"Therefore encourage one another" (! Thess. 5:11a, NIV).
When we posted "59 things not to say to a pastor," my cousin, Rebecca Kilgore Smith of Jasper, Alabama, suggested we should balance the sheet with a list of positive, encouraging things to say to pastors.
We sent out a call for help on that, and here is the result.
- I'm praying for you. This was overwhelmingly the consensus for the No. 1 encouragement for any preacher. But don't say it if you're not doing it!
2. I love you. And likewise, this was strong. Every minister should know they are loved.
3. Hebrews 6:10, my all-time favorite Scripture for a faithful servant of the Lord. "God is not unjust so as to forget your work and labor of love that you have shown for His name, in that you have ministered to the saints and continue ministering." It's one thing to say "I remember," but another entirely to say, "God remembers." Great promise.
4. We are taking 1 Timothy 5:17 to heart, pastor, and starting immediately, we are doubling your pay. (Ha. In your dreams.)
- Thank you. With a smile, a handshake or a hug.
6. Thank you for that sermon. (If you can, specify the effect the message had.)
7. Thank you for the positive impact you are having in our community.
8. We are aware of the sacrifices you make to serve us. Thank you. We love and appreciate you.
9. Thanks for your dedication to the senior adults. (Okay, clearly we could make a separate point of each variety of "thank you," so we'll let this one suffice.)
10.Pastor, why don't you go home to your family and I'll clean up here? I'll check the lights, set the air-conditioning and make sure the toilets are OK. (I suppose this would cover small churches where pastors are expected to do it all.)
11. Pastor, here is a nice gift card to your favorite restaurant. Take the family out to dinner, and remember that you are loved. (Make sure it's enough to cover the meal and a tip.)
12. Many point out that the greatest encouragement to a pastor is to be faithful in attendance, generous in giving, loving and kind to one another and active in serving.
13. Pastor, I've been studying the Scripture for your sermon today. The church member would have to know the text in advance, but many pastors preach series from one book, so it's not difficult.
14. I've learned so much in this sermon series. (If possible, tell the pastor what you learned or will never forget.)
15. I love your children! (Anything specific? He would love to hear it.)
16. You gave great leadership on that fundraising project (or whatever the project)!
17. "I've got your back!" Be ready to explain what this means, and to follow through.
18. May I pray with you right now? (But don't pray a lengthy prayer.)
19. If I ever have something important to say to you, I'll tell you to your face. I'll never say it behind your back. Hmmm. OK.
20. We would love to have you and your family over for a meal and fellowship. This would be welcome in some situations, but not in others. Important to know your pastor and family and to be aware of what would be appreciated. .
21. Pastor, here's a box of chocolates and a couple million dollars. (Try that on me, and I'll let you know how it goes.)
22. Or (the person suggesting No. 21 added:) if you don't have a couple million dollars: A couple bushels of purple hull peas and some butter beans! And tomatoes and squash.)
23. Introducing the pastor to a friend with the words, "This is my pastor!" (And smile when you say it.) I always loved that.
24. I'm a better Christian because of you. (One told me last week, "I grew more during your years here than at any other time in my life.")
25. I love it every time you preach that sermon, implying he has preached it several times. (I tell people, "No, I've preached that text before, but not this sermon.")
26. Stop by when you can. I've baked your favorite cake. (Better yet, here it is!)
27. Pastor, I heard that Sister McDonough is sick. Would you like me to visit her?
28. Pastor, I love your funerals. (Ask any preacher; we get that occasionally. We know what they mean, and we actually love hearing it. The hope of eternal life is a big deal.)
29. Pastor, take this Sunday off with pay. Chuck, your trusted fill-in, will preach for us. Oh, and here's a week's paid lodging at your favorite hotel on the beach. Your wife is packing at this moment.
30. You're my favorite pastor ever. (But, as a senior lady said to me, "I have always loved all my pastors!" I gave her a hug and affirmed her for that.)
31. Pastor, we trust you.
32. Wanna go fishing? Hunting? Golfing? (Personally, I don't, but thank you for the thought.)
33. I cannot wait for your next sermon! Good one.
34. Your sermon on forgiveness was exactly what I needed. I've gone to my brother-in-law and asked his forgiveness. We're going fishing together next Sunday so I'll have to miss church this once.
35. Thank you for standing by my family in the death of (loved one).
36. Give the pastor a roast. A dinner for his anniversary, with several special guests, each of whom has five minutes to roast him. This works only if your pastor has a wonderful sense of humor and friends who know how to tease without being mean. (I've participated in these and they can be unforgettable—in a good way.)
37. A note of appreciation, telling the pastor something specific he did for you or your family in the past. Yes, write him a note! (Remember hand-written notes?)
38. The business meetings have been so much more harmonious since you came.
39. Let me buy you some new tires for your car. If money is tight for the pastor, this would be a great thing to do.
40. If the pastor needs a new suit, arrange with a men's clothing store in the area (a good one) for him to come in and choose it, but he's never to know that it came from you. (I've been on both the receiving and giving ends of this, and it's a wonderful way to bless a preacher.)
41. We have a timeshare in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania and want you and your family to use it. (We did!)
42. I want to replace your broken windshield. Or wash your car. Or change your oil.
43. The deacons want to take turns visiting the members and shut-ins with you.
44. Pastor, I have given the church treasurer $1,000 for you to use for benevolence, to help anyone you please. You do not have to account to anyone for it. (The man who did that also left me $10,000 in his will for the same purpose. I gave it all to the mission board for their ministry to refugees pouring into Thailand.)
45. Here's a hundred dollars. Take your wife out. (Or, better yet, just shake his hand, palming the C-note to him without a word. He'll find plenty of good uses for it.)
46. God spoke to me through you this morning.
47. Pastor, that sermon was exactly what I needed to hear today.
48. I'm bringing a friend with me to church Sunday.
49. Last one: Next time the pastor becomes the subject of conversation in a committee or business meeting, quickly stand to your feet and voice strong support of him.
Well, that's 49. We could have gone on longer. This little exercise put me in mind of three of the most encouraging things people have ever done for me in the ministry...
- I was 27 years old and new at that church. We were struggling financially and I might have had two or three suits. After a funeral on a cold, rainy day wearing my thin summer suit, I came home and changed into dry clothes, then returned to the church office. There on the desk was a box from a men's clothing store. Ethel Keeling had bought her young pastor a London Fog all-weather overcoat. I thought it was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen.
- A year later, same church (Greenville, Mississippi). A deacon, Lawrence Bryant, handed me a check for $500 and said, "Here, preacher. See what you can do with that on radio." In those days, radio time was about a dollar a minute. And, believe this or don't, almost no preacher was doing radio in our city back then. Out of that came a daily five-minute program during drive-time that may have been the most successful thing I've ever done in ministry.
- In the mid-1990s, Minister of Education Jim Lancaster surprised me by installing in my inner office a computer. I had not asked for one, nor had it entered my mind. As I came in and saw him at work, I said, "What are you doing, Jim?" He simply said, "You're going to be needing this." A computer, the old bulky kind, but still! Out of that came everything I've done on the internet since, and from the website (blog) came the books we have done. I owe Jim Lancaster far more than I can ever repay.
You are looking at one encouraged pastor!
For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.
Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
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