Several weeks ago, I published “10 most painful comments as a pastor” and said I would follow up with “10 most helpful comments as a pastor.” After 10 years of full-time ordained ministry, I can say that I’ve been encouraged by some incredible people.
With pastor appreciation month coming up here in October, it’s important to realize that clergy need lifting up. As people who work serving others, the calling pastoral ministry requires long hours, late nights, and weekends. It can be exhausting work. As I wrote in my book, The Work of the Associate Pastor, clergy need to be affirmed and thanked for their service. Helpful comments or information on behalf of lay people are found from a source of love and not from frustration:
- “Thank you.” If you pastor said something in a sermon, provided pastoral care, or did something that really made a positive impact in your life, please say something. A simple “thank you” note or “thank you” comment in passing really lifts a pastor up.
- “I apologize.” At an intense committee meeting at church, this comment was given to me after someone went off about a misunderstanding. This lead to a more fruitful relationship with that congregant.
- “I know ministry is tough. I pray for you everyday.” This could be taken as a slight, but when this person said this to me I was very thankful. This individual was extremely sincere when sharing this comment. I was so thankful to know that someone was praying for me as the leader of the church.
- “That sermon was challenging.” Believe it or not, the good olde “Great sermon today” is fine, but when someone says they were “challenged” that means they were listening to the sermon in the way it was intended: a call to action. Pastors spend 10-20 hours a week on their sermons (hopefully) and when done thoughtfully, sermons strive to help people to understand the text of the day as a call to action in some form or fashion.
- “You really helped me.” After giving infrequent pastoral care counseling to someone, there was a breakthrough. It was helpful to know that I made a positive impact.
- “I’m very thankful for this church.” This meant to the world to me. It showed that there were several leaders and people in the church who were connected to this person. The local church working together should be able to help one another. The pastor cannot do it all. We were able to all play a part in this person’s life.
- “How can I help?” Goodness. With so many churches asking for volunteer help, when someone offers to help it is a Godsend (usually).
- “I brought my friend to church today. Pastor, meet __________.” In 2016, if someone brings a friend to church it means that they feel the church is able to welcome their friend and they think the church experience will be positive. In the Northeast, people tend to be private about their faith and spiritual practices and don’t often do this. In the Midwest and South, it is more common to invite a friend. Believe it or not, church members who invite people to church grow their congregation in the most effective way.
- “I hope you like these cookies.” Nothing makes a pastor happy than quality baked goods!
- “I’d like to babysit for you so that you and your wife can have a evening out.” I had this offer extended several times and I took people up on it. A night out with the wife is always good and helpful!