“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).
Have you ever stopped to truly ponder this passage of Scripture? What comes to mind when you reflect on these words? As I read this familiar passage once again, I find myself reminiscing about the sweet ministry and calling of our dear pastors. As I reflect on their dedication to this wonderful church home of mine, I thank God for them and for the blessed opportunity that we have as a congregation to be partners with them in advancing the gospel.
A pastor’s ministry is a tremendous blessing, calling, and privilege but one that surely does not come without great responsibility.
As our pastors strive to live out their calling and shepherd the congregation toward the heart of Jesus Christ, it is vital that we walk alongside them.
In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, I want to share with you five simple and practical ways to love and encourage your pastors.
1. Encourage your pastors with specific prayer.
As we just finished reflecting on Philippians 1:3-5, we were reminded that we must remember our pastors in prayer, thank God for them, and serve as partners with them to advance the gospel.
Prayer is indeed the number one way that we can encourage our pastors daily and throughout the day as the Lord leads.
We must not pray broadly, but rather pray specifically. Pray for them as they lead and counsel others with biblical solutions. Pray for wisdom, joy, peace, hope, and faithfulness. Pray for accountability and for their character and conduct to coincide with who they are as believers.
Bathe your pastors’ families in prayer just as you would your own. Be intentional in the conversations you have with your pastors and ask how you can specifically lift up their families in prayer. What specific needs do they have? What struggles are they experiencing at key stages of life? What might be happening in their lives soon, and how can you pray specifically for God to lead them?
Pray for your pastor’s wife and for unity with her husband in the ministry. I know that I personally only follow the Lord more closely because of my own faithful, loving wife who has consistently encouraged me in the Lord. Likewise, a pastor’s wife is vital to advancing his ministry and calling.
Consider keeping a prayer journal. Print out, collect, and tuck inside key prayer tools to guide you in making your prayers specific and focused. These could include prayer prompts with lists of topics and key verses to pray over your pastors, such as the one here.
2. Encourage your pastors to care for themselves and their families.
Pastors have families and home lives too. Although we often view them as modern-day superheroes, and we like to think that they can and should do all things for all people, the truth is that they are human too!
Pastors do not have a secret route to heaven or a cakewalk through the Christian life. They have feelings and emotions, victories and disappointments, highs and lows – just like you and me. They must be given some time and space to care for themselves and their families outside their ministry responsibilities.
As the congregation, we must encourage them and offer them grace. We must pray for them that they would discern when to say “no” if they feel overloaded in order to get the rest that they need. Remember, if we want them to lead us, they can’t pour from an empty cup.
3. Encourage your pastors with verbal and written words of gratitude.
Consider giving your pastors uplifting feedback on how their messages have encouraged you, inspired you, convicted you, changed you, and made a lasting impact on your life.
Be specific in how you communicate gratitude. Avoid simply saying, “I enjoyed your message.” Instead, you might say, “Pastor, thank you so much for Philippians 1:3-5. These verses convicted and encouraged my heart. I’m going to review them all week to find areas I can build this passage into my life.”
There may also be times when a phone call can offer real, concrete support. We never know exactly what personal challenges our pastors are wrestling with within their hearts and lives. A phone call tells them that they are loved and that there are people lifting them up in prayer.
Consider writing handwritten letters or notecards. In a day and age when an email can so easily get lost in the shuffle of an overloaded inbox, a personalized card can have a lasting impact for the Kingdom. Someone took the time to care.
4. Encourage your pastors by sharing their vision.
Perhaps few things mean more to our pastors than to hear the words, “I share your vision.” These four simple words have the power to transform the church, the community, and the world.
The pastor is called to shepherd the congregation, but the people are to be co-laborers in supporting and carrying out the vision and mission. Lack of support for the vision limits the power of the gospel, but the gospel reach is limitless when our pastors have a secure, supportive, and steadfast foundation standing beside them.
Show support for the vision and then step up to serve to help carry out that vision.
5. Encourage your pastors by walking in unity.
Above all else, we are to love God and love one another. Nothing should divide us because Jesus is what unites us. Pastors long to see a community that loves one another and walks together in unity. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” There is power when we gather to unite around the gospel because Jesus is there in the midst of us.
With the ever-changing times in our nation and our world, there are plenty of issues threatening to divide us. Let’s let the church be different. Let’s keep the unity and become a haven of rest for our pastors and our people.
We are better together.
We often like to suggest that we do life better when we do it together. Our pastors, too, were never meant to do this life alone.
We must boldly stand behind them, fervently love and pray for them, passionately encourage them, and earnestly care for them.
Let’s not forget what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
If we truly humble ourselves before God and together seek his face, then I believe he will heal our land. Together, with our pastors, we can be partners in the mission of advancing the transformative power of the gospel in our church, our community, and around the world!