Christian women, Church, Complementarianism, Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others

Originally published September 1, 2017

I recently heard someone remark that, among complementarian Christians, there’s a lot of emphasis on the things women can’t do, biblically, when it comes to ministry, but not much has been written about how women can serve in ministry without violating Scripture.

There are some valid reasons for that.

First, the false teaching of egalitarianism (women can hold any position in ministry that men can hold) is running rampant through the church, even infecting traditionally conservative churches and denominations. It is imperative that Christian men and women who have a biblical understanding of the role of women in the church continue to teach loudly, boldly, and relentlessly against this doctrinal error.

Next, there are so many ways women can serve the body of Christ without violating Scripture that it would be impossible to list all of them. The prohibitions placed on women in ministry are comparatively infinitesimal and, therefore, faster and simpler to dispense with. In other words, it’s quicker and easier to say, “Women can serve in literally any scriptural position or function of ministry in the Body as long as they’re not instructing men in the Scriptures or holding authority over them,” than it is to list every particular ministry women can participate in without transgressing God’s word.

But sometimes our brains get stuck and we need some specific, real world examples to oil the gears and get our own thought processes moving. Especially when we hit that mental roadblock of “Ministry equals only preaching, teaching, and leadership positions. Period.” That’s not all ministry is. In fact, it’s only a tiny part of ministry. God uniquely gifts His people in a variety of ways for a variety of services. And Scripture is very clear that all members of the Body are essential regardless of the role God has called us to. Jesus was the best preacher, teacher, and leader of all eternity, and yet the pinnacle of His ministry was not a sermon, a Bible lesson, or position of leadership. The most important act of ministry Jesus ever performed was to humble Himself and to give His life for sinners. Let’s make sure we think about ministry the way Jesus thought about ministry:

…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43b-45

Keeping that in mind, here are just a few of the ways women can freely serve God, their churches, and their neighbors without violating Scripture:

1. Pray for your church, your pastor and staff, your teachers and elders

2.  Teach a women’s Bible study or Sunday School class. (Remember, teaching isn’t the only avenue of ministry, but it is one of them.)

3. Teach a children’s Sunday School or Bible class.

4. Play an instrument in your church’s music ministry.

5. Sing in the choir or on the praise team.

6. Direct a children’s choir.

7. Run the Power Point for song lyrics during the worship service

8. Learn how to run your sanctuary’s sound system and board

9. Help set up and put away chairs for services or classes

10. Be the hero who gets to church early and has the coffee ready when people arrive

11. Serve as a greeter

12. Serve on the security or parking lot duty team

13. Serve in the nursery

14. Volunteer to help out in the church office

15. Serve as a chaperone for a youth trip, fellowship, or other activity

16. Open your home to traveling pastors or missionaries who need a place to stay

17. Volunteer your home for the next church fellowship

18. Organize a potluck dinner for your church or Sunday School class

19. Take some treats up to the church office during the week to encourage the staff

20. Serve in Vacation Bible School

21. Offer to help your pastor vet new Bible study and Sunday School curricula for doctrinal soundness

22. Go on and/or help organize a short term mission trip

23. Organize meals for a new mom or a church member who’s ill

24. Help clean the church kitchen after an activity or event

25. Visit hospitalized church members

26. Visit church members who are shut-ins or in nursing homes

27. Pick up someone who needs a ride to and from church

28. Nursing home residents often have no way to attend church. Organize a way for your church to take church to the nursing home.

29. Many people have difficulty attending church because they’re caretakers for an ill or disabled loved one. Set up a rotation of church members to be sitters so the caretaker can come to church.

30. Mow the church’s grass

31. Serve on a committee

32. Volunteer your IT expertise for the church’s computer system

33. Open your home to a college student who needs a place to live

34. Open your home to a woman in a crisis pregnancy who has nowhere else to go

35. Teach cooking, homemaking, or parenting skills to the younger women of your church.

36. Start an after school tutoring program at your church where kids get help with their homework and hear the gospel.

37. Volunteer at a Christian crisis pregnancy center

38. Organize and serve at a church work day (cleaning, painting, facility maintenance)

39. Donate money, gift cards, gas cards, or hotel vouchers to your church’s benevolence fund

40. Get trained in disaster relief and serve the physical and spiritual needs of those impacted by natural disasters

41. Serve in your church’s food pantry

42. Serve in your church’s clothes closet

43. Help organize fundraisers for missions, youth camp, disaster relief, church needs, etc.

44. If your church decorates the grounds for Christmas or other special events, lend a hand

45. Start a backyard Bible club (Bible lesson, game/activity, snack) at a park, apartment complex, school, or other gathering place near your church

