Every few weeks I’ll tweet the following: “People, pray for your pastors!” I mostly do it because I need to be reminded to do so, but also because I know how much it means to my pastor friends to know they are prayed for by their people. You can look in any direction today and see churches, leaders, pastors, and flocks crumbling under the weight of sin, failure, financial ruin, and more. Not only do I not want to see that happen at my church, I also don’t want to be ignorant of the pressures on pastors and their families.
But prayer isn’t the only way we can encourage our pastors. Below are some biblical ways we can increase their joy.
1. Be of the same mind.
Every parent knows when his kids are squabbling, there’s no peace. How much more joy is there when we, out of selfless ambition, decide to be of the same mind? There is an intentional choice we must make at times to bite our tongues or not prove ourselves right. We shouldn’t ignore injustice, of course, but sometimes family means submitting ourselves to one another. Paul said it would “complete [his] joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Seeing this “others-centeredness” encourages pastors profoundly.
2. Count them worthy.
Paul spoke to Timothy about the worth of double honor. Double honor isn’t exactly what our generation likes to give to anyone. We indulge in celebrity, where we drink every drop from gold-tipped lips, or we fall on the other side, cautious and suspect of every leader. But Paul says these guys labor in word and doctrine. They’re laboring on our behalf, working to see in us a greater hope in Christ and the gospel. So not only will you never hear me say anything bad about one of my pastors (a single honor), I labor to speak well of them and to them every chance I get (a double honor). I want them to know I appreciate their investment in me, our church, the Word, and gospel initiatives.
3. Respect them.
I’m a question asker—rarely do I accept anything at face value, and I’ll chew on ideas until they’re unrecognizable in their original form. Because of that propensity, I can judge my leaders instead of simply respecting their time, study, and devotion to the gospel. The truth is I have covenanted myself to these elders, to this body, for this time. I have counted them worthy simply by saying, “Yes, I am a covenant member of The Village Church.” We respect them by making every effort to do as Paul instructed the church at Thessalonica, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” These guys may not always make the decisions that I’d make, but I want to esteem them highly because of their work.
Word from Pastors and Their Wives
Finally, I also reached out to a few pastors and wives to ask about other ways we can practically encourage and support our pastors as they “keep watch over our souls.”
“Words are inexpensive but rich. Genuine appreciation, heartfelt gratitude can bring healing, strength, encouragement, and vision.”
“Value the elder’s wife in her unique gifting. Do not confer, by extension, the office and responsibilities of eldership on the elder’s wife. Meaning: she is not automatically the 'women’s pastor' or the head of any other department by virtue of her position as the wife of an elder.”
“Offer to take us out to coffee just so you can share what the Lord is doing in your life and how you are growing in grace (i.e. not a meeting where we are expected to give advice or answers, but can just listen and glory in God’s goodness).”
“Let us know you are praying for us and what exactly you are praying.”
“Encourage family time/rest time. I’ve heard the joke 'Sunday is the only day you work' plenty of times in my life. It’s funny, and I’ve said it a lot. But when it’s time to rest I love when people really guard that time and don’t act resentful of it.”
“Everyone assumes the pastor and his family have tons of friends; they seem to know everyone, after all! That said, in my experience, we’re generally the ones extending ourselves and reaching out. Sometimes we just want to have someone spread a tablecloth, light some candles, and offer friendship through a simple meal and a welcome into their home. Leadership can be a lonely place in all actuality.”
“Bring a meal over if you catch wind of a season of nights when the pastor isn’t home. If I (a pastor’s wife) ever feel the strain of ministry, it’s in the 12- to 20-day stretches of him being out night after night after night.”