He daily stands on the front lines of a deeply spiritual battle for your soul. The Enemy he fights wants nothing more than to steal, kill and destroy your life and his (John 10:10). This burden never leaves him. He carries it to bed every night and wakes up compelled by it every morning. His heart and home are uniquely positioned to suffer severe spiritual attack, emotional exhaustion and physical fatigue. The Enemy takes your pastor seriously, and so should you by praying for him daily.
[Note: I'm referring to pastors as "him", while understanding there are many "her" pastors. Most of these suggestions can be applied both ways.]
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