If there was ever a time when pastors need to be encouraged and uplifted, it is now. COVID-19 has flipped ministry on its head. Ministries have found themselves pivoting overnight from customary in-person worship services to becoming online service streaming experts. Pastoral care needs have spiked as church members struggled with loss of income, COVID diagnoses, and the fear of what is to come. Pastoral schedules that are already maxed out, are bursting at the seams. There are more needs than hours of the day to deal with them.
Then comes the stress of how to move forward. Every leadership move is scrutinized. Every decision is sure to have a cost on some level. The weight of all of it has many pastors utterly overwhelmed and on the brink of burnout or even leaving the ministry altogether. We may not see it on Sundays, but many pastors are hurting and are in desperate need of emotional and spiritual support.
So what do we do? Let’s encourage them. Send them a hand-written note. Take them out for a meal. Give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Tell them what they have meant to you and your family as their pastor.
Beyond just emotional support, I’d challenge you to stand behind your pastor in prayer. I understand that it can be a little daunting to pray for the leader of your church beyond that he would be a good leader and preacher. But the apostle Paul gives us a great framework to pray for our pastors and elders as he lays out the requirements for both in Titus 1.
Pray for your pastor’s family
“If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination” (Titus 1:6).
The people who most intimately feel the burden pastors carry are the people that share a home with him. With schedules stretched, many pastors regularly miss family meals because of the needs of the church. When they do make it home, many ministers have little emotional collateral to spend with their wife and kids because they have been wrung out through the course of the day.
Pray for supernatural energy and strength for your pastor. May he have enough energy to love and shepherd his own family after having spent the past 10 hours of the day loving and shepherding the other families in the church. Pray that he could find the time and opportunity to sow gospel truths into the hearts of his family in the same way that he gleans gospel truths for his weekly sermons. Pray that even as he is utterly exhausted, that he loves his wife and precious kids with as much fervor as he loves the hurting congregants in his local body.
Pray for your pastor’s walk with Jesus
“If a man is blameless… For a bishop must be blameless” (Titus 1:6-7).
If the Holy Spirit pens this phrase twice in two verses, it has to be important. The leaders of our churches must be above reproach. They need to be blameless and unassailable. They need to be distinctly set apart. Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” M’Cheyne’s words clearly echo the words of Paul here.
Pray that your pastor stands against the temptations of Satan. It may seem ridiculous to pray in that way, but if the devil tempted Jesus, you better believe that he’ll go after the men who proclaim the gospel of Jesus. Pray that God will put godly men in your pastor’s life who he can be honest with and who will hold him accountable. Pray that he would have the strength to say “No” to the enticements of the enemy.
Pray for your pastor’s love of others
People can be really hard to love sometimes. Days can stretch far beyond the physical and emotional limits of many pastors. The wrong person can cross a pastor at the worst time possible and words and actions can produce hurt and regret in the lives of church or community members. It takes a lifetime to be loving, but it only takes a split second to be unloving.
Pray that your pastor can soak in the fact that He is loved by His Creator and Savior. Pray that he will love others just like the Father who has redeemed him and called him. Pray that the watching world will see Jesus in your pastor because he loves like the Lord he proclaims.
Pray for your pastor’s love of the Word
“Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).
When schedules and psyches are stressed, often the first thing to get cut is personal time in Scripture. Yet this is the spiritual food for every believer, much less for elders and overseers. God’s Word is the pastor’s supply and sermon foundation. Time in the Bible is immensely valuable.
Pray that your pastor would say no to “good” things in order for him to soak in the very Word of God. Pray that he would preach Scripture boldly without bowing to the cultural thought of the day. Pray that He would love the promises of God above the praise of men.