By Janice Hildreth
You may assume by their demeanor in the pulpit that the life of a pastor is one of constant optimism and hope. Not true. Pastors and their families are just like you. They battle disappointments, financial hardships, health issues, and exhaustion. They also carry the burdens of their flock and the weight of responsibility in caring for the church they pastor. Praying for and finding ways to bless them is incredibly important – for the health of their family and the health of the church.
It’s been said, “every pastor wants to resign on Monday,” meaning Satan works overtime to discourage a pastor about the most important job each week: preaching God’s Word. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of angst surrounding those weekly sermons. After pouring so much time and prayer into a sermon, pastors can feel overwhelmed with doubt and worry; it can eat on them for days. Feedback is rare, unless it’s negative. So, a blessing, in the simplest sense, is encouragement.
Now, how that encouragement is delivered looks a bit different for each person.
My husband, Mike, and I pastored three churches, so I’m well aware of the many ways blessings take shape. For our first associate-pastor position, we served in a farming community in Colorado. Teaching school and helping Mike in the youth ministry left little time to plant and harvest a garden. (Okay, full disclosure: I have a black thumb; gardening tends to be an exercise in futility.) But we would come home from church to find produce piled anonymously on our porch: a bushel of washed-and-snapped green beans ready for the canner; peaches and apples ready for the freezer; enough tomatoes to make salsa for the entire year. In the fall we received venison from hunters; in the winter, we reaped fish from the old codgers who spent their retirement days ice fishing. Seemingly simple gestures, yet they had a profound impact. They reminded us that we were not alone.
I put the title of this article, “How to Pray for and Bless your Pastor and Family,” as a question on all the pastor-wives blogs to which I subscribe and they shared the considerations they experienced that were a blessing to them:
- Pray for your pastor. Pray for physical and emotional strength. Pray for a hunger for God that would deepen his spiritual walk. Pray against the enemy’s attacks: discouragement and pride. Pray that his heart would remain pure and he would not stray into traps set for him.
- Pray for the pastor’s wife. Pray for his wife, for patience, for wisdom and boundaries. Pray for friends to come alongside her and encourage and lift her up.
- Pray for the pastor’s children. Pray for godly friends who would help them resist common teen temptations. Pray for their relationship with God, that they would understand that as PKs they don’t have an automatic pass to heaven.
- Attend services regularly. Nothing eats away at a pastor’s self-confidence more than his parishioners believing that everything in their life is more important than attending church. And volunteering in some capacity will really encourage him as well.
- Respect his day off. Unless it is truly an emergency, and no other staff member to call, do not contact him about anything.
- Include them. If your pastor doesn’t live close to their family members, remember to include them at holidays.
- Don’t gossip. Don’t listen to gossip, don’t pass it around.
- Share your good news. Pastors are interested in what’s happening in your life and delighted to celebrate with you.
- Involve your family. Teaching your children to serve is very important in Christian discipline. Could your teen mow the lawn or shovel snow for the pastor? Learning to serve is a joy to both those serving and those receiving. Does your pastor have young children? Maybe you could offer to babysit during the multitude of after-hour engagements they attend. Paying for babysitters is a huge budget consideration.
- Appreciation. October is National Pastor Appreciation Month in the U.S. Contact a board member to encourage them to honor the pastor and his family during this month.
- Notes. Write a personal note of encouragement. Include a gift card for coffee or a lunch somewhere.
- Gift cards. Speaking of gift cards, in today’s economy, consider giving a gas or grocery gift card. Pastors put a lot of miles on their vehicles visiting parishioners and attending meetings. If your pastor’s family is hospitable, then a grocery gift card would be an appropriate choice.
- Don’t forget the pastor’s kids. PKs would enjoy coffee or McDonald’s gift cards for no reason except to say you love them. Teenage PKs often experience depression with their fishbowl lifestyle, and your encouraging gesture could be the impetus that will help them keep making good choices.
- Special days. Remember the family members’ birthdays and send a card and note of encouragement.
- Drop expectations. Do NOT put unrealistic expectations on the family or their children. Turn your head when a PK needs discipline and allow their parents to deal with their behavior. The best gift is to openly love and accept their children for who they are – no judging.
- Share your blessings. If you have unused entertainment opportunities, share them. In one of our churches a couple had season tickets to the philharmonic. Any time they were unable to attend they offered us their seats. Dressing up, dinner out and then a concert made a wonderful date night. Have an unused football ticket or movie pass? Offer it to your pastor. If he plays golf, offer to take him and pay for the green fees.
- Friendship. Invite your pastor’s wife out to lunch as your guest and to an exhibit at your local museum or a play or movie.
- Hospitality. Invite the whole family over for dinner and game night. Just a fun time of relaxation. Do not use this time to push the pastor about something in the church.
- Vacation. Make sure the pastor and family take a yearly vacation. Share your timeshare or cabin or offer gas cards to help with travel costs.
- Share family fun. Most pastoral families don’t have extra funds. If your family enjoys activities such as boating or swimming in which you can include them – or at least their kids – do so.
- Encourage. Make it a goal to send a personal note of encouragement to each member of the family during the year. You do not have to include a gift – except for toddlers, they will need stickers. Affirming words are healing. Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
Janice Hildreth is an Idaho native, retired pastor’s wife, and author. She is the author of two Q&A books and the first four books of a seven-part inspirational romance series set in the Pacific Northwest. You can purchase her books on Amazon. She has ministered to pastors’ wives for over two decades with her blog PastorsWife.com. She retired from the Idaho Statesman after 20 years. She and her husband live in Emmett, Idaho and enjoy every minute they get to spend with family, especially the grandchildren.