Tuesday, April 17, 2012

10 Ways.

I have to admit that this post is inspired by a loving act on Sunday morning, which was a challenge for our family.  Heather had gotten sick a few times in the night, and I had to stay home with her.  I have so many responsibilities at church on Sunday mornings that I actually tried to bring her along, and so Seth and I had some "aggravated fellowship" in the corridors of the church.

He won fair and square so I took her home.  He is smarter and calmer than me, too.

On my way out the door, there was a really precious lady from our Body.  She had seen the tense glances and terse mumblings between teeth clenched tightly, so she stopped me on my way out the double doors and asked how I was doing.  

I was honest with her and spoke to her about the challenging morning our family had experienced.  She smiled so kindly, without judgment, and simply said, "Can I say some prayers for you right now?  You're always ministering to everybody else, maybe I could pray for you?"

The tears fell as she came near to God on our family's behalf, and I thanked Him for this friendly face at just the right moment.  She didn't meddle or ask too many questions.  Instead she stepped out to offer prayer and a word of encouragement at just the right time.

It got me thinking...

Perhaps some of you who hang out here regularly would like to be this person to the pastors who tend to your souls weekly and their families who cheer them on?
Perhaps you would want to take on the challenge of speaking life into your pastors and their people?  I hope and pray that something rises up in you to find ways to bless and add sunshine to a life lived out vocationally for the One who is so Worthy!

This blog has been a cooperative effort with some other families in the ministry.  The best time to encourage your pastor is in short, anytime! 

1.  Ask them how they are really doing (and keep confidences when they really tell you). 
Ministers and their families really know you care if you take the time to ask how they are doing. Ask what God has been teaching them lately and be genuinely interested if they tell you. Take the time to listen to them. Then prove you are able to be trusted and don't let the world know what they share. If they do open up to you, understand that it is because they trust you. Just like everyone in the pews, the leadership is not exempt to hardship and trial, to spiritual dry spells and financial woes, to trouble with prodigal children or depression, or sheer exhaustion. Take an active role in offering a safe place for your ministers and family to share struggles and feel loved in the process. If there is a book or CD that's encouraged you-share it!
Don't be frustrated if it takes time for a ministry family to trust you. The calling is tough and chances are, they have found others who lacked understanding and/or grace and this has led to hurt. Be patient and keep showing them you care!

2.  If a sermon/visit/word of encouragement has blessed you, let them know.  Conversely, if you are irritated or frustrated, please let them know and not the guy over in 
pew #6.
Pastors have a unique job, which is to be the mouthpiece of God generally on a weekly basis. This is a joyful yet challenging venture, and your pastor would LOVE it if you let him/her know in what ways you have found him/her to be prophetic and what ways you have applied it to your own life and ministry. This doesn't take much time but will provide a boost of God-confidence for all Gospel Ministers: show them what they say matters and you will use their obedience to spur on your own walk with the Lord!
If you have a frustration or a constructive challenge for your pastor, please share it with him or her, not everyone else in the church!! If you find yourself criticizing more than encouraging, you may need a heart check. Are you harboring unforgiveness or jealousy? Is your criticism really misplaced conviction on your own heart?!  Whatever the reason, the adage rings true: you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar! If you want your pastor to really listen and take to heart any critiques you may have, be the biggest cheerleader your pastors have ever had! I guarantee they will then listen if you have something to address with them.

3. Affirm and Appreciate: their call, their love for their flock, their sacrifices.
I dare you... next time you see your pastors, affirm that they have been called by God to do ministry right where they are for such a time as this.  Make sure that they know that you know God has anointed them for whatever call they have received from Him, and as Emerson said, " "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."  Remind them that you KNOW Almighty God is using them for great things in the Kingdom, and that sometimes the small things are what He considers great!

4.  Don't bring any conflicts, criticisms, or frustrations to them on a Sunday.
Let me let you in on a little glimpse of our Sunday morning lives.  You know the spiritual warfare that comes against you when you try to get yourself and your tribe to church?  Yeah, the moments when all of Hades seems to break loose against you -- your kids are pulling each other's hair and the patriarch and matriarch are duking it out in the kitchen and then no one can find the keys so everyone has said cross words and no one feels like going?  Amp that up by about a thousand or two.  Now you understand what Sunday morning can hold for a ministry family.  I've been known to declare (shout at the top of my lungs) from time to time, "Lord, somebody better be gettin' saved in your house today, because the devil does NOT want us there!"  It's a hectic, run-around-like-a-chicken kind of time.  We are fighting a battle that's very real and Satan loves nothing more than to throw the pastors off their game.  I know this personally, as I have failed the Lord more than a few times by bringing up things on Sunday that could have waited...and had a more productive time of discussion.  (See ABOVE.)  
I'm still learning too!  Pastors and their families are generally very occupied on Sunday mornings trying to make sure everyone feels loved, welcomed, tended to, and cared for, and pastors especially are listening as closely as possible for the voice of the Father so they might speak it to their flock.  Let us guard against distracting them with things that can be discussed during the week - especially things that Satan, the Liar and Accuser, could twist in their minds and use to make them lose their focus on Christ. There are 6 other days of the week for these types of discussions and in our experience, they are much more clearly
received from the same Spirit they are given on any other of those 6 days.