46. Start a women’s prayer group with sisters at church

47. Organize a “mechanic ministry” – church members who can fix and maintain the cars of your church’s widows and single moms

48. Organize a “honey-do ministry” – same idea but for repair jobs around the house

49. Disciple a younger woman one on one

50. Invite new church members over for dinner

51. Be your Sunday School class’ secretary or fellowship organizer

52. Take food baskets to church members who are in need

53. Do baptistry duty (help those being baptized with robes, towels, etc.)

54. Set up a sewing or craft ministry, making items for the elderly, disabled, newborns, the homeless, or missions. This idea is one of my favorites (don’t forget to include the gospel, verbally or in print, with your ministry project items).

55. If your church is in a high traffic area, stand out front on hot days and hand out bottled water and tracts to passers by (be safety conscious). You can also put a sticker or label on the bottle with your church’s info or a web site that gives a gospel presentation.

56. Sit and talk – but mostly listen – to the elderly people in your church. You’ll minister to them, and they’ll minister to you.

57. Serve on your church’s wedding, funeral, or special event team

58. Volunteer to care for small children of wedding or funeral attendees in your church’s nursery during the event

59. Work in your church library, or set one up

60. Organize a Parents’ Night Out so church members with young children can have a couples’ night without the expense of a babysitter

61. Babysit your pastor’s children so he and his wife can have a date night

62. Clergy appreciation month is October. Organize gifts or other demonstrations of appreciation for your pastor, minister of music, associate pastor, youth director, etc. (Make sure none of your ministers are inadvertently overlooked.)

63. Teach an ESL (English as a Second Language) class to minister to church members and others who are learning English.

64. Write letters and e-mails of encouragement to the missionaries your church supports (send care packages too!)

65. Send texts of encouragement to your Sunday School class members

66. Start a birthday card ministry. Pray for each church member as you send out his or her card. In a year, you will have prayed individually for every member of your church.

67. If you’re a health care professional, volunteer to provide basic health or dental screenings to church members in need.

68. Minister to battered women at your local shelter by listening, sharing the gospel, and caring for their material needs.

69. Instead of Toys for Tots, organize a “Bibles for Tots” drive for Christmas. Give young readers Bibles to children at local schools, the mall, or a community event as a Christmas gift from your church.

70. Research and write a book about the history of your church.

71. Help set up for the Lord’s Supper

72. Do laundry duty. Take home towels and robes after baptisms, table cloths after church dinners, costumes after the choir’s musical, etc., launder them, fold them and return them to the church.

73. Go to the grocery store and run other errands for church members unable to do these things for themselves.

74. Run your church’s web site or admin your church’s social media accounts

75. Organize an abortion clinic sidewalk ministry team from your church

As I said, there are so many ways women can biblically participate in ministering to others that there’s no way to even think of all the possibilities. But I’d love to add more ideas to this list.

That’s where you come in!

What are some ways you, women at your church, or women you know at other churches minister to others without teaching or preaching to men and without holding authority over men in the gathered body of Believers? Leave a comment and let’s see how many more ways women can minister biblically!

Encouragement, Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ 7 Ways to Encourage Your Minister of Music

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!
Show your minister of music some appreciation by encouraging him.

Originally published November 18, 2014

7 encourage MoM

Numerous articles have been written about how you, as a church member, can be an encouragement to your pastor- how you can constructively praise his sermon, pray for him, get him a great gift for Pastor Appreciation Month, etc. These are good things. Please be sure to support your pastor. Being a pastor is one of the toughest and most thankless jobs out there, and if you’ve read the statistics you know pastors need and deserve all the encouragement they can get.

But the pastor isn’t the only person on your church’s staff who needs your support. So does your minister of music. And, having been married to one for over twenty years, I can tell you there aren’t many articles out there letting you know how church members can encourage their ministers of music. Ready to show some love? Here are seven ways you can be an encouragement to your minister of music.

1. Make practice a priority.

Before you join the choir or praise team or volunteer to play an instrument, find out how much of a time commitment it will be, and consider whether or not you can diligently keep that commitment. Once you’ve joined or volunteered, attend rehearsals, worship services, and performances faithfully, and be sure to arrive on time. You have no idea how much it means to your minister of music that he can count on you.

2. Get to the church on time.

Think about how you would feel if you planned a dinner party, worked hard all week cooking and cleaning, and then one of the couples you invited carelessly showed up halfway through the meal. You’d probably think that was kind of rude and feel somewhat discouraged. That’s sort of the way a minister of music can feel when people (especially the same people every week) habitually arrive late to church for non-emergency reasons. Not only that, but it’s a distraction to others when you come in late, plus you’re missing out on praising God and getting your heart prepared to receive His word during the sermon. Being on time and ready for worship benefits everybody!

