We're six years into our first church where my husband, Des, serves as the Senior Pastor. We moved to Hobart at the beginning of 2011, bright-eyed and keen to embark on pastoral ministry. We were perhaps a little naïve to the problems and stresses that church-based ministry can entail. These can hit a pastor hard and, if he is married, they can also hit his wife and any children they have. Thankfully, God planted three special women in our local church. I want to be clear that there are more than three especially encouraging women in our church family! But to keep this brief enough in order that it may be beneficial, let me introduce you to Hannah, Katrina, and Rebecca.
I got a beautiful surprise recently. We've just had our third baby and Hannah dropped by with a gift. In the course of chatting, Hannah mentioned that she and her husband pray for Des every day. Every day. My jaw dropped. I thanked her and she replied “well of course we do – he needs it. It's a big job.” And she's right. Your pastor has got a big job. It is mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically taxing. There may be conflict in the church, budget worries, perceived ineffectiveness, lack of growth… The list of problems and stressors will look different for every pastor. Whatever his situation, he needs prayer that God would preserve his trust in him; that he would grow in his love and knowledge of Jesus; that God would use him; if married, that God would protect his marriage; if any children, that he and his wife would be wise parents.
I know Hannah isn't the only person praying regularly for Des. But she prays and she has told him that she's praying for him, and that is a massive encouragement.
Katrina is an encourager. After listening to a sermon, Katrina often takes the time to write an email outlining how it helped her. There's something really biblical and good about her encouragement. First, she thanks God for the gifts she sees at work in Des. This is really important, as puffing a pastor up with praise is really dangerous for him. He is a good preacher because God gave him that gift. He is a caring man because God made him so. All the thanks and the glory need to go to God lest your pastor start thinking that he deserves it. So tell your pastor that you give God thanks for his God-given gifts. Sure, enumerate the gifts, but don't leave God the giver of the gifts out of the picture. Otherwise you may well be feeding the sin of pride in him and just puffing him up.
Second, Katrina avoids the trap of being too vague in response to a sermon. She doesn't just say 'that was a great sermon'. She tells him what she was reminded of about God's character and actions, or how she was affected by the preached word of God. This is so very encouraging to a teacher of God's word! What your pastor yearns and prays for is that you grow in your love and knowledge of Jesus and your obedience to him. So why don't you tell him how the sermon affected you to that end?
These encouragements don't have to be face-to-face. It might take you 30 seconds to write a text or Facebook message, or a couple of minutes to write an email. I know several pastors who keep emails and cards so they can read them again at times when they feel discouraged. Why not supply your pastor with some such encouragements?
About four weeks out from having our third child, we received a timely offer of help from Rebecca. At that point we had a 4.5 year old boy and a 2.5 year old boy. Sunday mornings after church were becoming quite difficult for me. Des, rightly, wanted to meet visitors and new people after the service. He would often take our 2.5 year old onto his shoulders so that I only had to corral the 4.5 year old. But by about 35 weeks pregnant, that was becoming quite difficult and I found I just couldn't keep up with him. The thought of adding a baby into the mix was quite daunting – what on earth would Sunday mornings look like with three kids under five years of age??
Rebecca had seen me quite flustered one Sunday morning and came up with the idea of using her two high-school age sons to entertain my two young sons in the church crèche room and playground straight after the service. Her sons, under her supervision, could look after my boys for 30 minutes so that I could talk to people after the service. This has been such a blessing to all our family. First, our little boys just love big boys and really look up to them. What a model of service my boys are learning from these older boys! Second, it has also been a huge blessing for Des and me. Now, some weeks we are both free to have a decent conversation with people after the service, to make them feel welcome or to chat through what we learned from the sermon.
Sundays can be one of the most stressful times in the whole week for a pastor's family. Many wives of pastors talk about functioning as single parents on a Sunday, particularly if there are multiple services or responsibilities on the same day for which their husband is out of the house.
If your pastor has young children, perhaps you're in a position to offer to help in a similar way that Rebecca helps us?
Or maybe you could invite yourself over for lunch and bring the food with you? I guarantee that any such offer of help would bless them.
God has been kind in giving us these three women. I could tell you about dozens more; women who have offered to clean our house or go grocery shopping when our child was critically ill, who have cooked us meals when we've had our babies, who have offered to babysit for us so we can spend time together. We have been cared for and supported by our church family in many beautiful, practical ways and we are grateful to God for them all. But I've focussed on these four as a start. May their loving care of our family inspire you as you seek to love your pastor.
 Not their real names.