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Dear Layman,

Last week I wrote a letter to your shepherd leader.  This week it’s your turn.  I’ve never been a pastor so my letter to your leader was also a letter to my own leader.

I have, however, been a layman.  When you are a pastor’s wife (which I am) you are sort of stuck in between but, because my husband traveled as an evangelist for twenty years and I mostly stayed home, I got to be a real, live layman and I liked it.  There are freedoms afforded laymen that pastors never have.  I even spent several years serving on a church board.  If nothing else confirms me a layman, that certainly does.

And so I have a few things on my heart to say to you…and to myself.  Some of them will morph between my lay eyes and my parsonage eyes.  All of them are said from a heart of love.

We all have reasons for choosing the church we attend.  Sometimes it’s simply where our family has always attended.  Sometimes it’s the only church of our chosen denomination in the town in which we live.  Sometimes it’s for good preaching or preferred music or friends or children’s ministries or youth groups.

None of those are bad reasons.  But in every church we attend, there is a pastor hoping and praying for laymen who support him.

So how can we support our pastor?

1)  Pray for him.  Every day.  Whether we like his preaching or not.  Whether we agree with his leadership style or not.  Whether we liked what he wore last Sunday or not.  Whether we think he’s paid too much or not.  Whether his kids behave or not.  And especially if his kids don’t behave.  Pray for him.  It’s our chosen church.  He’s our pastor.  Pray.for.him.
Pray for your pastor2)  You and I can either be his cheerleader or we can be a huge discouragement to him.  It’s our choice.  Choose the high road.  Choose to treat him the way you want your own family members to be treated.  My first pastor’s wife (aside from my own mom) was an elementary teacher.  She had a wall plaque that said, “My teacher thought I was smarter than I was, so I was.”  I loved the sentiment when it hung in her home and I love it now.  Over the years I have allowed it to morph into any area where someone holds leadership over me.  For example:  “I think my pastor is better than he is, so he is.”  You and I really can make that much difference.  Will you choose to?
cheerleading3)  Stay mindful that the pastor is called to shepherd.  You aren’t.  I’m not.  We should be very slow in telling him how to do his job.  I am amazed when laymen who have never felt a call to vocational ministry tell their pastor how to pastor.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a pastor tell a layman how to run a classroom or how to manage their business.  So why do we tell our pastor how to pastor?  Do I believe there is a place for a review?  Yes I do.  But even there I think we need to be very prayerful and careful.  An effective review can and should benefit everyone; pastor and people.  Do I believe there is a place for disrespect?  No I don’t…ever.

4)  Let’s agree to stop saying, “I’ll be here long after he’s gone.”  I have heard these words in every church I’ve ever attended.  I’ve heard them in churches where I’ve visited.  I’ve heard them at camp meetings.  I have heard them on a boat.  I have read them in a note.
brainsWithout exception those seven words are spoken when a) we don’t like our pastor and we’re going to let everyone know, or b) our pastor has hurt us.  Those are two very different scenarios.  One makes me want to say “Grow up.”  The other makes me want to say “I’m sorry.”  Yet, in either case, the person hurt the most is the person proclaiming the words.  Those words keep us from getting involved.

They hurt the very church we love more than they ever hurt the pastor they are spoken against. 

Why?  Because we likely WILL be here long after he’s gone. 

And he’ll likely go someplace better.

But us?  We’ll be left in a church that has missed out on years of our good, positive contributions.

5)  Let’s stop expecting our pastors to be counselors.  Most aren’t trained to be and simply get into trouble when they play them on TV…or in their offices.   Instead, let’s protect our pastors by providing them with a list of counselors they can recommend when the need arises.  Part of the problem here is that counseling is expensive and our pastors are free.  Remember: we get what we pay for.
lucy-psychiatrist6)  Applaud his time away.  Whether we see it or not (and we don’t), his job is 24/7.  Bless his vacation.  Hold him accountable to a Sabbath every week.

7)  Allow the pastor to dream.  His dreams are for us.  Support his vision.  Build up.  Don’t tear down.

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders.  Listen to their counsel.  They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God.  Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery.  Why would you want to make things harder for them?  -Hebrews 13:17 (Msg)

8)  Pay your tithe.  Paying tithe is second nature in our home.  My husband and I were both raised to give God His portion first.  When you start that as a kid, it’s pretty easy to continue it in adulthood.  That said, I realize many, many of you were not raised that way or you came to faith later.  So paying tithe is a difficult concept for you.  Maybe you are so over extended that you really can’t give 10%.  I understand that.  Just start somewhere.  Give something.
tithing-giving-offeringsIt’s not about your pastor.  It’s not even about your church.  It’s about you and God.

It’s a subject for a dedicated blog, but I am amazed at how our money stretches when we honor God with it.

9)  Be generous.  My experience has been that when a church is generous with their pastor, they are a generous church in every area.  Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between generosity and control.  One is a blessing; the other is anything but a blessing.  Be generous.

10)  Love the pastor’s children.  As laymen we really do have the power to either help parsonage children come to a place of faith or land in a place of bitterness.  With all my heart I believe we will be held accountable for how we treat our pastor and the effect that has on his children.  We should never kid ourselves.  It does affect them.  No matter how old they are…
PKSo there you have it from one layman to another.  It’s pastor appreciation month.  Let’s honor him this month but, better yet, let’s honor him all year.  And let’s include his family.

I’d love to have you join me.

JoAnne Hancock