A Word of Encouragement to Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month


I came into ministry later in life after over 20 years in the business world. Maybe this explains some of why I was surprised when I entered the ministry at how hard churches can be on a pastor.

I never knew.

My church leadership blog has given me access into the lives of hundreds of pastors. Many are in smaller churches where they are one of a few, if not the only, staff members. Others are in larger churches where there are more staff members to spread the workload. Regardless, however, of church size many times the pastor is drowning. His spouse is drowning. His family is suffering. They can’t keep up with the demands of the church.

Honestly, I never knew. At least not to the severity of what I’ve discovered.

Some churches expect the pastor to be at every hospital bed. They expect them to know and call when they are sick. They expect them to attend every Sunday school social and every picnic on the grounds. The pastor is to officiate their wedding and then be the counselor when their marriage is suffering. Someday preach their funeral, but for today visit their neighbor who isn’t going to church — instead, of course, of them building a relationship with the person and bringing them to church (which is way more effective.)

The pastor is supposed to recruit Sunday school teachers, manage a budget and be actively engaging the community through a healthy Tuesday night evangelism program. Then, they expect a well researched, well presented Sunday message — fully abreast and addressing all the current news events of the week — one in the morning and one at night, along with a passionate leading of the Wednesday night prayer meeting.

One pastor told me he is allowed one Sunday off per year. I hesitated to do the math on the number of messages he is doing in a given year.

And, in the midst of all those responsibilities, when I talk to many pastors they hear far more negative feedback from people than they ever hear the positives.

Wow! I never knew.

And with different parameters the same unreasonable expectations may exist for every staff member of a local church.  

Now some of this is exaggeration, and no doubt most pastors reading this love their people and love their work, but in some churches it is exactly the expectation. And, in principle, the activities may be different, but the level of activity is normal for many pastors, again, especially in smaller churches.

And, even in those churches where the expectations are totally unreasonable there is probably a pastor who is desperately trying to live out the call of God and love people.

But, to be honest, I’m burdened for those pastors.

I learned when my boys were young and I was running a business, serving on the city council and on dozens of committees, if I wanted to be successful as a husband, father, and business owner, I had to be personally and privately healthy, so I could achieve more publicly.

It was then, for example, running switched from being a fun pastime to a necessary part of my week. I needed and craved the downtime and the exercise. It was then I had to get up early to make sure I had the days quiet time to fuel my soul. It was then I became diligent in scheduling my week, so I didn’t miss family activities.

If I could give one piece of advice to pastors, ALL PASTORS, especially during Pastor Appreciation month, it would be that they take care of themselves personally. Take care of your family, your finances, and your emotional health. It’s the only way you can meet the demands of your church.

You may need to share this post with some key leaders you trust in the church. You may want to have a hard conversation and establish some healthier boundaries within the church. Take some time and read Jethro’s advice to Moses. Read Acts 6.

I love you pastors.

I want you around for a while. We need you. You’re doing Kingdom work.

Take care of yourself. If needed, reach out to someone before you crash and burn. God called you to do His work, but the work He called you to do specifically, won’t be done (at least by you) if you aren’t here to do it.

I’m pulling for you !

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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36 thoughts on “A Word of Encouragement to Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month

    • Of course. I actually wrote it with all pastors in mind. And all ministry leaders. For ease of Writing I used the word “he” a few times but the post is fairly general in tone on purpose. 

  1. My husband is a Deacon in our church and we, too have realized what Pastors have to deal with. We built a bed and breakfast to specifically help pastors and people in the ministry to have some enjoyable down time. We originally wanted to build it as a pastors retreat, but received good direction from a retired pastor that has another B&B. He said if it is only for pastors, then the guests would sit around and discuss problems of their churches and no one would enjoy the time away. So we give a 25 percent discount to people in the ministry. If they call to make reservations and have children, we try our best to not schedule anyone else to be there so the pastor and his wife don’t have to worry about keeping their children quiet for other guests. We have met some wonderful missionaries from all over the world, and many pastors. We feed them well and do our best to take good care of them. We praise God for each and every pastor!

    • What a wonderful ministry. We have stayed in places like this and it is much appreciated. Even better is when a church — especially smaller churches or where the minister is bi-vocational — will pay for the stay for the minister.God bless you.