5.  Walk in your calling and offer your giftedness to your church Family.
When asked to contribute her thoughts to this post, my dear DEAR friend and fellow pastor's wife Sara wrote her heart on this...she desires that the Christian Community know: 
"This is not our job [pastoring], it's our calling by the Creator God...and that our hearts break when the Body doesn't take to heart their calling: to be disciples of the nations.  The pastors and their families are not the only disciples.  So support your pastor and family by answering your call from God.  
This relieves the pressure of the pastor and family to be at all places at all times."  
Right on, Sara!  The Body is made up of many parts, and it cannot function well if it is assumed that the mouth will do what the hands or the feet are supposed to do.  If God is impressing a ministry or a vision upon your Spirit, be careful not to drop it at the pastor's doorstep.  Instead, let your pastor offer leadership and encouragement as you operate in the call of God.  Seth explains it like this: A lot of people consider the local church a basketball team, and they assume that the pastor is the star player of that team.  Instead, perhaps a more Biblical model would be of the pastor coaching the team (the local church).  Let your pastor coach you as you learn to obey God and honor Him with the giftings only YOU possess.      
6.Remember they are only human.  And be okay with that.
A few years ago, I read a book on marriage by Elisabeth Elliot.  
"First of all, who is it you marry? You marry a sinner. There's nobody else to marry. That ought to be obvious enough, but when you love a man as you love yours it's easy to forget. You forget it for a while and then when something happens that ought to remind you, you find yourself wondering what's the matter, how could this happen, where did things go wrong? They went wrong back in the Garden of Eden. Settle it once for all; your husband is a son of Adam. Acceptance of him---of all of him---includes acceptance of his being a sinner. He is a fallen creature, in need of the same kind of redemption all the rest of us are in need of, and liable to all the temptations which are "common to man." 
I reckon the same thing can be said for all pastors as well - male and female - they are sinners.  They have admitted it.  They are warring against their flesh, just as we are.  Be careful in placing your pastors on pedestals, as sometimes people fall dangerously and get wounded.  It is true that pastors are called to a higher standard by Scripture.  They know that, trust me.  If they are wise, they stay low to the ground and close to the cross because of it. 
So let's be patient with our spiritual leadership and offer them grace just as we received it.    

7. Pray for and over them.
If your pastors are truly surrendered to Jesus, then you can guarantee there are wanted posters littering Hell with their photos on them.  Prayer would be your greatest gift to your pastors and their families.  Revive Our Hearts has a fantastic prayer guide (although it is very gender-specific, which is the only thing I don't like about it) to aid you in this life-changing call to warfare prayer for your shepherds.  Corrie Ten Boom wrote, 
 "Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees." 
Your appointment with the Lord on behalf of your pastor has power and affects more than you will ever know on this side of eternity.  Please also pray out loud over your pastors.  Obviously, do this with sensitivity (not alone in the office - file that under awkward) but let them know that you are praying for them by letting them listen to some of your prayers, perhaps by walking up to the altar and switching roles for a change?  Or write those prayers in a card or email and send it to them.  It will bear more fruit than anything else on this list. 
8.  Work with them.
Remember that we are all on the same team.  Support your pastors' visions as long as it is scriptural. God is allowing them to have leadership for a reason, so do your best to respect both the person and the office of pastor.  I understand that there are many times when pastors are erroneous with their approach, but just as God calls us to do with everyone else, try to offer the most generous explanation possible for any way they choose that may not be your favorite.  work with them, not against them if you trust them to be good-willed, God-willed people.  Respectfully ask in what way you may partner with them in the Kingdom coming to your church and your neighborhood.  What would happen if you sat down in their office and said, "Give me a job.  I want to serve and I'm ready to join you in vision and mission."?  I know many pastors who would leap for joy!
9.  Make sure they have accountability too.
Take time to make sure that your pastor and family have safeguards to defend against sin.  There is nothing satan loves more than people without protective fences in their lives.  See if your pastor has an accountability partner and a mentor -- if not, pray that God will send one quickly.  See that your pastors have a flexible enough schedule to meet with people who have their back against sin and will ask the tough questions of them.  Do the same for your pastor's spouse.  Please understand that it is truly better if these accountability people don't worship at their church - it's much easier to be honest this way.
10.Ease their load.
A dear couple in a church has given my family a precious gift for the past two summers - the gift of time.  They have paid for someone to come and mow our grass starting in the early spring, so that Seth does not have to worry about it.  Our AWESOME secretary (a gift from GOD'S throne named Carla) knew I was having a rough month and called our automated prayer line.  She declared to our Body that it was Pastor's WIFE Appreciation week!  What a sweetheart!  A beautiful woman in our church is a stylist and she gives our family free haircuts all the time.  Yet another friend takes our family photos for free.  I could go ON AND ON!  I am crying just telling you all about it, because it makes us feel SO loved.  SO loved!  I realize that not everyone is in a position to do something like what's been suggested, but what can you do to lighten the weight of your shepherds?  Could you babysit for them one night, or bring a meal by on a busy Sunday evening?  Could you call them to see if you can run an errand for them sometime?  With great responsibility comes a load that, if not cast at the Master's feet, can overwhelm and even bring anxiety.  God calls us in His Word to bear others' burdens with them, so ask yourself how you might carry a bit of the load to the foot of the cross for your pastors. They will be truly grateful, not just for what you may offer to do, but even more by the HEART of it!

To those of you reading this, I pray that you will take these ideas to heart.  If you do, you might not recognize the one in the pulpit because you have so lifted their spirits and encouraged their hearts and their walks with the Lord!  Thanks for desiring to minister to your pastor and family -- let me know how it goes :)