3. Sing.

If you were in a meeting at work or in a college class, would you pick up your knitting, clip your nails, walk around the room chatting with friends, or bury your nose in your phone the whole time? Probably not, yet, over the years I have seen church members do all these and more during the music portion of the worship service. It’s disrespectful to the God we’re supposed to be worshiping and to the minister of music who is trying to do the work God has called him to. On the other hand, I love it when we get in the car after church and my husband says, with a smile on his face, “Wow, they were really singing today!” We have an incredible Savior who has given us the privilege of praising Him, so let’s take Him up on it. Sing out! You can worship and be an encourager all at the same time.

4. Smile!

It’s pretty disheartening for a minister of music to stand up front, giving it all he’s got, and then look out over the congregation and see a bunch of people looking like they’d rather be at the dentist. Think about Who you’re singing to and all the reasons why you’re singing to Him, and I challenge you to keep a frown on your face! Just the simple act of smiling while you’re singing will do wonders for your minister of music (and for you!).

5. Think before you complain.

Has your minister of music said or done something that’s clearly a sin or false doctrine? If so, you have a biblical obligation  to go to him -kindly and in love- and talk to him about it directly.

Is your complaint a matter of personal preference- style of music, whether or not he wears a tie, etc.? Give it 24 hours. Does it still seem just as important? Could you possibly be a servant to him (and others in the congregation whose opinion is the opposite of yours) by overlooking an offense and not complaining?

If you do feel the need to voice your concern (and there are valid concerns that aren’t sin-related), approach your minister of music the way you would want to be approached. Instead of, “Turn that dadgum volume DOWN!” how about, “I was wondering if it would be possible to ask the sound tech to lower the volume in the house speakers a little? My baby’s ears are very sensitive and she gets fussy when it’s that loud. I hate missing worship when I have to take her out to the lobby.” Instead of, “Hymns are so boring. I don’t see why we have to sing them half the time,” how about, “I really loved those two worship songs we sang this morning! Do you think we might be able to sing more songs like that soon?” Christ wants us to be kind to one another, so show your minister of music a little “Golden Rule” love.

6. Speak encouraging words often.

It’s been our experience, and seems to be the general consensus among ministers of music, that the most common kind of feedback they get is negative feedback. People are much quicker to complain than affirm. Buck the trend. Did he choose one of your favorite songs for the service? Did a certain song help you to understand one of God’s attributes better? Did the choir do a nice job on their anthem? Are you praying for him? Tell him. He appreciates it more than you know.

7. Show tangible appreciation.

It is amazing what even the smallest gift can do to lift my husband’s spirits. A card of appreciation (I have come across cards that he has saved for years), something related to one of his hobbies, a church member buying him lunch at a fast food place. They might be small items monetarily speaking, but their message is, “I care about you, and I appreciate your hard work.” And that’s priceless.

 

We have been blessed over the last two decades to serve at several churches that had members who were very good at encouraging their minister of music. Their love and support made my husband’s ministry a joy. What are some ways you can think of to encourage the minister of music at your church and spread that same kind of joy?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

Church, Encouragement, Ministry, Top 10

Throwback Thursday ~ Top 10 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month

Originally published October 13, 2017

I’m so glad somebody thought up the idea of Pastor Appreciation Month and made it a thing. If you’ve never been a pastor (or been married to one), it’s difficult to adequately convey just how simultaneously challenging, joyful, devastating, frustrating, and fulfilling it can be. If you have a good pastor, who rightly divides God’s Word and is a man of godly character, you are very blessed. And that goes for your minister of music, associate pastor, youth pastor, etc., too. Be sure you show all of them (there’s nothing worse than being left out while everybody else is being appreciated) your appreciation for their hard work, and your encouragement, support, and love not just during Pastor Appreciation Month, but all year through. Here are ten ways you can do just that.

1. Pray for your pastors.
Time and again, when pastors are surveyed about what their church members can do to bless them the most, the number one answer is, “Pray for me.” Your pastors need you to pray for them personally, in their work, for their marriages and families, and for the health of your church. Pastor Appreciation Month is a perfect time to make a commitment to pray for your pastors on a regular basis. (And don’t forget to periodically tell them you’re praying for them!) Need some suggestions on how to pray? Check out my article Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor.

