By Tom Pelt
Both my wife and I are “PKs” (pastor’s kids), 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 statistics below). And, being a pastor’s spouse, or an infamous PK, may be even tougher.
From my heart to yours, here are five 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, attaboys, and pats on the back. They need it. Besides, it’s so 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 bullseye 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 or not 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 either, and often spend evenings studying, answering e-mails, 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. Gather great people, encourage, equip, resource, set a high standard that you can model. 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 percent as well as you, let them do it!”
Allow me to offer one more rather bold suggestion on behalf of your pastoral
family. Please, don’t automatically give them an invitation to 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 five suggestions and encourage your pastor and family all year-long!
P.S. Don’t forget your associate pastors and families—same pressures, different roles!
What follows are some statistics concerning pastors and ministry life. Some may be anecdotal, but they certainly feel like fact to pastors and their families:
• 90 percent of pastors report working between fifty-five and seventy-five hours per week.
• 80 percent 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 percent of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
• 33 percent state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
• 75 percent report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
• 90 percent feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
• 80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in the role of pastor.
• 90 percent of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
• 50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
• 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
• 70 percent say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
• 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
• 40 percent report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
• 33 percent confess having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.
• 50 percent of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
• 70 percent of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
• 50 percent of the ministers starting out will not last five years. One out of every ten ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
• 94 percent of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
• 80 percent of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
• 80 percent spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
• 80 percent of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
• 66 percent 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.”
• Four thousand new churches begin each year, while seven thousand churches close.
• More than 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
• More than 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.
• More than 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.
• The Number One reason pastors leave the ministry: Church people are not willing to go the same direction as 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)
Tom Pelt is the lead pastor at Lexington First Church of God in Lexington, Kentucky. For more Pastor Appreciation Month ideas, visit www.pastorappreciation.org. To learn more about the Church of God, visit www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.