Since announcing my resignation from pastoral ministry, several people have asked me “how can I encourage my pastor?”
It’s cool to be asked this. Every pastor is different, no doubt, but here are my thoughts on the subject.
- Nothing really
I mean, seriously, any pastor worth their salt is serving the Lord Jesus Christ. If the pastor’s ultimate encouragement does not come from Christ, then things will not turn out well! Pastors need to learn not to be dependent on people for encouragement. Easier said than done. At the same time pastors need to find out how to not be discouraged by people. I found this impossible. I’m of the temperament that will find reason to be discouraged no matter what. So, this is the annoying part of the answer: not much really. Much of being encouraged is up to the pastor.
- Grow in Christ
The people who encouraged me most all had one thing in common: they were massively concerned about their spiritual health and growth. Nothing makes me feel better about my ministry than seeing that some people grew in Christ. Words aren’t enough, I don’t want to hear people tell me they grew; growth is evident if it happens. You will know them by their fruit.
The people most effusive in their praise of me after I resigned were people I never saw grow; they were, in fact, people I rarely saw! Many of them were heading the opposite direction. They knew that. They felt guilty, which is why they were effusive with praise! Nice words don’t cut it. True life-changing growth is the best, because not only do they grow, they help others grow.
This probably isn’t true for all pastors since many churches are businesses and raking in big money. But for small town, small church pastors, man a little cash is helpful. There were years I had literally no money. I had a wife and three little kids and no money left. This was great for me in growing my faith and showing me the Lord’s provision, but there were also sleepless nights and inner tension while those lessons were learned. A little extra gift here and there was fantastic. Financially support the church as well. Take an interest in the ministries and missionaries your church’s money goes to. Actually know where the money goes and perhaps this will help you be more generous. Be invested.
- A personal touch
Get to know what your pastor likes. Show some true interest in the PERSON, not the image of a pastor. Stained glass crosses or pictures of Jesus smiling over children are given by people who don’t know their pastor. Not one pastor in all the earth wants more of these things! It’s a generic gift to shut up the pastor who they know nothing about. Give me some ice cream, or my favorite candy bar, or a gift certificate to a steak restaurant. Get to know your pastor, get things that you’d get for a friend because you actually know and care about this PERSON.
- Show up
Don’t lie. Don’t make stupid excuses. Show up to church stuff. Nothing more depressing than working on great content for sermons or putting in time to plan events and then having two people show up. Heart breaking. Show up. People skip church for just about everything. It was nice to hear someone skipped something else to be at church! Rarely happened, but it was cool when it did. Sacrifice to be there.
These are some ideas. The basic point though is: Grow in Christ. People who grow in Christ show love to their pastor. They show up to church. They edify others. They don’t lie and make excuses. They give generously. They are understanding and gracious and aren’t going to get upset about irrelevant things.
Grow in Christ. There is nothing more pastors want from the people under their care.