What you’re about to read might change your pastor.
First, please understand that there’s a problem in many churches. (Okay, there are a lot of problems in many churches. This is just one of them.) In a cruel twist of irony, the only person without a pastor is the pastor himself. There are the people of the church. They have a pastor. But here is the leader of the church. Who does he have? A group of deacons? A crew of volunteers? A lot of people who need his help? Does the pastor have a pastor? Does he have the same network of support, guidance, shepherding, and safety that the flock has?
In many churches, the regretful answer is no. Across the world, pastors are placed on the “pastor pedestal.” They are esteemed, but not encouraged. The well-known condition of “pastor burnout” is often linked to the isolation and loneliness that a pastor feels within his own congregation. He may be appreciated as a great expositor, a fine encourager, and a great speaker, but he is not treated like the fallible, frail, and sin-prone sheep that he truly is.
Pastoring your pastor is not an act of disrespect. It is one of the highest respects that church members can give to their pastor. Here are seven ways to pastor your pastor. Remember, doing this will very likely change your pastor.
1. Pray for your pastor.
It’s obvious. In fact, it’s almost cliche. That’s why this point needs to be repeated, underscored, highlighted, and emphasized. Pray. For. Your. Pastor. Better yet, ask him how you can pray for him. Pray that God would grow him. Pray that he would exalt Jesus. Pray that he walks in the Spirit. Pray for his wisdom. Pray for him while he preaches. Pray for his purity. Pray for his faithfulness. Pray for his health. Pray for his family. Pray, pray, pray.
2. Be a friend to your pastor (like a normal friend).
Somehow, many of us have missed out on the fact that that pastor guy may actually be a pretty good friend. Maybe we’ve even forgotten that we can be his friend. Maybe he really needs friends. A big happy church is no sure sign that the pastor is surrounded by friends. Pastors are not too busy to have friends. They need solid, encouraging, genuine friendship. Be a friend to your pastor.
3. Encourage your pastor.
It should come as no major shock that pastors can get discouraged. Make it a point to provide encouragement to your pastor when you can. Some people are great at false encouragement. This is the “encouragement” from the guy who sleeps through the entire service, then gives the pastor a huge smile on his way out. “Great sermon, pastor! Outstanding! Touched my heart! Amen!” That’s not encouragement. Instead, try this:
- Thank your pastor at a time other than on your way out the door. Be intentional.
- Write your pastor an email or text, expressing your appreciation.
- Share with your pastor a specific event in your life where his ministry helped change your life.
4. Challenge your pastor.
Just like you, your pastor is human. He makes mistakes. He sometimes does not have the energy to put his best foot forward. Sometimes he might even be having a bad day. Why grill him for that, when we do the exact same? Challenging your pastor is not telling your pastor that his sermons are boring, or that his tie clashes with his shirt, or that he’s getting paid too much, or he seems arrogant, or anything else that irks you. A true challenge comes from love with the aim of pushing your pastor closer to God and His Word. We all need grace and it’s your mandate to show mercy and grace with the same love as if you were dependent on it. In the end, regardless of job title and position in church, we are all broken human beings in need of the loving embrace of our Savior.
5. Treat your pastor like a real person.
Part of a pastor’s role is understanding that people are people. People make mistakes. It is true that the pastoral ministry does not give a huge margin of error. The qualifications are high, and the cost of is steep. But at the same time, pastors are subject to temptation and to sin just as much as the next guy. Treat your pastor like the human he is.
6. Give your pastor a break.
Pastors need some time off now and then. Every job is tough. Each occupation has its own stresses and demands. The job of the pastor is no different. It’s important that pastors occasionally unplug, and maybe just go somewhere else for a while. Call it vacation. Call it a sabbatical. Call it whatever. Just let him take a break. In fact, insist on it.
7. Lower your expectations regarding your pastor’s family.
We’ve saved a big one for last. Don’t expect too much from the pastor’s family. Let’s start with the pastor’s wife. Assuming that the pastor is a man who is married to a woman, don’t expect his wife to be the church pianist (and organist, simultaneously), Sunday school teacher, ladies group leader, luncheon coordinator, MOPS leader, play-date planner, homeschool co-op facilitator, maker-of-all-the-meals-for-sick-people-and-the-moms-who-just-had-babies, and counselor of every woman in the church. In many churches, the pastor’s wife, has morphed into the “Pastorswife,” an official church position that must be somewehere in the book of 2 Titus (wait, I’m still looking it up). Such expecations are too lofty. Desist. Next, beware of your lofty expecations for the pastor’s kids. Sure, a pastor is supposed to manage his household, but that doesn’t mean this his kids are cherubs. They are kids. Kids do stuff that, well, kids do. When we stuff our ideas of the perfect pastor’s family into the real life of a real pastor with a real wife and real kids, we can be a source of huge discouragement. Let’s cut them some slack.
It doesn’t take an M.Div. or an ordination ceremony to become a pastor to your pastor. You don’t have to be a squeaky-clean Christian. You don’t have to be a deacon or Sunday School teacher. Maybe it just takes living a life of love toward your pastor — something that all Christians are commanded to do. Let’s see how you can pastor your pastor this week. Let’s watch how this can change his life.