  2. This morning I had the privilege of presenting our congregation's Pastor Appreciation gift to Pastors Keith and Judy. Before I called them to the platform I read this post to our people in honor of our pastors. We are that small church, they are those pastors who are on a constant search for Sunday school teachers, they are those pastors who go to the hospital at 10:00 at night to minister to a fearful, dying church member, and so much more. I reminded our congregation they do all these things and other things they don't know about. They go from morning to night and beyond, and they do it with joy and love. They support our dreams and passions, they are spiritual parents, they work tirelessly and selflessly to minister to us and our community. It's an honor for me to work for our amazing pastors; I'm always humbled that God has placed me where He has.

    Thank YOU, Pastor Ron, for all that you do to minister to your congregation in ways they know not of and for ministering to pastors who need encouragement. You are a blessing to more people than you will ever know.
    Twitter: kathyfannon

  3. Hi Lance

    Glad ya-all like them Famous Amos cookies…
    But, sorry, I can NOT take any credit for them. 😉

    I’m NOT a fan of Baking. – But, I am a fan of BACON. 😉
    Flour tends to be messy, going all over the place. Hard to clean up after.
    But, Pigs, Now a pig is a marvelous, magnificent, miracle working animal.
    You feed that pig useless stuff like vegetables, lettuce and tomatoes – And bingo…
    That marvelous, magnificent, miracle working pig turns it into – BACON…

    And, as for my pastor NOW, Well… Me and My Pastor have a “load of fun” together.

    1 – My pastor NOW, loves me – Unconditionally.
    2 – My pastor NOW, promised to never leave me nor forsake me.
    3 – My pastor NOW, NO longer calls me servant. He calls me FRIEND.
    Yeah, My pastor NOW, is way cool.

    1a – I’ve had a few Mere Fallible Human pastors in the past…
    Who did NOT love me unconditionally. Go figure…
    Oh, they said they loved me… When I agreed with them…
    Gave them lots of money… Was willing to Pray, Pay, Stay, and Obey…

    But, challenge their Power, Profit, Prestige, doctrines, beliefs…
    Dis-agree, question, their character, their theology…
    Ask them, How come, In the Bible…
    NOT one of His Disciples…
    Called them self pastor?
    Had the “Title” pastor?

    Or, Had their own parking space? :-)
    And things would get ugly pretty fast.

    NO, I’m NOT a fan, of a man…
    Who takes My pastors Name, in Vain…

    Exodus 20:7
    Thou shalt not take
    the NAME of the LORD thy God in VAIN;
    for the LORD will not hold him guiltless
    that taketh his name in vain.

    Seems. in the Bible, the only ONE I can find…
    Who has the “Title,” Shepherd/Leader/Reverend…
    Or was referred to as, Shepherd/Leader/Reverend… Is…

    My Shepherd and FRIEND

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  4. Great post, Ron. Your entering full-time ministry after working in the business world gives you a much needed perspective. I thank Him for you and your heart for other shepherds!

  5. I'm blessed to be in a relatively healthy church. We have a unified deacon board that takes care of our pastoral staff, a unified pastoral staff that are incredibly qualified, and a well-equipped church largely chomping at the bit to use when they have been equipped to do in the ministry of the church. Are we perfect? No. But we know it and we actively work on it. We spend enough time in the spiritual gym so that all the time we spend on the field in the spiritual game is effective and fruitful.

    If we go back to Paul's analogy of the Body of Christ, churches who rely on their pastor to do that which they should be doing themselves can be equated to a Body that is morbidly obese. Most of the Body (fat) relies on a very small part of the Body (muscle and bone) to do all the work of feeding it. Having to drag around the fat, the muscle is generally only able to reach junk food instead of cultivating healthy food. And every little move made to accomplish even this results in one chunk of fat chafing against another. The muscle is somehow expected to accomplish the task better in order not to cause the chafing.

    Instead, a healthy Body will be constantly turning fat into muscle. Not only will this Body be able to cultivate healthy food for itself, but also feed others not part of the Body as well – that means GC missions, evangelism, discipleship, and even helping meet physical needs of people in the surrounding community. Even if there is some chafing, it is handled well and even seen as a healthy thing: a natural result of building the Kingdom. That's the kind of Body that does more than a pastor or few can accomplish on their own. Why? because the whole Body works together and its efforts can be focused outwardly.

