It’s pastor appreciation month, and while baked goods, tie trinkets, and gift cards are usually welcomed (though not expected!) your pastor may be blessed by something a bit out of the box this year.
My husband, Chris, is a senior pastor and I have seen the best and worst sides of church people. We have been blessed beyond measure (a trip to Paris!) and wounded more deeply than I knew was possible, both through the actions and inactions of people in the pews. Although there can be difficult, unstable, and/or power-hungry people within the walls of the church, most of the heart-level hits a pastor receives are from the “everyday” church member: Words spoken or not spoken. Actions taken or not taken. Groups forming or splitting. All in the name of what they think is best for the church.
Chris and I have loads of pastor friends and I reached out to some pastor’s wives this week to help me with this post. Because as wives, we see what no one else sees. We know what church ministry does to our husbands. How it continues to forever change them and shape them—for good and for ill. As I submit this post, the comments from my pastor’s wife friends are still pouring in. With over 30 wives contributing, the thoughts below are a collaborative effort. Just like any wife would, we long to stand up for our husband, but because he is the pastor we often feel we can’t. It just seems self-serving. We each want to help our husband and support him in a public way but, selfishly, we usually lay low out of fear of putting our own conduct in the cross-hairs, if it is not already.
If you love your pastor and want to bless him this month (and beyond), we urge you to prayerfully consider these three deliberate choices:
1. Put yourself in his shoes. He is more like you than you realize.
He cannot do everything. He does not know all. He cannot read your mind. He does not have complete knowledge of the past (how things “have always been”). He cannot see the future.
He works really, really hard. He’s been trained to do his job. He doesn’t like people telling him how to do his job (though most of our husbands have never specifically verbalized this, we assume he must feel it.). He needs to hear words of admiration, affirmation and encouragement more than he does criticism. He has personal preferences and there are things about his church that he doesn’t like.
He needs time away from work. He has a family he loves to spend time with. He needs to sleep and eat, do dishes and yard work. He wants to keep his priorities straight. In case you missed it his job, though vitally important, is not the first thing on that list.
His home life is not perfect. He has disagreements with his spouse. His kids make bad choices in spite of his instruction and correction. He often feels like he is in over his head. He needs the prayer and support of others.
He sins. He struggles. He weeps. He bleeds.
Yes, he is more like you than you realize.
2. Seek to see situations through his eyes. You rarely understand the entire story.
He is not out to get you. His heart is to protect, not tear down. He almost always has information he cannot share with you. He would never purposely neglect you. He is accountable to God for his stewardship of Christ’s body.
His job is to shepherd you. He loves you. He wants you to thrive. He prays for you. He hurts when you hurt. He agonizes over your sinful choices. His heart breaks when you choose to put other pursuits over intimacy with God and the body of Christ.
He has a multitude of facets to think about when making decisions. He does not make decisions quickly or carelessly. His every decision is continually under inspection. His decisions never make everyone happy.
His actions, words, and attitudes are continually on display for all to see. He is often held to a standard of perfection—he is not allowed to make mistakes. There is no safe space within the church for him to be real and open with his own struggles.
He has sacrificed much to be your pastor. He understands that, ultimately, his job isn’t about his church people but is about the worship of his God. His job is a God-given burden you will never completely see or totally understand. His ministry is not a nine-to-five job and he is on call 24/7, 365 days of the year. His acceptance of this holy calling has changed his life. Forever.
Indeed, you rarely understand the entire story.
3. Choose to give him grace. His best will never be enough.
He is learning. He is growing. He will fail (again and again and again).
Your pastor’s best will never be enough, but the good news is that he doesn’t need to be Superman. Our hope as churchgoers ought not to be in our pastor’s performance. Our hope for life change, church growth, and the advancement of God’s kingdom is in God Himself.
So, perhaps the greatest gift you can give your pastor this month (and every month) is some careful, humble soul-searching and making the choice to change your perspective when it comes to all things church.
Consider praying along these lines during October and beyond:
God, give me the insight to see each situation from my pastor’s point of view. Help me to remember that he is more like me than I realize. Enable me to respect his God-given role and divine responsibility—even when I just can’t understand all the pieces. Holy Spirit, bring these truths to mind when I am tempted to make judgements and/or speak about church issues with others. I need your grace and strength to love my pastor better. Help me.