2. Words of encouragement
Pastors get a lot of complaints, criticism, and words of discouragement. Brighten your pastor’s day by telling him something specific you learned during the sermon. Tell your minister of music you really enjoyed the choir anthem this morning. Repeat to your youth pastor something positive your child has said about him or the youth group. Drop your pastor a note, e-mail, or social media message of support. Make a point of looking for ways – all year long – that you can offer “a word fitly spoken.”

3. Babysit
If your pastor and his wife have young children, offer to babysit so they can have a date night or go Christmas shopping for the kids. 

4. Gift cards
Perhaps along with the offer to babysit, you could give your pastor and his wife a gift card to a local restaurant. Gift cards to his favorite specialty store (outdoorsman stores, music stores, etc.), a Christian retailer, or one of his favorite online stores (or a more general site like Amazon if you’re not sure of his preferences) make great tokens of appreciation, too.

5. Honorary offerings
Is there a certain missionary or mission project that’s near and dear to your pastor’s heart? A crisis pregnancy center? A church plant he’d like to support? What about donating Gideon Bibles? Put out the word to the congregation, take up a special offering (or simply give as an individual), and make a donation in your pastor’s name.

6. Make sure his needs are met.
Your pastors shouldn’t be living like televangelists, but they shouldn’t be struggling to survive, either. Surprisingly, many people have unbiblical opinions about pastors’ salaries, from the notion that anyone in any kind of ministry should be doing it for free, to the downright evil concept of keeping the pastor near the poverty level to make sure he stays humble (yes, really). The Bible says pastors have a right to make their living from preaching the gospel, and that a workman is worthy of his hire. Check with your church’s finance and/or personnel committee. Is your pastor making an appropriate salary? Are his housing and insurance needs being met? Is he receiving adequate vacation and sick days? If not, see what you can do to help rectify the situation.

7. Conferences
There are lots of fantabulous Christian conferences out there that your pastor would probably love to attend, but it’s not in the church budget and he can’t afford it, personally. Find out his favorite or choose a great one (make sure you vet the speakers first to make sure they’re doctrinally sound), take up a special offering, and send him there, all expenses paid (conference admission and fees, travel, meals, lodging, and some extra “walking around money” for purchasing books, gifts, souvenirs, etc.).

8. Volunteer
One of the things that can be stressful for pastors is empty positions that need godly people to fill them. Volunteer to teach that Sunday School class, play the piano at the nursing home, help chaperone the youth trip, work in the nursery, get trained and run the sound board. Find out where you’re needed at your church and jump in and serve.

9. Help out around the house.
Pastors have those “fix it” needs around the house just like everybody else does. Are you good at repairing cars, fixing roofs, mowing grass, maintaining air conditioning units, cooking meals, or another special skill? Save your pastor some time, money, and effort by putting your experience to work for him at his home. 

10. Set the example of a healthy church member.
What could be more encouraging to a pastor than biblically healthy church members? Study your Bible. Be faithful in your church attendance. Pray for your pastor and the church. Serve where you’re needed. Don’t complain or criticize your pastor and others over petty matters. Avoid controversies and personality conflicts, and be a peacemaker. Walk in humility and selflessness, and give glory to God. Show appreciation for your pastors by setting a godly example for other church members and encouraging them to do the same. 

💥Bonus!  💥 Get on social media, e-mail, or the phone and share this article around so your pastors don’t have to!

What are some other good ways we can show appreciation for,
and encourage, our pastors?

Guest Posts, Ministry, Prayer

Guest Post: 7 Ways You Might Not Know You Need to Pray for Your Pastor ~ Part 2

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

7 Ways You Might Not Know
You Need to Pray for Your Pastor
Part 2

by Pastor John Chester

This is Part 2 of the article. You can read Part 1 here.

He is affected by counseling

It is a great privilege and joy to counsel God’s people. It is an absolute joy to point them to the cross and the sure hope we have in Christ. It is a wonderful privilege to see people change in response to God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I love counseling and I’m sure your pastor does too. I don’t want anyone to reach the wrong conclusion that your pastor would be served by your not coming to him or that you can serve him by keeping your trouble to yourself. We need to and should rejoice in bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Yet the fact is it can take a toll. A true shepherd loves the sheep, and he hates to see them hurting. Your pastor knows the pain in your church family in ways you do not. He knows who has trouble in their marriage, who is struggling with a rebellious teen, who is living with acute chronic physical pain, who has a besetting sin, who is on the verge of hopelessness and so much more. And his heart breaks over all of that. I don’t know a single pastor who hasn’t wept after a counseling session, and I don’t know a single pastor who hasn’t had some version of the conversation with their wife where their wife notices right away they are obviously down and sorrowful and asks why and they respond, “It’s a counseling thing, I shouldn’t talk about it.”.