    What pastor wouldn't consider himself in heaven to be able to work in that kind of church environment? I know that some pastors bring it on themselves precisely because they are control freaks and can't let anything happen in their church without being in the middle of it. Some church leaders enculturate a lazy congregation by trying to attract new members with what the church can do for them instead of how they can serve in the church. Sometimes it's because a church has held on to old forms that were once helpful, but never revised to answer changes in the culture. This becomes a form of idolatry. A church stops growing spiritually and stops effectively building up future generations of faithful Christians. The pastor is expected to be more of a museum curator than a builder of new buildings in the Kingdom. The Body isn't so much fat as it is dead. If the "muscle" moves, it will crack the dead flesh and reveal it's deadness. Dead Bodies don't react well to that.

  6. Thanks Ron! As an "ex" I appreciate shining light on the needs and burdens of pastors. Yes, especially we people-pleases take on more than we should, yes, people expect far too many "hats" to be in the pastor's closet and yes, burn out and its many symptoms are the only possible result when a leader isn't operating in God's power as often as he should….but oh how good it would be if people simply obeyed the injunctions to "love one another" and "encourage one another" — and realize the pastor is one of the "others".

  7. our pastor is Jesse Hall he is a Godly man, and a young minister who preaches Gods word if there are only 3 or 4 he preaches his heart out and he should be honored because the bible says give honor to him that due honor we attend fresh word ministries in Chattanooga, Tn

  8. This article hurts so much, because I have lived through it and I empathize with those who are enduring it now. In my case much of the pain came from keeping boundaries and not from having too much put on me. Ministry can grind to a halt and you have a standoff because you are waiting on the people to step up, but they expect you to do it all. You must refuse to allow the burden to be placed on you. For instance, if a ministry is falling short because of lack of help or lack of leadership or lack of commitment do you find yourself stepping in to save it? My advice is never to save people from looking bad and not following through. Let if fall and if necessary let them fall. One step I took in my last church was to promote the ministry a person wanted and if they failed to follow through or it was a train wreck I required the people to explain to the church why. I wouldn't excuse them or save them. That was a hard boundary to set up. In the past I would have saved it because I thought it reflected on me, but I learned to delegate responsibility and allow it to reflect on the people. Let them get the credit for a job well done and deal with the disappointment of the people when the ball was dropped. This slowed down ministry suggestions and it reduced overall ministry demand because only those who were serious would step up. I had a boundary with my deacons and church. I told them, "If you suggest it, you lead it. God placed it on your heart to do. He has given you the passion for it and will equip you to accomplish it." This reduced many of the silly suggestions as well and allowed me to keep the main things the main thing. Setting boundaries is the harder route, but in the long run it is better to not meet people's expectations, because whatever you do and allow, every pastor after you will be expected to do the same.
    I see a trend after serving in very traditional churches that previous pastors, pastors with an "old school" type of ministry, are the ones who caused and allowed this sentiment to develop in the people. The most important wisdom I walked away with from my last ministry assignment is this,
    Pastors are not given to the church to serve the people the way they want to be served, but to serve God in the way he has instructed. Pastor you are the only one who can communicate what your biblical role really is and uphold it. Be a straight shooter – speak with grace and truth and never allow people to place expectations on you and never be disturbed or try to please people's unspoken expectations either. When you begin to do that they will not respect you, but demand more.

  9. Show your pastor you appreciate him this month by sending us a picture of him with his favorite pie. Make him a pie or photoshop one into an existing pic like the one below. The funnier the better. Just sign up, create a post and we spread it out on the interwebs.

  10. Ron

    I’m also burdened for Pastors. But – My conclusion, and soul-lution is a bit different – you say…
    “the pastor is drowning. His spouse is drowning. His family suffers.
    They can’t keep up with the demands of the church.”

    And todays “Pastor/Leader/Reverend” becomes Burdened in many ways.

    1 – Burden one – Pleasing people, doing what they expect – NOT what God expects.

    Well, from your list, aren’t Pastors “doing” a whole bunch of stuff – NOT found in the Bible?
    And, wouldn’t you say, the first place to go, and agree with, is the Bible? For God’s expectations?

    2 – Burden two – Taking three names of the Lord – in vain. “Pastor/Leader/Reverend.”

