The world of pastors and other vocational ministers is a different world. It can be wonderful, fulfilling, frustrating and discouraging all in the same day. It is fantastic because we get to work with people and it can be challenging because… well, because we get to work with people.
The majority of ministers do it because they believe God has called them to this important task. They want to make a difference in this world and in eternity. They care about people and love the message of the gospel. Their motivation, if they are what they need to be, is to honor the Lord, teach His word and help others to join them in following Jesus.
But, like all people, they have needs. Let me mention four things pastors need from their churches.
1. They need encouragement. Discouragement is one of the enemy’s greatest weapons. He pounds ministers on the anvil of despair with this powerful hammer. But there is an escape from his onslaught. It is called genuine encouragement from a sincere heart. Genuine encouragement is more than saying “good sermon” on the way out. It is thoughtful, kind and authentic. We pastors try to slough it off as though it is no big deal, but we need encouragement. We need at least ten words of encouragement for every one word of constructive (or especially nonconstructive) criticism. At least ten. The genuine encouragement I receive from the vast majority of the people in my church has been incredibly important to me. Give your pastor a big dose.
2. They need the benefit of the doubt. If they are trustworthy, make trusting them your default. If they are godly, prayerful and thoughtful don’t easily ignore their suggestions. You don’t have to give them a blank check, but don’t give them an assumption of bankruptcy.
Now, if you have a minister in your church who is a liar and a cheat, that is another matter. But, if they are godly and faithful, listen carefully to their ideas before assuming they are wrong. It is possible they have prayed long and hard. It is possible they are really seeking the Lord. Don’t easily assume otherwise.
3. They need their families to be loved. Love their children and spouses. They are not immune to criticisms and unfair expectations. Love them. Treat them well. Be thoughtful and kind to them. My wife is the president of the Pastor’s Wives Luncheon for the SBC this next year. She wants to encourage those women who serve beside their husbands. And they need it just like their husbands do. One of the many, many things I love about the church I pastor (FBC O’Fallon, IL) is that they have been so kind to my wife, my children and, now, my grandchildren. Treating them well is the kindest thing they can do for me and they have modeled that well. They let them be themselves and they have loved them as they are. Great stuff.
4. They need people who love them no matter what. I have been in my church for more than 20 years now. People know by now that I am imperfect. But they have loved me anyway. They have heard me tell some stories more than once. But they have loved me anyway. And, in some instances, they have even disagreed with me. But they have loved me anyway. That matters. Love always matters.
Maybe your pastor needs these things as well.