I was so blessed to receive a gift the other Sunday. It was not a box of mooncakes. Rather, something more precious: a wooden box with a beautiful handpainted rainbow, the word “Inspiring” and my name “Kenny”. Each of the English adult congregation pastor received one – each unique. Inside the box were well-crafted and anonymous personal notes of appreciation and affirmation. I read mine a few times and was encouraged. There are always warm and loving people in church who are spiritually alert and know when their pastors need encouragement and they do something about it.
They are like Jonathan, that rare gem, the covenant brother of David.
It is often forgotten that every pastor needs encouragement just as much as members. In fact, they need it even more. For many reasons too.
For one, they had entered the ministry with a passion to make a difference in people’s lives, but it frustrates and pulls them down when their expectations have not been matched with reality on the ground. People change so little and so slowly. Some even get worse. Some members show so much of their dark sides, it makes pastors feel like Elijah under the juniper tree.
The ministry is very demanding and people have unrealistic expectations of their pastors. To worsen things, the pastor lives in a Web 2.0 world where his members can hear the best preachers in town and the world, and be unfairly compared to and criticized. In addition, the pastor pushes himself constantly, and even lays his health and family on the altar of people’s immature expectations .
Another pastoral struggle is the fight in the mind against anxiety and fear. Even more vexing is the struggle to embrace ambiguity, paradox and suffering in ministry.
Pastors get burnt out from prolonged labour and no sabbaticals; weary from working with meagre fruit to show for sacrifices put in; and from being misunderstood and hurt.
To worsen things are professional critics who think they are doing the church good by criticizing with disdain and disregard the weaknesses of the church and pastors.
Satan is of course always searching for unmended gaps in the fence of unity through which to discourage, harass, attack pastors. Centuries of expertise has informed their strategies. “Get the leader and the sheep will suffer,” the devil officer will tell his demon soldiers. “Use the church members and it doubles the impact of hurt and discouragement.”
When David was running for his life with the state army of king Saul searching for him in the wilderness of Ziph, he was filled with discouragement and fear. Jonathan risked angering his father Saul, and found David and encouraged him:
And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”(1 Samuel 23:16-17)
Mooncakes supplies energy, which pastors need. But encouragement supplies hope and fresh motivation for the journey ahead.
Pastors of today, more than ever, need treasure boxes like the one I have received.
Wow that is a wonderful affirming thing to do. Praise God for people like that!
Don’t know who they are, but these guys keep me smiling.
Yes! Praise the Lord for reminding me that I’ve neglected my pastors!!
Praise God for loving and caring members! Treasure them!
I just received an email reminding me that October is Pastors’ Appreciation Month, but “many pastors do not get any affirmation or appreciation because their staff and congregation say:
“It’s their job”
“They don’t need it, they always seem so together”
“They get their reward in heaven”
“They are holier than me, how can I affirm them?”
” We are all too busy and I forgot”
“I don’t know how to affirm a pastor”
“What if it seems manipulative?”
“No one affirms me, so why should I affirm others”
“I am sure they get plenty of affirmation from other pastors or staff””
(Mike Griffin, Equipping Leaders for Asia)
Appreciate your writing and especially this encouraging piece! Pax Christi+
Thank you, fellow servant.
I don’t even know there is a Pastor Appreciation Month! As there are Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher’s Day, even Secretary Week, we should institute a Pastor Day or Pastor Week and celebrate it
I never heard of such a month or week or even day either.
I agree with you whole-heartedly, and yet this is generally so lacking in local churches. I like the reasons by Mike Griffin, it’s so true of the perspectives and mindsets of the average lay church member.
The challenge is, what if the pastor really requires or hopes for encouragement, how does he communicate this with his congregation, without coming across as demanding, finger-pointing, or holier-than-thou?
One approach I take is to lead by example, namely being to my leaders the encourager, the pray-er (person who prays for them), the affirmer, the champion (singing their praises and making them look good to others, especially when they’ve served well), the advocate, the sounding board, the emergency button, the non-judgmental, the friend, etc. As more and more of this saturates our ministry, I see it becoming more mutual, as in them also taking the initiative to pray for and ask how they can pray for me, and also see the necessity and blessing of encouraging me as their pastor. Such a joy!
You have proposed a biblical, patient approach that should yield lasting fruit. I appreciate the comment.
Happy for you pastor!
Can sense how the congregation love you so much.
Thinking about it, I haven’t listened to any of your preaching yet. It must be inspiring looking at how much the encouragements you got.
I agree, we should have pastor’s day/week. I don’t know if the one Mike Griffin mentioned was something celebrated worldwide, but it seems to be important.
God bless you, Pastor!