When we have good pastors, we can gradually come to take them for granted, or to view them as if they’re indestructible ministry machines. They’re not. No matter how good and godly your pastor is, he’s a sheep too. So here are a few ways congregations can make sure they’re caring for their pastor as one of their own.
Serve him, his wife, and his family. Our congregation is so kind to us. They happily offer to babysit our six children periodically so my wife and I can get out together. They’ve cooked meals for us when we’re sick. They’re thoughtful. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t demand to be called “Pastor,” and no one goes around calling my wife “First Lady.” But they remember that we’re people, too. Members sadly leave churches sometimes because their own hospitality is not reciprocated. That’s not a very good reason to leave a church; but try not to make your pastor feel that way. When’s the last time you had your pastor and his wife in your home for coffee and encouraging conversation?
Pray for him as well as you can. Often we pray for those we view as weakest, and we forget to pray for those we view as strongest. But church, your pastor needs your prayers, no matter how strong he looks. Pray for his holiness. Pray the Lord would keep teaching him in his study of God’s Word. Ask the Lord to bless his ministry, to encourage his soul, and to strengthen him for perseverance in feeding, leading, and loving the flock.
Pay him as well as you can. If your pastor works hard in preaching and teaching, Jesus says the worker is worthy of his wages, and Paul says he’s worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17-18), and that’s in a financial context (1 Timothy 5:3-16). Church, be generous in paying your pastor. It’s obedient to Scripture. It will show him how much you value his ministry of the Word. It will encourage him and free him up to give himself to you in further faithfulness to the ministry of the Word and prayer. And it will keep him from wondering whether the grass is greener elsewhere.
You can get a deal on something else your church needs; but some things are worth paying full price for, and a faithful pastor is one of them. If you distract your pastor by under-compensating him, then chances are you’ll get the ministry you paid for. This doesn’t mean you pay him so much it’s scandalous. And of course, every congregation has limited funds. But prove that you put a premium on the preaching of the Word of God. Make it a point of congregational honor to pay your pastor honorably. Take into consideration the cost of living in your area, the size of his family, his educational attainments, his heart for hospitality, the rate of inflation, and the faithfulness of his ministry—and if he works hard in preaching and teaching, then consider him worthy of double honor.
Befriend him. Pastors need friends too. I know, I know—pastors can seem intimidating. They can look so independent and authoritative in the pulpit . . . downright scary! But you share Christ in common with him. So brother, offer to grab lunch with him for Christian conversation and encouragement. If you know you share an interest with him (a sport, a hobby, a reading interest), why not engage him in it? Some guys in my own congregation just invited me to go with them to a high school basketball tournament in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to that.
Encourage him and, if you can, mentor him. Be specific in articulating how you’re growing under his ministry, or what you appreciated about his last sermon, or why you’re glad he’s your pastor. I just got an encouraging e-mail from a member of our church thanking my wife and me for serving the church as we do. I appreciated that—not because I’m an approval addict, but because I’m a sheep too. If you’re an older man than your pastor is, then offer to get together with him for coffee or lunch periodically to encourage him, to listen to him, and to give him biblical counsel as he needs it. And believe me . . . he needs it.
Be content with him. Your pastor is probably a lot like Jesus, but that doesn’t mean he is Jesus. Your pastor will sin against you at times. He even has character wrinkles that will never be completely ironed out in this life. If you compare him to someone else’s pastor, he might come out with the short end of the stick on a few metrics. The grass always seems greener on the other side, doesn’t it? Don’t be forever wishing that your current pastor was more like another guy you liked better a while back. If he’s biblically qualified and faithful to the task, then be content with him and with his ministry—shortcomings and all. Besides, he’s probably working to be content with you in ways you don’t even realize.
Love him. Church, love your pastor. He’s giving his whole life and livelihood to loving you in the Word of God and in prayer for Christ’s sake and for the sake of your own eternal soul. Stir up your affection for his ministry to you in preaching and pastoral care. Think of the reasons you’re grateful for him. Express your appreciation to him every once in a while. Speak your criticisms to him kindly, directly, and briefly; but write out your encouragements to him at length. After all, your shepherd is also a sheep.
For the pastor’s responsibility to see himself as a sheep, see the related post titled “Pastor, You are a Church Member Too.”