Encouraging Your Pastor

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls,
as those who will have to give an account.”
                                                                        (Hebrews 13:17)

I want to begin this article by giving thanks to Memorial Presbyterian for the support and encouragement they have given me as their pastor.  There are days when my inadequacies for such a calling are manifest, and their prayers and kind words are an invaluable source of strength.  There have been ups and downs in ministry; times I’ve wanted to pack it all up and find “greener pastures,” and there have been times when I have been overwhelmed by the compassion, love, and trust I have been given.  Over these past 7 years, I have come into a richer and deeper understanding of what it means to be a pastor, and how I have been called to love and serve the Lord as I love and serve his church.  My greatest desire is that God would be glorified in my life, and likewise in the life of the church – that for me would be a successful ministry.

I recently finished reading Kent Hughes’ book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, an excellent book on how to redefine success in ministry from a biblical, rather than worldly, perspective.  At the end of the book, there is a great chapter on how the congregation can help encourage their pastor.  While reading through the chapter, I identified many of the things my own congregation does for me and for my family and I thought I would pass along a summary of Hughes’ concluding points to help you continue to encourage your pastor.

You can encourage your pastor by living biblically successful lives

There is little that will lift the pastoral heart more than people who are successes before God (faithful, serving, loving, believing, praying, holy, and positive), for this means that the fullness of Christ is active in the congregation and that the vision and burden of ministry is being shared.  It means that the pastor will have some people around him who are cheerful, hardworking, selfless, and supportive.  The heartening effect of this cannot be overestimated.

You can encourage your pastor by your personal commitment to help him know success

Commit yourself to freeing your pastor from a ministry of numbers.  While growing attendance and conversion is significant, it is not the only indication of success in ministry.  This does not mean that the Pastor shouldn’t be held accountable in matters of work habits, administration, creativity, preaching, and spiritual discipline.  Those are necessary.  But the church must also commit itself to creating an environment in which its pastors are encouraged to be men of God and to pursue biblically defined success.

Encourage your pastor by not expecting (or allowing) him to be involved in everything. 

Reject the ubiquitous pastor fallacy – that the good minister must be present and presiding at everything.  The leadership of the church should help the pastor understand which boards and committees he must regularly attend, and those which he should only infrequently visit, ensuring that the pastor has ample time for his devotional life, family, sermon preparation, exercise, and leisure.

Encourage your pastor by providing adequately for him and his family.

Salary – An excellent rule of thumb is that the pastor’s salary and benefits should be at a level that is near the median income of the congregation, ensuring that the pastor can support his family.

Study Time – These are not vacations.  They are for spiritual and intellectual renewal.

Vacation and Days Off – It is not uncommon, because of emergencies and special meetings, for a minister to go two or three weeks without taking one day off.  Help him by gently reminding him that his calling does not cancel his humanity.  Burn-out has become epidemic in the ministry.  The church can help forestall this by making wise provision for time away from work.

Encourage your pastor by loving his family

The fishbowl life of the pastoral ministry can take its toll – especially on the pastor’s family.  Not a few PKs have reacted to the feeling of being under the congregation’s microscope.  What can we do to minimize this effect?  Simply love his family.  By this we are not emphasizing a public display of compassion, but a quiet familylike love that recognizes that they are people in process like those in one’s own family.  This love does not demand more from them than from other children.  This love honors their individuality and gives them space to grow.  It refuses to gossip, believes the best, has a kind word, and prays for the pastor’s family.

Encourage your pastor by treating him with respect.

The pastorate is a divine office, and thus a minister should never have to earn his congregation’s respect unless he has done something to lose it.  Furthermore, he should be respected no matter how great or small, grand or humble his ministry is.  The church must dismiss the world’s rung-dropping, numbers-counting way of according respect.  True, your pastor is to lead by being a servant, but such a call is intrinsically honored.

When you have done these things you have done almost everything to encourage your pastor – except for the most important thing, which is to pray.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess 5:11)


Ethan’s Aphorisms

“Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight…”
(Proverbs 4:1)

Rather than my usual “devotional” writing this week, I thought I’d share some of the little proverbs that I’ve been jotting down as they come to me in my study time.  I call them: Ethan’s Aphorisms.

  • A pastor should never complain about his congregation.  All their faults and failures may be precisely what God is using in his sanctification.
  • A congregation should never complain about their pastor.  All his faults and failures may be precisely what God is using in their sanctification.
  • Those who leave a church because they don’t get along with the congregation or the pastor eventually find their problems follow them.
  • Rather than complain about something, pray for something.
  • Love covers a multitude of sin. (Okay, that’s not mine, but it is still good.)
  • The lack of prayer reveals a lack of faith.
  • The desire to pray is prayer itself.
  • Distractions in prayer may be promptings to pray.
  • The one who is most ready to live in Heaven is best suited to serve on earth.
  • What you believe has tremendous effect on how you live.
  • How you live ultimately reveals what you believe.
  • If you don’t know what you believe, you don’t really don’t believe it.
  • If you don’t read the Bible, you are likely not living according to the Bible.
  • A husband who will not put his wife before himself will not put Christ before himself.
  • A wife who will not submit to her husband will not submit to Christ.
  • Your child’s relationship with you is a good indication of your relationship with God.
  • A Christian’s trials are never the wrath of a judging God.  Christ has borne that wrath.  A Christian’s trials are the fruitful discipline of our loving Father.
  • That which you cannot live without has become a god to you.
  • Your sin is great.  God’s grace is greater.
  • It is never too late to repent.
  • Lost people do lost things.
  • If you are not aware of a sin from which you need to repent, you aren’t paying close enough attention.
  • The sin you despise in others is usually also found in you.
  • The more time you spend in the presence of Christ, the more you will begin to live like Him.
  • You are either connected to that which brings you life or that that which brings you death.
  • Even just a little sin, a little disobedience, a little death is too much.
  • You are either growing closer to God or further from Him.
  • Those who say they can worship God just as well while alone in nature as they can while with a congregation don’t understand what it means to worship God.
  • What you get out of worship matters far less than what you give in worship.
  • The most important thing about you is not what you do, what you’ve done, what you have, or who you know.  The most important thing about you is that you are loved by God and called His child.