Hi! So, I tend to forget that pastors are people with struggles, and I appreciate your past posts about what being a pastor truly entails. Do you find it hard to take advice from, to ask for prayer from, or to be comforted by people since you’re usually the one in that advice-giving/comforting/praying role? What are some overlooked things we should know about/do to support you who have been charged with being earthly shepherds? Does this question even make sense? lol. Thanks in advance.
Thank you for asking this. Just — thank you.
Indeed I do find it awkward and difficult to seek counsel, and in my early days of ministry I made the mistake of trying to get that from church members instead of seeking wise men who guide pastors.
While I absolutely love the church people and want to be as real with them as possible, it’s not always wise for a pastor to divulge such personal daily struggles with the people. That’s like if the President came over and told me how his wife and kids were shutting him out and smashing plates at dinner; I’d seriously start to doubt him as a leader.
So if you love your pastor (or don’t love your pastor), some things I could recommend —
1) Pray for your pastor, and let him know it.
Your pastor is a living breathing human being. I remember in grade school when I thought my teacher was a cruel mad scientist that lived in a subterranean lair coming up with assignments to torture us poor students, when in reality my teacher had friends, a life, a home, hopes, dreams, ambitions, fears, anxieties, and kids of their own.
It’s easy to categorize, generalize, and demonize a pastor into a cartoon caricature, but your pastor is a REAL person. They need your prayers too. I even occasionally forget to pray for the staff and senior pastor here because I think somehow they “got it together,” when really they need just as much if not more prayer than everyone else. Ask your pastor what his prayer needs are.
2) Respect your pastor’s vision.
I don’t mean to blindly follow the pastor. But there’s a way in which church members pray for a “pastor’s vision” but it’s actually more of a covert bomb to change a pastor’s mind about something. Please don’t do that. Unless your pastor is outright committing heresy and beating up small children and doing Nazi experiments, he has spent more time than you ever will thinking about the church and communing with God to breathe life into the flock. Your pastor wakes up thinking about you, goes to sleep thinking about you, and spends the day wanting what’s best for the church.
You may not agree with his vision, but allow some room for that to work. No one likes change, and we’ve seen WAY too many churches split over silly issues like carpet color or praise team styles or bulletin formats. Yes, there are times when your pastor wants something silly, and there are appropriate ways to handle that (such as setting up a time to talk to him like you would with any other human being).
And if the pastor’s vision totally fails, no one feels that more than he does. Don’t kick the man when he’s down. Even when your friend or family member fails, you’re there for them to make sure they’re okay. Somehow the pastor has become the exception to this very common-sense rule of humanity. Help to move forward instead of looking backwards.
3) Tell your pastor about your victories too.
Sometimes all we hear about is when your life melts down and implodes. Of course we want to be there for that. But at times I get a very skewed view of my church because I only ever hear about the hard times, and during times of blessing I don’t hear much at all.
I wish I had told my first pastor more about my little victories over sin, the insights I got from a certain passage, my convictions from his sermons. I also wish I had asked him more questions. Your pastor does want to help you, and believe it or not, he feels a scream of delight in his heart when you ask him a question about the Bible or about life.
4) You don’t have to act like Super-Pious Holy Monk Christinator.
I sometimes hate telling people I’m a pastor, because they often suddenly change into a strange hyper-spiritual version of themselves as if I’m going to swing a heavenly gavel to pronounce divine judgment.
There’s a very backwards belief that us pastors ONLY want to talk about ultra-doctrinal, deep-theological, meta-philosophical issues, and while this stuff interests us, we just care about you. I chuckle a bit when I hear someone say, “My pastor can only think in Bible-talk,” because actually, you’re the one who brought that up bro. There are times for that, but also times I just want to share coffee with you and talk about comic books and movies and the funny thing that happened to you the other day.
One of my counselors (I technically have two) will counsel me in his office, but then also invite me to big dinners at his house or a large church event — because he doesn’t only want to see me in a serious setting of counseling. He wants to be my friend. He wants to hang out. He wants to know what I like to do and my favorite sports team and what to eat for dessert and how I like my coffee.
Of course, none of that happens at the expense of the serious side, but it can’t only be serious. I’m sorry if we’re intimidating sometimes, but please don’t hide or pretend or cover up or lie. We’re both human.
5) Encourage, encourage, encourage.
I don’t mean any of this to sound like we somehow want your pity or your vote or only your positive comments. I absolutely want you to be real with me. We can deal with the anger and disappointment and disillusionment — we know that sometimes we let you down. God knows how many times I’ve failed my church, even if they don’t know it. I’m open to all the criticism and I want to hear you out.
But please know you have to be crazy to be a pastor, and we’re often spiritually attacked like crazy, emotionally beat up by all the tragic stories, heartbroken by all the prodigals and betrayals, and just starving for encouragement. We’re right there on the frontlines with the Lord, staring Satan in the face and running into the minefield for lost souls. In the meantime, we constantly feel inadequate, like we don’t pray enough or read the Bible enough or practice what we preach enough. It’s a dangerous, debilitating, discouraging work.
This isn’t to diminish your issue, but most pastors hear every single issue from every single church member, whether it’s a personal thing or a problem with the church itself. It takes a toll on our hearts. We chose this life (or rather, God called us and we answered the call), but like anyone else, we need the body of Christ to lift one another up. That includes your pastor.
I’m reminded of Galatians 6:6 — Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
I’m grateful for hugs. For long handshakes. For a kind word like, “Hey you look nice today.” For a random Starbucks gift card. For a random encouraging text message or phone call. I’m grateful for my church people staying awake through a sermon, fighting every wave of sleepiness even if it’s just to look awake. I’m thankful for volunteers, and for people who go first in small group discussion, and for people who help without anyone asking.
I don’t actively seek these things and I don’t expect nor deserve them, so encouragement is always just a bonus. But I’ll be honest: it’s a very nice bonus. Encourage your pastor today. Light him up.