    Haven’t “Pastor/Leader/Reverends” – also taken a “Title/Position” – NOT found in the Bible?
    I cudda missed it but – Any Disciples with the “Title” “Pastor/Leader/Reverend” in the Bible?
    Jesus, the only “ONE” called Shepherd, 1Pe 2:25, Leader, Mt 23:10 NASB, Reverend, Ps 111:9 KJV.

    3 – Burden three – “Titles” become “Idols” with – Power – Profit – Prestige – Glory – Reputation…

    ALL stuff Jesus spoke against. ALL stuff highly esteemed by men – Abomination to God. Lu 16:15
    ALL “Idols” of the heart. Ezek 14:1-11 – Addictions? – NOT easy to lay down?

    4 – Burden four – Trying to live up to the “Qualifications” for Elder/Overseer.

    Paul gave some tough qualifications for Elder/Overseer, that most “know” they do NOT meet.
    How many today are: 1- Blameless? 2 – Holy? 3 – Just? 4 – Rule well their own house?

    I Tim 3:4-5
    One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
    (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

    This one qualification, I Tim 3:4-5, seems to eliminate 80% of todays overseers – Because…
    Rule here also means – to be a protector or guardian, to give aid, to care for, give attention to.

    And – 80% of pastors' spouses wish they would choose a different profession.
    And – 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. http://www.pastoralcareinc.com/statistics/

    IMO – This says – 80% do NOT rule well their own house. Do NOT protect and guard their family.

    NOPE – In my experience – Today’s Elder/Overseers – Can NOT meet Pauls tough qualifications.
    And the “Pastor/Leader/Reverend” -And their families – suffer greatly.

    • Man, I don't think it would be a load of fun to be your pastor. :) But, I love your chocolate chip cookies… the are famous!

  11. Interesting. It would be great to have some ways how to establish those boundaries and have the congregation accept it. My husband practiced from the onset making time for family and self as we started a work from scratch. In the past year he fell very very ill. He is just starting to get back on his feet. Because we are a young church and I am a licensed minister, I had take on a greater load. In the past few months we were attacked with accusations of not doing enough because we don't "socialize" with people enough,( we are the first to arrive at church and they last leave, not enough). My husband doesn't preach enough, doesn't teach enough, we aren't friendly enough ( we have a whole new group of people coming to church right now that my husband in spite of being very ill has been working with for 6 months, they enjoy my husband's company). It has been devastating because we have poured our soul into this church. People don't want to help, they want my husband and me to do everything. And then complain we don't do enough. They want us to do outreach every week, to do all the teaching and preaching, even though some are perfectly capable and we believe in people working in whatever ministry calls them. Never mind that maybe it would be just Christian like to help the Pastor out while he recovers from a major bout of illness! Ugh. Sorry, it's just tough!

    • I'm praying for you now. I have written several articles on some of the boundaries I have in ministry. Yours will likely be different from mine, but you need some. This is a very outside view, but I think I'd try to find one or two leaders in the church you trust and share this with them, asking them for guidance. They likely have insight and influence you don't have.

  12. Thanks Ron – great post. Having served in smaller mid size to now a large church setting, it's interesting to see and experience the different demands in the ministry world and how it affects the family.

    Appreciate you including the part about running and how it actually helped you serve your family better. My wife sometimes feel guilty about exercising though we know it's essential longterm. Still not really into a set routine but we're problem-solving.

    Grace and peace to you Ron.

  13. Something else you may not know. A pastor cannot collect unemployment for a second job if they are laid off. Being a bivocational pastor most if not all of their income comes from the second job.but even though they are laid off from the main job they cannot collect unemployment because technically they are not unemployed if they are "employed" by the church. Another sticky place is workmans comp if they get hurt on their second job. They cannot collect temporary total disability because theoretically they are not disabled if they can still " work" for the church. Being bivocational is a real sacrifice for a pastor to make.

  14. Thanks for your attention to this, Ron. Pastors and ministry leaders are my heroes and I want to be a friend and encouragement to them (and you). I will syndicate this post as much as I can. I appreciate you.

  15. Ron thanks for your posts man and your heart for ministry… I enjoy reading your blog. I too entered ministry after a life in the business world – and honestly wish it was a requirement for anyone considering a life in ministry! Take care and God bless you!
    Twitter: UnlikelyPastor