And it can be even harder when he has to rapidly shift gears from weeping with those who weep to rejoicing with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). Counseling is my absolute favorite thing to do in ministry, it brings me great joy, but one hour of counseling wears me out as much as ten hours of studying or four hours of administrative work.

How you can pray for your pastor: Pray for the empowering of the Holy Spirit during counseling sessions, pray that counseling would make him long more intensely for heaven, and pray that he would be able to sleep at night.

He lives on wartime footing

Once, when I was fly fishing at a small hike-in lake in the reassuringly-named Bear Tooth Mountains in Montana, I was having such good luck I fished the entire evening rise. As I packed up my gear in the gloaming for the 3½ mile hike down single track to the trail head and my car, I realized that I smiled like fish, and my wader, wading boots, net, and the rest of the gear I was about to strap to my back smelled like fish too.  So, to any bears that happened to live in the Bear Tooth Mountains, it would smell like a giant trout was walking through the woods.

As I hustled down the two foot hide trail that wound through dense woods, I was hyper-vigilant knowing that an attack could come from the right, left, front, or back, and that if it came it would be sudden and savage. Not only was I an the lookout for the attack to come, I was expecting it. So, as I made my way down the trail yelling, “Hey Bear!” I was thinking about how to respond to the various ways the attack could come.

Thankfully the attack never did come, but the memory of that dark jog through the woods is etched upon my mind. I’ll never forget that feeling. And it is the closest thing to the feeling of being faithfully vigilant in ministry I can think of. Paul told the Ephesian elders that ravenous wolves would rise up from among them and that they needed to be alert and to follow his example of persistent vigilance and purposeful teaching (Acts 20:29-31). Vicious, violent attacks against the church can come from anywhere and at anytime.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, let me tell you that every man I know in the ministry who has served for ten years or more has faced at least one serious existential attack against the church he serves. And truthfully it averages about once every 2.5 years. Let me tell you about the two serious existential threats we have fought off in our five years here at Piedmont Bible Church.

One that I saw coming was that we had a number of families (a large enough number to alter the complexion of our small church) who came with the intention to take directional control of the church and steer it toward the Family Integrated Church movement. I saw this coming because I am friends with a pastor in a neighboring town whose church had been attacked by this group of marauders. I was able to recognize them and drive them off before they could cause any mischief.

One attack took me entirely by surprise. A man who had been vetted for years, who had been examined by the church and appointed to the office of elder, within sixty days of becoming an elder demanded that the church functionally abandon sola scriptura in favor of making the traditions of men binding for the church. He sought to elevate the traditions of the church he grew up in – regarding music, dress, and the exercise of Christian freedom in a myriad of areas – to be on par with the authority of Scripture. He went so far as to say that there were no categories of preference or wisdom in the Christian life or the life of the church and that if you were truly sanctified, the Bible gave you a definitive (yes or no) answer to every question. Although he would angrily say his position was scriptural, he saw things as diverse as VBS, singing Amazing Grace accompanied by any instrument other than the piano, and people wearing the wrong colored shirt when teaching or leading in any capacity in a corporate setting as fitting into the phrase “and things like these” in Galatians 5:19-21.

And here is the remarkable thing, when I confided in a mentor that in the midst of this crisis I was so stressed and worn out that I hadn’t slept in weeks and that I had been vomiting blood, he didn’t say that was the worst thing he had ever heard (as I expected), he said, “Welcome to ministry. You need to learn to take care of yourself.” It’s not that he was unsympathetic or compassionate – without his advice, comfort, compassion, and actual practical help I don’t know if I would have made it through – it was that out of love he wanted me to know that this is what it is like. Ministry is a battle. It is no accident that Paul uses so much military language and imagery when he wrote to Timothy and Titus.

The kicker is that while this conflict was raging I worked hard to protect the church from it and from the knowledge of it. Although the battle raged for eight months, until the final week of the conflict (by which time other pastors and counselors were deeply involved), no one in the church outside of leadership knew that this battle for the life of the church was going on. A good shepherd doesn’t alarm the sheep, he protects them. If you have been at your church for five years and you have never heard of anything like this happening, it is more likely that you have a very good shepherd than a church that has never come under attack.

Additionally, pastors (and their wives) are often subjected to personal attacks. I’ve been told angrily that I am a liar who is disqualified from ministry because I turned over a cushion without telling anyone. I’ve been told I dress too nice/not nice enough for a pastor. And I’ve been led away from the church in handcuffs for removing political signs placed on church property without permission.

