I write this article not only as someone who has studied pastoral ministry and has a great deal of ministry experience but also as a friend to pastors. Over the years, one of the topics that I’ve committed to studying is pastors’ mental health and well-being. I studied pastoral ministry at Bible College and seminary, so studying biblical counseling and other ministry-related topics made sense. I still haven’t, in God’s providence, become an ordained Pastor, but I am a Bible teacher and do pulpit supply in the greater Southern Oregon area. Over my adult years, I’ve become close with a number of pastors, and I’ve seen up close in local church ministry and outside of it as a friend of my pastors and my friends who are pastors the stresses and impact that pastoral ministry can make on a person.

Your Pastor is a Human Being

First, understand that your pastor is a human being. It is right and good to honor your pastor and hold him in high honor, especially as he labors in preaching, teaching, and caring for God’s people (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

We cross the line in today’s American evangelicalism by viewing our pastor as the be-all-end-all person regarding everything. This is where the dangers of celebrity culture comes in. Most pastors would tell you that if they are honest (and they really should be!), they are, at best, generalists. Most Pastors get a Master of Divinity (M.DIV) which is a generic degree that gives you a good but basic understanding of biblical languages, church history, and more.

I have this degree and a Master of Arts in biblical studies. Over the past ten years since graduating from seminary, I’ve continued studying biblical and systematic theology, including the doctrine of Scripture, history, apologetics, and more. Every pastor and Bible teacher must rightly handle God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).

Every Pastor will have various interests, but none is beyond the scope of accountability from other biblically qualified male pastors, nor are they the be-all end-all with all knowledge. A Pastor who even has a Ph. D is not an expert in the area in which they did not get a Ph.D. A Pastor with a Ph.D. in a particular biblical or theological field only has a slice of the pie in terms of “specialization.” At best, they may be one of many experts in that slice of the pie. There are so many areas in theology it is not possible to be proficient at all even if you’ve read as widely and well and studied the issues and thought through them for years. It’s just not possible. So, we have to view Pastors in the right way as human beings made in the image of God, called by God, ordained by the church to serve the Lord and His people because they are biblically qualified male pastors.

Pray for Your Pastor

We need to pray for our pastors. I regularly ask my pastors and pastor friends how I can pray for them. They face enormous pressure. The saying goes, “Sunday is coming,” and it is so true. Every week they end one sermon to start another and then another, week after week, year after year, and decade after decade. It can be exhausting but truly glorious work. And you add in the many emails, phone calls, etc., from people who are critical about your teaching, the Bible, and more, and it is truly exhausting, not to mention the phone calls to go to the hospital and more. Pastoral ministry will wear you out. I have seen it repeatedly, and the statistics on the point are shocking and alarming.

Ask your Pastor or Pastors (or any ministry leader for that matter), “How can I pray for you?” and then listen and take some notes. They likely won’t tell you everything. I make it a regular practice to ask my pastors and pastor friends how I can pray for them because a) I love them, b) I’m thankful for them) and c) ministry is hard, very hard. This brings me to my next point.

Love Your Pastor

Love your pastor. It may or may not be easy for you to appreciate your pastor depending on your church experience, but you need to remember this: The Lord appoints and sends Pastors to His people (Jeremiah 3:15; Ephesians 4:11-16). The Good Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ, is Head over the Church (Colossians 1:18). Your Pastor is not the Chief Shepherd. The moment he gets that wrong is the moment he is in danger. But the better the pastor, the more they will point you to the Chief Shepherd.

Over the years, I have seen many pastors try and fail to be people’s “Chief Shepherd, ” which almost always leads to burnout. But I have also seen many good and godly pastors lead people to the Chief Shepherd, leave them there, and have been very effective in ministry in the local church.

Love your Pastor and serve them. Not only ask how you can pray for them, but how they are doing, and encourage them by giving them time to read, a budget to take a vacation, and time away with family. Make sure you let the elders of your church know that you want to see your pastor well-taken care of, have time with family, and more. Also, consider having your pastor(s) and his family over for a meal one at a time at your house to get to know them and engage in Christian hospitality. 

Dear church member, use your voice in your local church to prioritize the care and love of your pastor. You might not think you have much of a voice and things to say and that people won’t listen to you. Use your voice to speak the truth in love by showing your care and love for your pastor. One way to do this practically is after the service is over, go up to the pastor who preached and say, “Thank you for being an instrument of God’s Word.” That is so encouraging, and it’s a practice that I practice myself almost every Sunday with whoever preaches the Word at my local church.

Ministry, in general, is very lonely but very rewarding. Another thing to do is to text your pastor on their cell phone or send an email from time to time and let them know you are praying for them. This communicates your care and love for them. It also communicates something that is at the heart of this article, and it’s this: Be a Christian friend to your pastor.

While I’m not a pastor, I have been a Bible teacher, author, writer, and editor for over twenty years. I can tell you at times ministry is lonely. I don’t say this to complain, but that pastoral ministry requires countless hours in the Bible, in good books, and more. It is a privilege to be in the Word of God to equip people through audio/video content, articles, and books. Even still, it is demanding, and when you add in the hospital visits, funerals, unjust criticism, and the list goes on and on, it adds to the stress and the demand of the ministry.

Be Intentional in Your Love and Care of Your Pastor

So, my encouragement here as I wrap up this article is very simple: Intentionally love and care for your pastor. Be his friend. Not only will he appreciate it, but you’ll be an instrument to encourage your pastor and your pastor friends. We all need encouragement. Pastors need it too. Intentionally love and care for your Pastor and those who aim to serve you, whether through articles, books, audio/video podcasts, or other forms of Christian media. Content creation is often lonely, and ministry to others is demanding. God is faithful. He is good, so be intentional and share the goodness of God with your pastor and others who aim to serve and love you with the Word of God.

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