When I wrote my second book 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, I surveyed over 2,000 pastors through LifeWay Research and through an online survey through Christianity Today. In the CT survey, I asked pastors to share specific ways someone in their congregation ministered to them. I probed how people could (and did) encourage them. Here’s a sample of what they wrote. If you are not a pastor, consider doing one or two of these this week.
How to encourage your pastor …
- Defending me when someone attacks me verbally.
- Commenting on their understanding of my challenges.
- When hand-written notes come from godly people they mean so much.
- I think the greatest affirmation I receive is when my congregation trusts me.
- I would say it would be the time I received a homemade card from someone in the church telling me how much she appreciated me and that she was praying for me. Those words of encouragement were priceless.
- I don’t feel like I always have to be right, but I do like to have the opportunity to express my own views. Those who are most receptive to this are very affirming.
- Asking me how they can pray for me. I’m not talking about the hurried, polite questions that may come on a hectic Sunday morning, but when they genuinely ask.
- The ministry of presence like when they sat with me in the hospital when my wife had emergency surgery.
- When people go out of their way to really inquire how I’m doing.
- Anything not related to Sunday. I hear a lot of “great message, Pastor” but I don’t know if it’s sincere. A phone call a few days later that refers to something I did affirms me.
- The occasional person who tells me that “so and so” spoke kindly about me.
- When I know I have the support of my leadership.
- Those who know there is a spiritual and emotional cost to being a pastor even if they don’t really understand.
- They have come into my life and family and done something totally unexpected, unexplainable, and absolutely needed (came and cleaned our house when were sick, fixed a meal for us when times were tough, etc.).
- When a person takes the time to pay attention to my emotions I experience and conveys their desire to stand in prayer with me on issues that are troubling.
When a pastor faithfully serves and seldom receives encouragement from their church, their soul and passion can wither and die. This is the saddest response I received.