Every day when pastors go to work they are in a fight. It’s not hyperbole and there is no other way to put it. That in no way eliminates or even dampens the joy of pastoral ministry, but it is true. And living that way can take a toll. One of the risks is exhaustion, fatigue, and burnout. Find someone who boxed growing up and also played a sport in college and then ask them, “What took more out of you, three minutes of fighting or sixty minutes of lacrosse/football/hockey/basketball or whatever sport you played?”. They will all say the three minutes of fighting. Fighting and being ready to fight just takes a lot out of you.

And it can make you cynical. There is a fine line between learning to have a thick skin and building up callouses. After my battle with the false elder, my wife said to me, “Well, you learned a lot.”  I replied, “I learned that I’ll never again trust a man who didn’t play Little League.” I was only half kidding (probably down to 12% by now).

[Special note: It is always enormously sad when a pastor fails morally.  I am convinced that many more are casualties of war, than double agents who were exposed. A pastor who falls into sexual sin is permanently disqualified (Proverbs 6:32-33), but he should be treated according to Galatians 6:1.]

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that the Lord would protect him as he protects you. Pray that he would not become jaded and would love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Pray that no matter what is going on that his time of study would be a refuge and a refreshment to him.

He gets discouraged

If there is one thing I can say with 100% certainty of all pastors it is that they are all human. And because they are human sometimes they get discouraged. Some are more prone to discouragement than others, and it is not a weakness or a flaw. God uses all kinds of men. Spurgeon famously called his depressive, discouraged mood “the black dog” and said sometime he was on the verge of tears for no apparent reason.

While some pastors are more prone to melancholy moods that others, every pastor I know has experienced this acutely, sharply and often enough to talk about it. In fact, there is a kind of gallows humor among pastors about how bad Mondays are and how you should never resign on a Monday.  

Most faithful pastors I know are estranged from at least some of their extended family because of ministry and fidelity to Scripture. My wife once overheard my older brother (who I looked up to and adored growing up) say he wouldn’t come to a family gathering if I was there because he couldn’t take my “Jesus ‘stuff’” (he didn’t say “stuff”). I know a man whose parents won’t speak to him because he left a lucrative, high prestige career to become a pastor. I know another who is told to just stay in the basement after dinner on holidays by his wife’s family.

Every faithful pastor has known the pain and disappointment of having someone he has poured into, discipled, and taught walk away from the faith (or at least the church), not to mention the pain that comes when people you love, have invested in, and count on as key contributors to the ministry of the church simply move away. The day after he was confirmed into the office of elder, our first elder as a new church plant was downsized and had to move away. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t find that discouraging.

Every faithful pastor has been deeply wounded by someone he thought of as a friend and ally. In fact, this is so common that a proverbial saying among seminary professors that all seminary students roll their eyes at is, “The man who brought you in will be the man who tries to take you out.” While that may not always be true, it is true often enough that no pastor five years in would roll his eyes.

Add to all of that how in pastoral ministry you can do everything “right” and not be “successful.” No other vocation that I have experienced is like that in any way. There is a popular preacher and conference speaker who often says to pastors (and those training for the ministry) that if you take care of the depth of your ministry, God will take care of he breadth. But what no one says is that sometimes the breadth is 40 people. The median size of an evangelical church in the U.S. is 184 but more than half have less than 75 regular attenders. The very best pastor I know has been faithfully preaching, teaching, and discipling for over thirty years at a Reformed Baptist church that has never cracked the 100 member mark. He has missed probably 500 weeks’ pay over that time as he always allowed his salary to be cut out of the budget when there wasn’t enough financial support to do the work of the ministry.

Oh, and everything that is common to believers and can drive them to discouragement, pastors also experience. They get sick and injured, they get flat tires, they experience the loss of loved ones, they have unexpected financial expenses, their dogs die. And they sin too. Even Paul was overcome at this, saying that he didn’t do the good he wanted to, that he did the wrong he despised, and called himself wretched (Romans 7:15-24).

You hear a lot about pastoral burnout, depression and how few ordained men actually retire from or die in pastoral ministry, but I don’t think it is really a matter of burnout or depression. More often than not I think it is profound, prolonged and unaddressed discouragement. Even in churches that are great at the “one anothers”, the pastor(s) are often viewed as “other”, not “another”. No one thinks to encourage them (other than in preaching), and their burdens are not borne (Galatians 6:2).

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that he would see enough of the Lord working that he would be encouraged that the Lord is at work through his ministry. Pray that the Lord’s grace would always be sufficient for him. Pray that the Lord would guard his heart from discouragement and pastoral jealousy. Pray that the Lord would strengthen him when he is weak and lift him up when he is down.

