Yes, your pastor needs to be encouraged
I have never met a pastor that needed less encouragement. Granted, I’m sure we all can think of a proud pastor that is domineering and self-seeking. They surround themselves with flatterers that bolster them up to keep leading in a sinful way. We instinctively are skeptical and critical of pastors/elders. However, more than ever, pastors are leaving the ministry. The top reasons include the sheer volume of stress in pastoral ministry, feeling alone and discouraged, conflict in the body, and the effects of ministry on their family.
Perhaps another way I could get to the heart of this would be: Do you want your pastor to persevere in ministry with joy? If so, then let me encourage you to encourage him. Church leaders are seldom encouraged in meaningful ways and the criticism, conflict, and responsibility they face quickly eclipse the “Great job today, pastor” they got in passing on a Sunday morning. And yet, when a pastor is encouraged intentionally and meaningfully and consistently, they are fueled to keep going with thankfulness and joy.
How your encouragement fuels your pastor
In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul says something dramatic.
12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. 2 Cor. 1:12-13
Paul states that he had a ministry opportunity in Troas. People were ready to hear and receive the gospel. Believers were ready to be nurtured and built up. Everything seemed right at Troas; however, Paul left them. Why? Because he wanted encouraging news of how the Corinthian church was doing from Titus and he was not there. Paul was worried, stressed, and discouraged. He needed encouragement and didn’t get it, so he moved on.
In 1 Thessalonians 3, we get the opposite picture.
6 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— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God. 1 Thess. 3:6-9
Here, Paul receives an encouraging report of the Thessalonian church from Timothy. And this encouragement fuels him in three ways. First, encouragement fuels his perseverance. He says, “now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord” (8) despite the affliction. Knowing they are following Jesus makes him want to keep going. Second, encouragement fuels his thankfulness. He is so overwhelmed with gratitude he doesn’t know how to put to words his thanksgiving to God for his goodness (9a). Third, encouragement fuels his joy. He hears the good report and is filled with an abundance of joy in God because of it (9b).
All pastors need to be reminded that their labors are not in vain, that God is doing what he promised, and that people are being built up in Christ because of the sacrificial service they are pouring out. When they are encouraged in this way, it overflows to the glory of God.
5 ways you can encourage your pastor
If not already clear, a faithful pastor won’t be fueled by flattery or superficial platitudes. What encourages a faithful pastor will be the knowledge that what they have poured out is being used by God to build his church and increase the worship of Jesus Christ in the world. As a pastor who is easily discouraged, I offer these 5 ways you can fuel your pastor towards perseverance, thankfulness, and joy.
1. Pray for him and let him hear it.
Praying for your pastor is a vital ingredient for his perseverance. However, many pastors don’t know that people are praying for them and even fewer know what is being prayed for them. Share this with them. When you meet with your pastor for lunch or are talking after the service, take a minute to pray for him and let him hear how you are praying for him. Another way is to send him a text that says, “Pastor, I’m praying for you today that …” and then share the essence of the prayer you are offering for them.
2. Share with him how you are growing in Jesus.
This is what encouraged the Apostle Paul and what will encourage your pastor. Even if you can’t share exactly how his preaching, counsel, care, or example are influencing that growth, let him know how you are fighting sin, becoming more like Jesus, and trying to live for him in the world. As John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). Follow Jesus and let him see how.
3. Remember Pastor Appreciation Month.
I haven’t met a pastor who wanted to let the congregation know what the month of October represents. However, I’ve met a lot of pastors who get to November and are discouraged because no one gave them a letter or intentional encouragement during Pastor Appreciation Month. Now, some pastors care less about things like this; however, it can feel like if your family forgot your birthday. Consider writing him a note or card. Send him an encouraging text or email. Give him a small gift or book. Have your kids draw him a picture. Remember October and show him you appreciate all that he does for you and your church.
4. Support his family in practical ways.
A pastor’s family is one of the key ingredients in his joy and perseverance. The demands of ministry make it difficult to care for and enjoy his wife and kids as much as he wants to. In fact, his own ability to be qualified and competent for ministry hinges on his family (ex. 1 Tim. 3). So care for his wife. Love on his kids. A practical way is to offer to watch his kids or give a gift card to a nice restaurant so they can go on a date. My wife has three littles at home. A good friend offers to come watch the kids so she can go to the grocery store by herself occasionally. This is an immense blessing to her. Practical support will be appreciated more than you know.
5. Invite him and his family over for dinner once a year.
A common reality is that pastors have people in their homes all the time and are hardly ever invited into someone else’s. For many, this is stressful because they are worried what the pastor will think of their messy living room or how their kids behave. However, many pastors feel isolated and wish they could be themselves too. A pastor is not looking to “assess” your family when invited over for dinner. They are simply honored to be in your home. They have a messy living room too. Their kids act like kids too. But inviting them into your life helps them know they are welcome and loved.
“Esteem your pastor in love.”
Consider this final word from Paul.
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 1 Thess. 5:12-13
Although leaders are held to a high standard and need correction like the rest of us, the overwhelming exhortation is to honor, follow, love, and encourage them. We are all going to be tempted to see our leaders in a critical light and be less likely to say an encouraging word. However, you can be the countercultural voice that speaks life and joy into your pastor. I believe this is a work of the spirit and a gift that all pastors need. We need encouragers. Be that encourager. Help your pastor endure with perseverance, thankfulness, and joy.