Pastoring a church is not an easy job.
Here are 10 ways you can encourage your pastor (or pastors).
1. Thank him (or them).
It's not easy preaching every week. It's not easy carrying the burden of ministry every day. And a pastor rarely hears "thank you." A good pastor isn't in the ministry for a thank you from the congregation. They are not after man's approval but are working for God's approval (Galatians 1:10). They shepherd as one who will give account to God (Hebrews 13:17). But a thank you can go a long way. Pastors, like nearly everyone, are severely under-encouraged. My guess is you appreciate the work he does. Tell him so.
One practical way to do this: write him a letter. Emails usually include a criticism. Hand-written letters nearly always include encouragement. It shows you thought more than the 30 seconds it takes to send an email too. Letters also have a way of sticking around for a while. Emails get buried quickly. Letters are sweet reminders on the desktop after a long, hard day of ministry.
2. Be specific in your thanks.
A general thank you is more than what many pastors hear week after week, but a specific thank you is life giving. Find one phrase or thought or action to thank him for. Specificity implies gratefulness. If a phrase from his sermon last week stuck with you, let him know. Lots of pastors hear very little specific feedback on their sermon. Imagine spending hours each week preparing something and you never know how it is landing on the people you're speaking to.
One practical way to do this: immediately after the service, walk up with a smile and repeat to him one phrase from the sermon that you found life-giving. Every pastor wants to help people see God. Tell him specifically how God used him that day. Even if he preached a dud find something to thank him for.
3. Submit to their leadership.
If God has placed you in this church he requires for you to submit to her leaders (Hebrew 13:17). Most of the time, that's an easy call. But stick around long enough, invest deep enough, and something will arise that you have to submit to. Do it joyfully, understanding that God is leading this church. If the gospel isn't being thrown out and sin isn't being glorified, submit.
One practical way to do this: when he says something that you aren't fully on board with initially, pray in the moment for a spirit of submission. Unless it is a gospel issue, or sinful, or illiegal, or...you get the idea, submit to the leadership. I guarantee your pastor has thought more and prayed harder about the vision they are presenting than your 30 seconds of evaluation.
4. Make their job easy.
That is not to say don't have problems, but don't create problems. Be a life giver and not a life sucker. It's no surprise to anyone who's lived with other humans that humans tend to make life harder to live. Pastors often see the worst parts. They are called when the crisis has reached breaking-point. They sit with grieving parents and children during deaths of loved ones. They have difficult conversations for the glory of God and the good of the church. Do all you can to make their job easy. Make it so your pastor is happy to see you.
One practical way to do this: when you send an email with a question or wanting to get together, be specific. It's really difficult to receive an email from someone in the congregation requestion to "talk about something," or "run something by you," or "some feedback on your sermon." Include specifics as to exactly what you want to talk about, even if it is negative. Like anyone else, pastors appreciate the time to prepare for a conversation. Make their job easier, not harder.
5. Honor him (or them).
Pay them well, if you are in a position to make such a call. Speak well of them to outsiders and insiders. Tell them how you see God at work in their life. Use your words to build up, not tear down.
One practical way to do this: speak well of him in public and private. Your pastor may annoy you. He might not be the best preacher. He may have a quirk or two. Don't talk to others about that--these are personal preferences. If he's preaching the gospel and walking in the light, don't beat him up for being who God made him. Instead, speak well of him at all times, just as you hope others would do of you.
6. Squash gossip.
Leaders take a lot of heat. Let only their actual words and actions be discussed, not feelings about such words or actions, especially if you disagree. Be slow to speak. Remember, don't cause problems. Don't let your prayer requests for others be a shrouded attempt to spread news that isn't yours to spread. Don't be the wind on the flame of gossip. Be the water.
One practical way to do this: when someone shares something you know is gossip, end the conversation immediately. You may be able to do this subtly. You may have to confront publically. Be wise in how you do it, but do not let a gossip speak long. Nothing can ruin a church as quickly as a bit of juicy information. The tongue is like fire (James 3:5-6).
7. Come to church.
Pastors love the people of their church and not attending is troublesome. It causes much worry. Come and be present. When you are absent, you pastor(s) notice. They have committed to God to care for your soul. When you aren't there, and they don't know why, they wonder how you are. Be tied into the church. Pretend it's like a family, because it is.
One practical way to do this: decide right now you'll go to church every week. Don't allow any room for excuses. Even if you're sick, come and sit in the back. Let people know you're not feeling well so you won't shake their hand and spread the illness. I make it a rule that unless I'm too sick to get out of bed I'm at church. It's not only encouraging to the pastor, it's good for your soul (Hebrews 10:25).
8. Engage in the life of the church in the way God has gifted you.
Don't wait for him to ask for your help. Offer it, and be satisfied with the answer of yes or no to follow. What do you have that you didn't receive? Worship God through the use of your gifts. Even if you don't love the job, do it joyfully. Most likely, you won't do it forever. If you can help, help!
One practical way to do this: learn your gifting. There are all kinds of spiritual gift tests you can take. Some of those are fine. But you know what you can and can't do. If you don't, others around you can see your strengths and weaknesses. Ask them. The point is, be ready to serve where and when you can. Open yourself up. Take a risk. Be dependable. After all, you're not serving your pastor. You're serving the Lord. You can never serve God too much.
9. Trust him (or them).
He's leading you the best he can as he follows Jesus. Trust his instincts. Give the benefit of the doubt.
One practical way to do this: tell him you trust his leadership and are thankful for him. Be explicit in this, especially if you have a disagreeable personality. It's hard enough to preach each week. It's even harder when you wonder if certain people out there trust what you're saying. Following the Lord is a crazy journey. He asks us to do risky things from time to time. Trust that your pastor is following Jesus closely enough that you can trust him. Trust him until he proves he's untrustworthy.
10. Pray for him (or them).
Nothing means more than this. Every day is a spiritual battle. Satan hates what pastors do. He wishes nothing more than for a great fall into sin. Every moment, the battle is waged. How often do you include your pastors into your prayers? What if, instead of complaining that the sermon was too long, or that he forgot your birthday, you instead bowed your head in thanksgiving?
One practical way to do this: every Sunday morning on the way to church, pray for your pastor. He's about to preach. That's a hard job! He's about to lead the church in beholding the glory of Christ. He needs your prayers. Oh, and when you get there, tell him you prayed for him on the way. Let him know he's not the only one trusting God to provide today.