Caring for those in the pastoral office has to be found somewhere in the Scriptures, and as a pastor, it may be one of the more awkward items to talk about. However, I have found myself being in a position I haven’t been in for about 6 years which makes it a little easier to talk about. How do you, as a congregation, care for your pastors? Pastors are tired, yet joyful. Pastors are discouraged, yet constantly refreshed. Pastors have one of the most joyful, rewarding, and refining work. But how do/should congregational members care for their pastors (yes, the associate is a co-equal with the preaching pastor). Furthermore, are we asking the wrong question? Aren’t the shepherds supposed to shepherd?
It was during my time in Seminary that I was introduced to the idea of caring for your pastor. I read a chapter, later turned into a small pamphlet, entitled Praying for Sunday: You, Your Pastor, and Your Next Sermon. Little did I know that great affect this pamphlet would have on my praying life.
It is a highly practical book that provides various ways to pray for yourself prior to listening to a sermon, how to pray for your pastor, how to pray for the sermon preparation. Praying for your pastors is one way to care for them. For a number of years I have reflected upon this idea, here are a few ideas on how you, as a congregational member, can care for your pastors. I don’t mean to make an ecclesiological distinction here, because an elder is a shepherd is a pastor is an overseer. Therefore there will be overlap to show honor to all Elders (and yes Elder governance is biblical J) and your preaching/shepherding elders.
Pray for him and with him
One day I was struck during my first year as a pastor about the qualifications of a pastor. There is a vast difference between studying them and then realizing my position of leadership is dependant upon these qualifications. I began praying for myself while reading these qualifications and it quickly spread to my pastor I was working with. Soon after that, we organized a prayer ministry to pray for our main preaching pastor. Two principles of prayer I attempted to instill in them were how to pray biblically and pray for the qualifications of our pastor.
Our pastors need prayer daily, not only are they bombarded with menial administrative tasks that steal their time, they are assaulted with temptation of pride, laziness, sexual thoughts, etc. and need to find constant victory over sin. The people of God ought to pray for our pastors and for them to stay qualified. It is unfortunate to hear stories from previous pastors who have become disqualified from ministry.
Furthermore, not only pray for them, but also seek to pray with them. Seek them out and ask to pray with them. Their hearts are as heavy as yours and there is no greater joy than to know that the people of God are praying for you.
Talk to him about his sermon
On average, a pastor will spend anywhere to 10-25 hours on a sermon. It’s hilarious talking to the ill-informed about the duties of the pastor. They say, “All he does is work two days: Wednesday and Sunday.” Let’s just take, for example, the average pastor. They will most likely preach 2-3 sermons a week. That is 20-45 hours in a given week. I’ll tell you what they are doing all day long, prepping for their 30 min sermon, along with counseling, hospital visitation, etc.
Let’s think about this from a positive perspective. If your pastor is an expositional preacher, take the time to come prepared to hear his sermon. Study the text prior to coming and think of questions to ask. You have a pastor who has spent 20 hours, at least, studying the text of scripture, and is a source of wisdom. A shepherd finds great joy in teaching and explaining the Word of God. Ask him about his sermon. Ask him what he learned out of it. Ask him a question that you had when reading it. Ask him how it affects theology and the formation of biblical theology. Try to start a conversation about it, for in doing so, he will be encouraged and you will be refined from his labors.
Tell him how the Lord is growing you
When I was in the pastoral office, one of the greatest joys I had was when my sheep would talk to me about how they were being refined, what they were learning in Scripture, etc. It greatly encouraged my heart. Talking to your pastor about how the Lord is growing you provides a sense of rejuvenation to him.
Notice Paul’s perspective on hearing from his previous congregants.
But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about through your faith. 1 Thess 3.6–7
The message of the people brought great comfort and strength to Paul. Do you not think it does the same to your pastor?
Take care of them financially
A pastor makes no money; well most pastors make no money. Chances are, your pastor may qualify for food stamps, but he’d never tell you. He does not shepherd the flock of God for sordid gain (1 Pet 5.1–4). A god-fearing undershepherd desires to preach, disciple, and minister to the flock of God. However, if your pastor is not being paid well, it is most likely that his mind is divided.
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and ‘the laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Tim 5.17–18
The flock of God ought to make sure their pastors are financially stable. The local body combines their financial resources to give to their pastor in order to free up their pastor to shepherd. Make sure your pastor is taken care of financially. A pastor with 5 kids should be getting paid more than the one with 2 kids, etc.
Another idea is to watch their kids and give them a date night. Or provide them with a family outing on your dime (do it anonymously). Be creative in your financial care.
Be mindful of his wife’s position
The second most difficult position in the church may be the wife’s role. A good shepherd and leader does not burden his wife with problems, pastoral weight, discouragements, or the overtly negative aspects of church ministry. As a pastor, ONE OF THE MOST DISCOURAGING things I encountered was how hard I worked at protecting my wife only to be asked by her about an issue arising in the church. “How’d you hear about that?” I’d ask, only to have her respond by telling me someone in the church told her about it. Caring for your pastor is protecting what the pastor is trying to do for his wife, keeping her out of the secret things of the church. I promise you she doesn’t know everything in the church and you will do your pastor a great service by helping him.
The second way to be mindful of his wife’s position is to understand her role within the local church. She is exactly like you, a servant of Christ. She is exactly like you, a struggling and discouraged mother. She is exactly like you, a wife who is trying to honor her husband. The best way to love and care for your pastor is to have realistic and biblical expectations of his wife: she is a wife who serves him and the local church, just like you. A tired pastor needs a wonderful wife. A joyful pastor needs a wonderful wife. A discouraged pastor needs a wonderful wife. Therefore, minister and serve his wife.
Build his library
A pastor is a reader and a lover of books. Take one step into your pastor’s office, if it doesn’t have a plethora of various books, run. He is not a learner. I doubt that is the case. My closest friends in the study were more or less dead or 100’s of miles away but I felt closest to them with a pencil in hand. Your pastor’s library may be his greatest inanimate object. Secretly he loves his books and is always trying to find ways to acquire more books to help him be a better theologian, exegete, expositor, discipler, counselor, leader, husband, etc.
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments 2 Tim 4.13
At the end of Paul’s life, he wanted the companionship of his closest ministerial friends, his books, and his writing utensils. All Paul wanted were his friends.
Don’t necessarily buy him books that you are reading or books that you think would be helpful for him. I’d suggest doing a bit of digging. What is he preaching on? What is he studying in theology? Is he a biblical language lover? Ask the associate pastor (who needs to be theologically adequate to answer) what would be most helpful? Ask your pastor for his Amazon wish list. This way, you will get the most bang for your buck.
Fall in line with his leadership
I saved this one for last. Submission to your pastor may be difficult but nonetheless it is what the auctor demands (i.e. Paul or whoever she is J). You will bring joy to your pastor’s heart (and to the overall leadership) if you fall under their leadership.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13.17
Paul makes a direct correlation between your obedience and your leader’s joy. Work hard to submit to their leadership because it is God’s physical means of providing spiritual oversight to your soul. It may be helpful also to distinguish the role of the Elders, role of the Pastor, and role of the Deacons (ask your pastor how they are defined in your local setting). If you are unable to submit, you may need to examine your heart or leave the church.
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Take a spiritual inventory check. Are you doing any or some of these items to care for your pastor? What are other ways you could care for your pastor?