Both my wife and I are “PK’s” and we have spent a lifetime living the highs and lows of life in ministry. This is no small reason why we love to encourage pastors and the ministries they serve. While we still have so much to learn about life and leadership, and are grateful for the long line of pastors in our family trees, here’s what we do know… being a pastor is tough (see stats below). And, being a pastor’s spouse or an infamous “PK” may be even tougher.
From my heart to yours, here are 5 ways you and your congregation can appreciate your pastor and family all year ’round…
1) Give them grace. Remember, they are just people. Your pastor and their family struggle with all the same stuff you and your kids do. They aren’t perfect. They aren’t superheroes. They are human. They need grace. Be understanding, patient and kind when your pastor and their family struggle deeply along the way.
2) Give them encouragement. Because they are people, too, they need a lot of this. They are constantly reminded of their shortcomings, failures and faults even while they seek to help others with theirs. Determine to counter this with a constant stream of compliments and “Atta’ boys!” and pats on the back. They need it. Besides, it’s so very hard to be an encourager when you are discouraged.
3) Give them… gifts! Your pastor isn’t in it for the money. Still, they would love to be able to go out and have a good time with their spouses and kids a little more often. Donate gift cards to restaurants, shopping centers, coffee shops, theaters, sport venues, gas stations, and more. And, as the late great Yogi Berra said, “Use cash, it’s just as good as money!”
4) Give them your prayers. Pray a lot for your pastor! Your pastor has a great big “bulls eye” on his chest. The devil would love to discourage or even destroy your pastor and family knowing that so many more are likely to be disillusioned should they stumble. Pray for protection, endurance, discernment and, above all… joy in their journey!
5) Give them more time. Whether you decide as a leadership team to extend your pastor some extra days off or an extra week of vacation… the biggest pressure on your pastor and their family is time. No, they don’t have to “punch a clock.” However, they don’t have weekends off and often spend evenings studying, answering emails, at meetings, counseling, praying, planning and more because their days are so full of, well… church stuff.
If you are a pastor reading this… then pray and practice the art of leadership delegation. If you are doing most of the stuff in the image that accompanies this post, then you aren’t leading right; not in the long run. Gather great people, encourage, equip, resource, set a high standard that you model… and then get out of the way and watch God work. Cheer and champion people all along the way! It was John Maxwell who said something like, “If you can find someone who can do it 80% as well as you, let them do it!”
Allow me to offer one more rather bold suggestion on behalf or your pastoral family. Please, don’t automatically give them an invite for yet another evening with you and a few other couples. They have likely been visiting with people in and out of the church all week in addition to meetings, etc. While you are no doubt wonderful and fun-loving people, they desperately need to just hang out with their own families without having to be “on.”
This Pastor’s Appreciation Month, pick one or, better yet, all 5 suggestions and encourage your pastor and family all year-long!
ps – Don’t forget your Associate Pastors and families… same pressures, different roles!
What follows are some stats concerning pastors and ministry life. Some may be anecdotal, but they certainly feel like fact to pastors and their families…
- 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to75 hours per week.
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
- 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
- 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
- 75% report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
- 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
- 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors.
- 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
- 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
- 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
- 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
- 33% confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.
- 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
- 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
- 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
- 94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
- 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
- 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
- 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
- 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
- The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.
- 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
- Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
- Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month , many without cause.
- Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
- Many denominations report an “empty pulpit crisis”. They cannot find ministers willing to fill positions.
#1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.
Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17, NIV)