Recently, in my wife’s Kindergarten class, she took a week to talk with her students about various “community helpers”- firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and the like. No discussion, though, yielded more hilarious results than their conversation about the work of a pastor. One afternoon, I got a text message with this image, which provides a summary of the kids’ thoughts on a minister’s work…
To their credit, the kids started off right on track, but as you can see, things veered in a strange direction as they approached the bottom of the page, culminating with my personal, laugh-out-loud funny (but also cringe-worthy) favorite- “I can help my pastor get all the money.”
This little class project, along with the fact that October is apparently Pastors’ Appreciation Month, got my wheels turning about what it is as a pastor that makes me feel truly loved, helped, and appreciated. Now I’ll be honest with you- it’s just a bit awkward and self-serving writing something like this about yourself. I’m trusting you to trust my heart on this. That said, I think a bit of transparency is needed here, and can be beneficial for all of us.
So without any further delay, here’s one pastor’s perspective (for whatever it’s worth) on how you can appreciate us this month (and beyond)…
Ask us how we’re doing. The heart of any pastor worth his salt is to love and lead others to thrive spiritually. Practically, this means we have a lot of conversations that go like this- “How are you doing with __________?” I can’t tell you how meaningful it is when someone turns that around on me and asks me the same thing. It communicates that you understand that we are real people with real joys and pains, triumphs and struggles. One word of caution here- If you’re going to ask, be ready for an honest answer. Pastors, if we’re going to ask this of others, we need to be prepared to be honest too!
Demonstrate care for our families. Just like you, we as pastors aren’t isolated individuals; we live our lives in a system of relationships with people we love and value, and who love and value us. Before I’m a pastor, I’m a husband, a father, a son, a brother, and more. I can’t tell you how much it means when someone does something to show love to my wife, my kids, and other important people in my life. This doesn’t have to be anything close to spectacular; the simplest acts of kindness are such an encouragement.
Pray for us consistently- and tell us how you’re doing it. One of my primary roles as a pastor is to pray for those whom God has entrusted to my care. I love doing this, and count it a great privilege and responsibility. It is so meaningful when I hear from others that they are praying for me too, and it is even better then when they ask specifically how can they pray.
Tell us how God is at work in your life. One of the nagging challenges of pastoral ministry is knowing whether or not everything we’re doing is making a substantive difference in the lives of those we’re serving. So speak up! Tell us- with specifics- how God is speaking to you in His Word, how He is using others to grow you in Him, and how He is working through you to help others come to know and follow Him too. Faith is certainly personal, but it was never intended to be private!
Invest yourself deeply in the community and mission of the church. There are many ways you can do this practically, but the overarching principle is this- demonstrate that you value God’s people, and the common mission we share in this world, with your time, resources, and skills and abilities. Make the choice to prioritize what we’re doing together. We get that things come up in life- that’s true for all of us- but don’t make the local church the first thing to be tossed aside every time they do.
Be responsive when needs and opportunities are communicated. As pastors, we are constantly bringing before you ways that you can get involved and invested in God’s work- through giving, through serving, through showing up in others’ lives in innumerable ways. It is such an encouragement when one such opportunity is presented and people jump all over it to make something of eternal significance happen. There are few things more beautiful than to see the church being all that God has created her to be in this broken world. On the flip side, it can be a great dis-couragement to see needs and opportunities all around, and the only response to be a disinterested apathy. Engage with us!
Be open and honest with us about your struggles and concerns. Maybe you’re thinking, “But a lot of what you ask and invite us to do seems like a waste of time, resources, and energy.” Some pastors may not share this sentiment, but let me just say this- If that’s where you’re at, please share that with us! I would much prefer the opportunity to work through a disagreement or difficult issue with someone than to never know that it existed in the first place. So whether it is something in your life, or something we’ve done to offend (or even just confuse) you, be up front with us about it, so we can work together toward a solution.
Don’t give up on us. There is one thing that I can guarantee for myself and for every other pastor you’ll ever encounter- We will, at some point, fail you. We will disappoint you. We will fall short of your expectations. Our brokenness will rear its ugly head in some tangible way. When it does, my humble plea is that you will be gracious, and that you’ll continue to fight with us for the greatest mission this world has ever known. This doesn’t mean clamming up when there is truth to be spoken, but it does mean working actively toward reconciliation and unity. Pastors, let’s be a people who have the same heart and mind toward those we serve too!
In addition to all of these, I will say that my wife’s students were on to something very true. As the pastor of a mobile church for the past almost three years, I always welcome help “carrying heavy stuff”- because trust me when I say, we carry a lot of it in what we do. So as you pray, care, speak truth, and stay in the fight with us, we also welcome a (literal) helping hand with that next box of kids’ supplies or sound equipment J.
Thanks so much for giving me the privilege of loving and leading you as we walk together to bring real life in Jesus Christ to Ascension Parish and beyond. I love you and count it an honor to be called one of your pastors!