I have been asked a few times this year how a pastor or church leader should help another pastor who is struggling. Pastors are called to take care of people, so turning the tables may seem counterintuitive, because frankly, it is. Even more so if the person in need of encouragement or restoration is the senior pastor.
Here are a few ways to help a pastor in need.
Love Him Like a Brother
When my childhood pastor’s son died unexpectedly several months ago, I wasn’t sure what I should do. He is 30 years older than me and I have always held him in high esteem.
I started with an immediate text at 7 a.m., which expressed my love, prayers, and availability. A text may seem cold, but some people do not process well early or while juggling other important calls and visits. An hour later, I felt like the Holy Spirit was nudging me to call him and pray over the phone, which I did, and he appreciated it. If we didn’t live over 600 miles apart, I would have made a brief visit in person to check on him and his wife.
If your pastor or his wife is in need, silence is never an appropriate response. Reach out immediately in a small way and follow-up later when some fog clears.
Mostly, treat him like your brother, because he is.
Bless Him Like a Son
When our son came home from college this summer, I can assure you that he ate well! His mother said “yes” to almost anything he wanted. Our daughter and son-in-law will get the same treatment in a couple of weeks when they come to our home for Thanksgiving.
When in doubt, just bless your pastor and his wife like you would your own kids. Food is a great first response, as are handwritten notes. Try not to overthink your response or you might be tempted to do or say nothing at all.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body. (Proverbs 16:24)
The Bible also warns us about having too many words (Proverbs 10:19), so less is usually best.
Treat Him Like a Father
Most pastors are father-figures, which can make caregiving somewhat awkward for both you and him. If your pastor is younger than you, this principle still applies. If he is still in authority over you (Hebrews 13:17), be sensitive to overreaching (1 Timothy 4:12).
If your pastor is in need of restoration because of a personal failure, consider making sure he has people surrounding him who will help fight for his marriage more than his ministry. What he needs most is a safe mentor who is older and more experienced than he is. This mentor can help him get even more help if needed (clinical, spiritual, emotional).
Depending on the gravity of the situation, your pastor may not be clearheaded and needs to be led like an elderly parent—with love, patience, and respect.
Keep in mind that most pastors don’t know how to be pastored by other pastors or their own people. There are no seminary classes or even books that I know of that map out this process. So when you are not sure what to do, just love him like a brother, bless him like a son, and treat him like a father.
Featured image credit, cropped for size.