October is considered “Pastor Appreciation Month”. I thought I’d let you in on a few secrets about pastors since I’m married to one and have many friends who are pastors. I have laughed and cried with many of their wives, so I anticipate that some of our experiences may help you to appreciate your pastor and his family with greater understanding.
1. They love you and when you hurt, they do too! Most of our pastors understand that Biblical Christianity means that we “bear one-another’s burdens”. However, something you must understand is that there are so many more of you than there are of them. While your life may have taken a “tornado-like” spin, they too have families, problems and other folks to take care of, so they are doing their best to care for you. When it feels overwhelming, he has to trust the Lord with you, your hurts and all that is happening within the life of your church.
2. Sometimes, they feel lonely. Your pastor might be larger than life on the Sunday stage, but he has issues, pains, joys and struggles just like everyone else. He needs your prayers. If you haven’t prayed for your pastor, in a while, please change that! One commonality of pastors and their families is that they expose pieces of their lives in a message and you feel like you know them. But, unfortunately some pastors don’t get to be a “normal” guy when they are in a group of people. They are always “the pastor”. This is a weight that most people will never understand and there isn’t anything he can do to change it. And what about when people at church are mad at him? Who can he safely talk to? When we moved to town, our mentors told my husband, “Get a counselor who doesn’t go to your church (and never will). You might not need him now, but you will soon.” They were right! My husband sees a counselor that has been instrumental in helping him work through a host of issues. He’s “healthier” today than he’s ever been. It’s not weak; it’s wise.
3. Like a lot of jobs, time away isn’t always “time away”. We have a new rule at our house and that’s that my husband is only “allowed” to check his email once or twice during a family vacation and sometimes, not at all. Don’t worry, this is his own rule. When we first started our church, he did nothing but work. We barely saw him and it was hard. If we tried to get away, there were constant emails that needed to be dealt with and one time, oh one time, it nearly cost us one of our children…It was a holiday weekend and we had laid our two little babies down for an afternoon nap while waiting for the rest of our family to arrive at a beach house that we had all rented together. I went on a quick run. Since it was quiet, my husband got on his computer and had received an angry email from someone at church. He then, got on the phone and became oblivious to everything else. Unbeknownst to him, our two year old got out of her room, walked down the steps and wandered away from the house. While on my run, I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach, so I hurried back to the house. I found the street-side door open and panicked. I looked in the room our two-year old was napping in and it was empty. I found my husband on the phone and screamed that our daughter was gone. He threw the phone and we began yelling her name. He ran to the beach; I ran up and down the road. People quickly came to help. It was sheer panic and we could hardly breathe. A few minutes later (but felt much longer) my husband found our daughter walking on the beach..in a diaper..with her blanket in hand. We had a wake-up call that day. Too many pastors learn the importance of making their family a high priority once it’s too late.
4. Pastor’s jobs are stressful, but not always for the reasons you might think. There are few other jobs that have such focused attention of the Devil himself. His mission laid out in John 10:10 is to steal, kill and destroy Christians…especially their leader. If he can take him down, he may have opportunity to take many others with him. We’ve all seen it happen and his family is just as at risk. If his wife is discouraged, discontent or hurt, this influences your pastor. Pray for and encourage both of them. One very heavy weight for pastor’s families is that they often feel spiritual warfare. Scripture tells us that we don’t war against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world (1 Thessalonians 6:12-13) and that’s why we must take on the Lord’s armor. The moment we declared we would start a church, a war began to wage in our home. It was of the spiritual kind and it has been tiring and wearing ever since. Often, the battle rages amidst amazing mountain top moments. I had never felt such oppression before, but now I understand those verses in a deeper and more personal way. We cling to the Lord, because our life depends on it.
5. Your pastor needs a “band of men”. When King Saul was crowned King of Israel, 1 Samuel 10 tells us that God touched the hearts of a “band of men and they became his constant companions”. The next verse goes on to say that there was a group of men who despised him and complained about him. I don’t think this is coincidental that the Lord formed a band around him, knowing what was to come. When your pastor has a close group of friends around him, it’s healthy and even Biblical. He needs the encouragement of trusted godly men whom he can confide in and be encouraged by.
I pray that the leaders of the church will be encouraged to keep sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. As “the church”, we have a responsibility to bear the burdens of our leaders as they carry this news. So pray for your pastor! Write him a note of thanks. Take their family a meal or love on their kids. Those tangible gifts may breathe life into his ministry and encourage them for years to come!