When Michelle asked me to write this post some months ago she said I could write it and she could publish it anonymously. I appreciated that. But the more I thought about it, the less attractive that option was. Here is why: I want everyone to know this isn’t a list of gripes written by someone who regrets being in ministry. I love pastoral ministry I love preaching, I love teaching, I love counseling, I love praying for the people of the church, and all of these things are absolutely true. Pastors are immensely blessed and privileged to do what we do, but we all (even your favorite radio preacher and your pastor) have feet of clay. And we are part of the body of Christ, just like you. But pastors have a unique role in the body, and by pulling back the curtain I hope I made it a little easier to understand and pray for your pastor.

And if you think of it say a prayer for me too. I need it.


John Chester is the pastor of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket, Virginia. Prior to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. He hails from The City of Champions: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra. Read John’s blog articles at ParkingSpace23, and read more of John’s excellent posts for Michelle Lesley here.


Pastors and pastor’s wives-
What would you add to this list of things that church members
may not know to pray for their pastors about?

Guest Posts, Ministry, Prayer

Guest Post: 7 Ways You Might Not Know You Need to Pray for Your Pastor ~ Part 1

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

7 Ways You Might Not Know
You Need to Pray for Your Pastor
Part 1

by Pastor John Chester

Being a pastor is odd. There is no other way to put it. It is entirely unique. No other profession or vocation or calling is like pastoral ministry. That is not to say it is better or more noble. It isn’t, it’s just different. Really different. (And it is certainly not to say that I am somehow superior, better, more valuable to the Kingdom, or holier. As one of my favorite seminary professors said to a class of future pastors, “You know why God calls men like you to pastoral ministry? Because you were the worst available.”)  

But pastoral ministry is unique, it is a unique job, it is a unique calling, and it is a unique lifestyle. And every pastor needs prayer, desperately. Most believers pray for their pastors (Thank you!). One of the questions I am often asked is, “How can I pray for you?” I am always happy to answer, but frankly I don’t think I have ever thought to ask for prayer related to the uniqueness of pastoral ministry. I know that you want to pray effectively and specifically for your pastor, so I am going to let you in on some inside baseball. Here are seven things you may not know about pastoral ministry and your pastor.

He is often under deep conviction

You know that sermon on that hard text that had you squirming in your seat about eight minutes in because the Word of God was so clear and strong in saying that you are in sin? Well your pastor has lived in that passage all week and has probably been thinking about it for weeks or even months. I remember after I had preached James 3:1-12 a dear saint coming up to me after the worship service and saying how hard it was to sit through that message because of how convicting it, and that text was. I said something along the lines of, “I know, we all fail to control our tongue as we should,” but what I was thinking was, “I know and if you think it was hard to listen to for 45 minutes, imagine studying for 45 hours for those 45 minutes.”

Don’t get me wrong, it is a great blessing to spend so much time and to be able to spend so much time studying God’s Word, even and especially the deeply convicting passage. Full stop. Yet is also true that it is emotionally draining to spend so much time in those passages. A few years ago I received an angry email from a visitor to the church (the time stamp on the email indicated that he must have written it on his phone in the parking lot), and his complaint was he didn’t feel uplifted by the sermon. Of course he didn’t feel uplifted by the sermon, no one did. Like everyone else, he was deeply convicted by it, the text was Mark 9:42-50, where Jesus says if your hand causes you to sin cut it off. I was preaching that sermon to myself when I was walking the dog on Thursday morning. Of the many things that I didn’t expect in pastoral ministry this is probably the most significant one.

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that when he is under powerful conviction of his own sinfulness the Lord would use it to conform him to the image of Christ, that he would feel the power and weight of forgiveness in Christ and that the Lord would bring passages like Colossians 2:13-15 and Psalm 103:10-13 to his mind.

He works a lot

I’ll not beat around the bush, I don’t know a single pastor that works less than 55 hours a week. Most of them work 60+ hours a week. Most church member know their pastor works a lot, but here is what you might not realize – the smaller the church, as a rule, the more hours the pastor works. It is very easy to think (or not to think about it at all) that your pastor doesn’t have the workload and responsibility of that famous pastor with a huge church, but he does, and probably much more to boot. It goes without saying that small church pastors spend as much time laboring in prayer and study as pastors with big churches (at least they should).

