We have been married for 44 years come this December, and we met in ministry and began our ministry together the day after we got home from our honeymoon. We have served as youth pastor, Bill was a lead Pastor for almost 20 years, then he was Small Groups Pastor under the leadership of Dr David Jeremiah. We now speak, write and counsel on relationships and we look for ways to bless and build the clergy couples in all the places we travel to speak.We speak from experience in the why and how to bless your pastor, especially this month, October, Clergy Appreciation Month.
Pastors play a crucial role in guiding and shepherding their congregations, providing spiritual support, and fostering community. However, their path is not without challenges. The role of a pastor is multifaceted and demanding, requiring a deep commitment to faith and service. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the significant challenges faced by pastors in their sacred journey.
1. Emotional Burden: Pastors often find themselves navigating the emotional struggles of their congregation. They are there to offer comfort during times of grief, counsel during moments of crisis, and provide a listening ear when people seek guidance. The emotional weight of these responsibilities can be overwhelming.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2 (NIV)
Blessing Idea: Give your pastor (or the staff) paid time off and a full weekend or week at a quiet cabin, Air B and B or vacation rental. Often the best way to refresh a Pastor and his family is to let them REST! My first day as a youth pastor’s wife, my new Pastor’s wife said to me, “Sometimes it is not a spiritual problem, you just need a nap!” Over the years, we have been renewed and rejuvenated by the kindness of friends in our church giving us as a couple, or our family, dates at their time-share, beach house or mountain cabin. Many Sundays my husband, a Pastor, would arrive home later than the rest of us, or would be called away to manage an emergency of a member of our church at a hospital or mental health facility. If the boys complained, I reminded them of the kindness of our church. I called it “God-math”. I might say, “Remember when we all got to ride ATVs last year in the mountains? God gave us that day because He knew this day was around the corner. Let’s stop and thank God for His care for us, and let’s pray for dad as he helps care for the folks he is helping now.” All of our sons love and serve God as grown ups today and I think cultivating their attitude of gratitude has played a part.
2. Spiritual Burnout: The responsibility to guide and inspire others spiritually can lead to spiritual burnout for pastors. Balancing their personal spiritual growth with the needs of the congregation is challenging and can result in feelings of spiritual dryness.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
Blessing Idea:Give your pastor and pastoral staff money to go to a conference for on-going learning, help him or her finish their education, or give them the gift of a new bible for study or Logos Bible software to aid them in his/her study. One of the most thoughtful gifts our congregation gave us was a thank you party comedy night to honor Bill and a check to cover the flight and five days in Hawaii for our anniversary!
3. Time Management: The demands of a pastor’s schedule are unrelenting. Sermon preparation, counseling sessions, community events, and administrative tasks can leave little time for personal life, family, or self-care. Striking the right balance is a constant challenge.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12 (NIV)
4. Conflict Resolution: Pastors often find themselves in the role of peacemakers, mediating disputes within the congregation (or with the church board or leadership). Handling conflicts with wisdom and grace can be emotionally draining, particularly when it involves deeply ingrained differences of opinion.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
Blessing Idea: Even clergy couples need good counsel. Pay for a “ministry-minded marriage” conference or clergy couples conference. (We enjoy speaking for these clergy couples getaways). Often marriage ministries or Christian conference centers offer discounts to clergy couples. You can also pay for a once a year marriage check up with a counselor of their choice. Also, there are ministries that focus on rebuilding clergy couples after seasons of great loss or marital crisis. Bill offers relationship coaching sessions and since he served as a pastor, and we as a clergy couple, a session with him can be a wonderful gift. (Send email to info@Love-Wise.com for more info)
5. Unrealistic Expectations: Congregants sometimes place unrealistic expectations on their pastors, expecting them to be perfect and always available. This constant pressure to meet everyone’s needs can lead to feelings of inadequacy.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
Blessing Idea: Sometimes the best gift you can give a pastor, his wife, and their family is the gift of being NORMAL! Give gift card for her to shop for new outfit (or him a new suit), have a family day away, or tickets to a concert or theater. Invite them to use your pool, your boat, your snowmobile, or your cabin. Pay for a year’s membership for a health club or season tickets to his or her favorite sporting team schedule. Gift cards can go a long way to stretch the usually tight pastor ‘s salary budget. Each year at Christmas there were a few families in our church that would be extra thoughtful with financial gifts in the Christmas cards to our family. Most years, our children got a Christmas because of the generosity of those families. Others gave us the turkey or ham for dinner, or plates of cookies and candies , or yummy breads for us to take to our extended family gatherings. I have heard stories of members of the congregation paying for summer camps, music or dance lessons, or trips to check out colleges. Look at your pastor’s family (and all your church staff) as people who have unique needs in their own marriages and families and then just pray and ask God how you and your family can bless them. Often an idea can be proposed and many in a congregation can go together to help fund that thoughtful gift. ) Currently, we balance our marriage with caregiving elders, so when someone in our world pays for respite care and gives us a gift card for dinner out, that is a HUGE blessing of renewal!
Despite these challenges, many pastors continue to serve with dedication and love, finding fulfillment in their calling. Congregations can play a role in supporting their pastors by recognizing their humanity and providing them with the resources, rest, and encouragement they need. The role of a pastor is indeed challenging, but it is also deeply rewarding. Pastors provide spiritual leadership, guidance, and support to their communities, offering a sense of hope, faith, and purpose. Their work is vital, and understanding the challenges they face can foster a greater appreciation for the sacred journey they undertake.– and help him or her stay in ministry longer.
Pam and Bill Farrel are authors currently writing their 60th book. They have spent their entire marriage in ministry in one form or another. they current Co-Direct Love-Wise Ministry and Proverbs 19;8 Non Profit. They welcome people to join their Living Love-Wise Community. The Farrels enjoy time with their three grown sons, three daughters in love, and 7 grandchildren. The Farrels make their home on a live aboard boat in Southern California. www.Love-Wise.com