Doug Johnson: Showing appreciation for clergy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 15, 2023

This month is Clergy Appreciation Month.  I get to talk to a lot of pastors about their struggles, frustrations in ministry, etc.

I want to share some of them with you because the average church member has no idea what their pastor goes through.
Although I’m writing this from a male pastor’s perspective, many female pastors face similar struggles as well.

Pastoring is a lot like parenting — but there are some differences.  For example: God, in His infinite wisdom, allows a family nine months to prepare for a newborn baby to join them.  There is ample time to prepare for the child’s nursery, pick out the perfect name, etc.  However, it doesn’t work like that for a pastor’s family.  Seemingly overnight, with one election, his family increases to over 100 members (maybe more depending on the church size)!  Even Octomom, Nadya Suleman, who delivered eight babies at once, would agree: that’s a BIG CHANGE!

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Pastors don’t have the luxury of picking out names for every one of their new “family members” like parents do because they already have names & faces that he must now memorize.

After he’s accomplished that feat, he must then memorize who is kin to whom.  (This one’s the child of that one, that one is married to this one and so on.)  And there are over 100 of them!  It’s very stressful.

Just like a natural family, there are times when family members don’t get along and the parents have to step in and try to make the kids behave themselves.  Likewise, there are times when the pastor and his wife have to step in and “referee” arguments between church members—try to bring some kind of resolution and keep peace in the family.

Then there are those who need marriage counseling.  So, in addition to being the spiritual father of a church, the pastor also needs to have some kind of degree in counseling.  In addition, there are times when people come to the pastor from other churches seeking counselling because they don’t want anyone at their home church to know.  So now the pastor is not only dealing with his own family’s problems and his church member’s problems, but also people from other churches problems.  This adds to his normal work load (and is not included in his salary package)!

When people get sick, just like in a natural family: you go to the hospital, visit, take food over, and take care of them as much as possible.  Pastors do the same thing — but remember: his family has over 100 members in it…yours doesn’t.

And there are times when church members come to the pastor and complain that “he hasn’t spent enough time with them as they think he should.”

The longer I’m in ministry the more I understand why Moses hit the rock instead of speaking to it like God commanded in Numbers chapter 20.  Moses was frustrated and tired of hearing the people complain and so I believe he hit the rock to keep from hitting an Israelite!  (Read it for yourself and see.)  We should probably thank God that Moses didn’t kill any Israelites like he did the Egyptian in Exodus 2:12!

So, what does the pastor do with complaining members who think their problems are the only ones that deserve his undivided attention?  Instead of hitting them (which is illegal, by the way), the pastor humbly apologizes and promises to try harder the next time.

These are just a few reasons why the Bible instructs us in 1 Timothy 5:7= “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor.”

Pray for your pastor’s family; show them you love them in a tangible way.  If you choose to take them out to dinner — DON’T turn it into a counseling session.  Just let them enjoy the meal.  Heaven knows he’s been fasting and praying for you for a long time!

Pastors: we love you.  May God bless you and strengthen you as you follow His call on your life.

Rev. Doug Johnson is the senior pastor at Raven Assembly of God in Raven, Virginia.