But small church pastors do something (often everything) else too; they are often the chief maintenance man, the church secretary, the webmaster, the youth pastor, the counseling pastor, the director of Christian education, etc., as well as the preaching pastor. Maybe you think, “Sure, but our church has three staff pastors and a secretary.”. To put that into perspective, the large church associated with my seminary has 14 staff pastors, staff elders who oversee non-pastoral areas of responsibility, and a veritable army of support staff and compensated interns. And that is in no way a criticism of that church. I rejoice that there are so many hands to make the work lighter, but the thing is that huge church has no more kinds of ministry going on that your small church. Your church probably doesn’t have a thousand kids in Sunday School, but it has Sunday School. Your church may not have hundreds of people in counseling at a time, but your pastors counsel people. You get the idea.

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that he would find refreshment in his work, that the Lord would move in the hearts of the saints to motivate them to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12), that the Lord would provide him with the rest and respite he needs (remember everyone is different), and the Lord would protect him from the deleterious health effects of overwork.(Bonus tip: encourage him to take actual vacations and days off and respect them.)

He is a man apart

I don’t mean that pastors are somehow different or better than other Christians, what I mean is that other Christians as well as non-Christians act like it. One of the strangest things to me when I moved from seminary to ministry – a move that entailed a cross country move to a place where no one knew me – was that everyone acted as if my first name was “pastor.” And the first 7,367,489 times someone called me “pastor” in conversation, I said, “Call me John.” But as the years have gone by I’ve learned to stop saying that, not because I’ve come to think of my self as different, but because no one has listened. And I get it. I never thought of my pastor, especially before I went to seminary, as just “Ron,” and, truth be told, I still think of him more as “Pastor Ron” than “Ron.” I think it is good for people to love and esteem their pastor – after all they are worthy of double honor (1 Tim 5:17) – but it is strange to be that person.

And if it’s odd being treated that way in the church it is even stranger being treated as a man apart outside of the church. I’ve had a handyman (who I learned was Hindu) sent by my landlord to paint an outside railing tell me he was going to do an extra good job because I was a holy man. My neighbors all are very stiff and formal with me. When I went to a gym in the smaller town I drove through on the way to the church, a hush would fall over the locker-room whenever I walked in because word had gotten around the gym that I was a pastor. The pharmacy tech at the drug store (who is also Hindu) asks me for marital advice, and I could go on.

Putting it all together it adds up to, functionally, a man apart, and that can be tough. (And this applies to your pastor’s wife too. A dear saint in the church one introduced my wife to one of her friends as “the First Lady of the church.” Often pastor’s wives experience profound loneliness. Don’t forget to pray for them too.)

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that he would be satisfied in the Lord, that his marriage would be a sweet friendship (Proverbs 5:18), that the Lord would bless him with friendships with local likeminded pastors, and that he would maintain the friendships he forged before pastoral ministry.

He is not always hungry

This one may seem trivial, but trust me it is important, especially if you love your pastor. Ask yourself this, when was the last time your pastor visited that you didn’t offer him something (probably a baked good) to eat.  I can count on one finger the times I’ve been in someone’s house when someone hasn’t offered me something to eat. And every time it is offered I accept, because I know it has been prepared with love and the last thing I would want to do is make someone feel unloved or rejected because I refused what they had prepared for me. Yet, often, I eat it knowing I shouldn’t. I love desert – one look at me would confirm it – but I really don’t need it on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. It can really be an act of love not to offer it.

A few weeks ago was the one time I was in someone’s home where they didn’t offer me something to eat. This family was relatively new to the church and wanted to talk about how they could serve, so we set a time for me to come over. And make no mistake, this is the kind of home visit every pastor loves and looks forward to. But I try to eat clean, and I was dreading the pastry I was sure was going to be offered. When I came over and it was suggested that we sit at the dining room table, I was sure that there was going to be a coffee cake on it, but there wasn’t.  I was grateful and greatly blessed when I was simply offered something to drink. I don’t think it is a coincidence that both the husband and wife had long personal histories of formal ministry in local churches.

And as a corollary let me say this (and I realize I am about to step on some toes), your pastor may not like Chik-Fil-A.  I would estimate that at least 75% of the time someone asks me to meet them for lunch they suggest CFA. I know that it is approaching heresy to say it, but CFA is just fast food, it is not an especially spiritual place to eat. If your pastor is not someone who eats at Taco Bell or Wendy’s regularly, he probably is not someone who wants to eat at CFA all the time.

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that he would eat a healthy diet and get adequate exercise.


John Chester is the pastor of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket, Virginia. Prior to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. He hails from The City of Champions: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra. Read John’s blog articles at ParkingSpace23, and read more of John’s excellent posts for Michelle Lesley here.


This concludes part 1 of John’s article.
Be sure to come back next Tuesday for Part 2.


Pastors and pastor’s wives-
What would you add to this list of things that church members
may not know to pray for their pastors about?