October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Over the years, my husband, now in this 28th year of ministry, has been showered with written words, delicious meals, generous gift cards, and much desired services like babysitting for our then toddlers, all affirming his impact. But as I think of some, trudging through prolonged and unrelenting seasons of discouragement, I wonder, what else is needed to help pastors finish faithfully.
Within the past year, stories of pastors have circulated our social media feeds and inboxes. Sadly, a significant number of them have been disheartening to the ear. They are of pastors struggling with their mental health, some of these struggles intensifying to unbearable levels and tragic suicides. They expose marital affairs, promiscuous behaviors; allegations of sexual and spiritual abuse; manipulative use of power and influence. Our current dealings with COVID-19 have also elevated weariness and insecurity in pastors.
In my counseling office, I’ve had the privilege of sitting with a handful of pastors and pastors and their wives, hearing their recounts of restlessness, depression, loneliness, burnout, doubt, hurt, addictions, betrayal, and relational and marital strife. In my marriage, I sit court side, bearing witness to the highs and lows of ministry and their impact on my husband spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Given these vantage points, my hope in this blog is to explore how we - those who have benefited in some way from Biblical guidance, pastoral care, leadership, and wisdom - can play a salient role in our pastors’ wellbeing but also in how they cross their finish line. Because many, if not all, began with earnestness, passion, dynamism, certainty, and hopefulness. And how much more, we desire to see them end well by joining Paul’s proclamation, “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 
We begin by praying for 1) curious questions on behalf of our pastors; 2) pastors to grow in personal desires.
ASK CURIOUS QUESTIONS
The needs that fill a pastor’s inbox and voicemail are endless. They are approached with one question after another. For example, from confidential requests for prayer after being fired from a job, for counsel after addictions has wreaked relational havoc, or for visitation upon learning of a child’s terminal medical diagnosis to more trivial matters like what font to use on an announcement or where to display the welcome signs in the church lobby. While their role prepares them for these types of questions, the amount of questions on behalf of others are grossly lopsided. Furthermore, when pastors provide pastoral care, they are asking questions in pursuit of others, to be known and loved by the gospel. They are pouring out. Who is pouring into them?
Pastors need people who are willing to see them for more than what they can offer their congregation and its community. They need people who are willing to be honest about their projections and how this reflects their longings in a leader. And while there is something human about looking longingly to those from whom we are seeking care and leadership from, a pastor’s humanity need be weighed and remembered.
They need curious questions that genuinely seek to know their story. The kind of questions that extend the conversation past the customary, “thanks for sharing” response and move to inquire of their rescue from the fall and glorious redemption; not one time, but on-going. Because they too need reminders of the goodness of the gospel. They too are prone to forget that in Christ, they are beloved and enough.
GROW IN PERSONAL DESIRES
Growing in personal desires is an area that is often overlooked for pastors. They are bent toward serving the welfare of others and seeking their growth. Moreover, they work hard to meet public and private expectations of performance and productivity. They don’t want to disappoint or let down; they want to please. Unfortunately, these standards become disheartening and demoralizing overtime. They are not sustainable and will likely lead to burnout and disillusionment.
Pastors need to be encouraged to pursue interests and pleasures that are life-giving and point them to the rest and feasting promised in Christ. They need laughter to reverberate through their bodies, good food and good company to awaken their senses, and satisfaction that accompanies creating to satiate their appetite for goodness and beauty. They need to be reminded that they are created with glory and for glory. 
If you find yourself hesitant about this point, I sympathize with you. In our marriage we’ve experienced the evolution of an interest into an addiction. It was like living a bad dream. But in fear, jumping into black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking is not the solution. It may give the illusion of protection from devastation ever happening again but it will also riddle you with anxiety. Instead, remember that seeking things that reflect Jesus’ promise for “life and life abundantly”  do not come without struggle. Lastly, the gospel allows us to wrestle with the tension between delight that increases our hunger for our reunion with Christ and the trappings of this world that takes good things and morphs them into idols.
If you are contemplating how to show appreciation to your pastor, consider praying for them and even sharing with them how you are praying. Let us be part of the crowd in a long distance race cheering our pastors through the mundane, arduous, and lastly, toward the glorious finish.
Articles is also republished on SOLA Network.
See also Behind Every Good Pastor ...
 2 Timothy 4:7
 Psalm 8:5
 John 10:10