Sometimes church members seek to show their care for their pastor with “helpful” tips and advice like, “Let me tell you how to fix your sermon. You preached too long/too short/too much grace/too much law/ with boring illustrations, etc.” Or, “Let me help you know why I am upset because you didn’t call me enough… fix my marriage… heal my broken family…”

And that “helpful” feedback isn’t restricted to the pastor himself. It extends to pastoral families as well with comments like, “Your children are too fidgety in worship. Here’s how to fix that.” Or even insights we share with one another and not to our pastoral family’s faces like, “Did you see his wife’s sweater has a stain on it?” Or “Did you see the length of his daughter’s skirt?” Or “Is that too nice of a car for a pastor’s family to drive?”

As a longtime pastor’s wife, I have a bookshelf filled with titles ranging from Windows in a Glass House to Help! I’m Married to My Pastor! to She Can’t Even Play the Piano, and perhaps most eye-catching of them all: I Quit! All four of our children offered concerned queries when they saw me reading that last title!

What does it mean to care for those who live in glass houses, don’t always preach perfect sermons, and perhaps have fidgety kids, but who are nonetheless called to shepherd the flock? We know our pastoral families are frail humans in need of grace and support just like we are. But in daily practice, it can be easy to start applying a different scale to ministry families. Perhaps Pastor Appreciation Month is a good time to prayerfully consider how to apply the writer’s words in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning…”

Ministering Alongside Our Leaders

We read in the book of James that those who teach “will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1). But that truth doesn’t mean our ministry leaders have no needs and weaknesses. Nor does it mean church members are the judges to whom James refers. Rather than “arm-chair judges,” the call of every church member is to support and minister alongside our leaders. Peter tells us we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood…,” (1 Pet. 2:9).  At Pentecost, all the Christ-followers in the room received the Holy Spirit and all were called to proclaim the Good News. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 tells us if we have been reconciled to Christ, we are ambassadors to proclaim that reconciliation to others. Our pastors are not called to perfectly execute every ministry in Christ’s Church. They are called to encourage, lead, and equip us for daily gospel ministry. When you and I are in the trenches of ministry alongside our leaders, we will be quicker to encourage and slower to judge.


Not only are we to minister alongside our leaders, we are also called to minister to them. Paul doesn’t just tell us to care for our ministers; he also displays his own deep need. “Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. …When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas….” (2 Tim. 4:9, 10, 13).

Do you sense the deep need in these words? Can you feel the disappointment, the loneliness, and the coldness in Paul’s bones from the stone prison floor? Someone he poured his life into has chosen to return to the love of this world, and Paul is alone and chilled to the bone. Those in ministry still feel the effect of this world’s hurts. Pause for a moment to consider how Paul must have felt as he wrote the above words.

In the midst of his sorrow, Paul looked to the Lord for strength. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t need physical friends to come to him, be with him, encourage him, and bring him a cloak. As you hear the longing for care in Paul’s voice, may you stop to consider those who have given their lives to minister to you. When did you last say, “You are doing a good job!” “I am with you, and I am praying for you,” or simply “Thank you!” When was the last time you dropped a note of encouragement in the mail? Does your pastor need a vacation?  Or a trip to a ministry conference for he and his wife? Consider ways to support your ministry leaders.

And as you remember your pastor, also remember your ministry spouses. Wives serve alongside husbands often without pay, praise, or any acknowledgement. Whether your pastor’s wife is up front at church or serving in ways you may not see, ministry family life does not end at 5 p.m. or observe a five-day workweek. Consider ways you can let a ministry spouse know you see her faithful service.

Show Them and Tell Them

 I asked a few pastors’ wives to share times they have felt seen and encouraged by words or deeds from their congregation, and it was delightful to hear their answers.

  • “I always feel valued when someone writes an appreciation note to my husband and also thinks to include a little something about me as well…. It feels really nice to be noticed and appreciated that way, even now, after 40 years of life in vocational ministry.”
  • “I remember receiving almost too many invitations to have dinner at other’s homes during the month of October! Our church then switched to collecting donations and hosting a catered dinner at the church for all the staff families together, with candles and servers— very fun.”
  • One St. Louis area pastor’s wife shared a story of how her church welcomed her family before they had even moved to town. Each month they received a St. Louis item in the mail until they moved. After they arrived, this same wife had a mom of a youth student offer to babysit her kids so she could attend youth group meetings alongside her husband.
  • Even mentioning something you appreciate about the husband’s work to the wife means so much. “When you are holding down the home front and getting kids to church each week without backup, it means so much when someone says to you, ‘Your husband is doing a great job. I loved ____ from his sermon.’ It helps you feel your efforts are accomplishing something worthwhile.”
  • One woman’s husband was moving to a new ministry, and other women in the church saw her sorrow in leaving a church she loved. They recognized her feelings and expressed care and empathy. She was allowed to be human, have needs, be seen, and then be cared for by the church.
  • One pastor’s wife told how all the elders’ wives provided appetizers for her daughter’s wedding. One couple would receive a bed and breakfast gift certificate and offer of free childcare every Pastor Appreciation Month. My husband and I received a sweet note and dinner gift card in the mail last Pastor Appreciation Month, and I can’t tell you how much it surprised and encouraged me after more than 30 years in ministry.

Always Pray

Most importantly, pray for your pastor and his family. If your pastor is faithfully ministering the gospel, there will be opposition, and his marriage and family are a wonderful place for attack. Have you seen the news headlines about the downfalls of prominent pastors in America? Is your first response to shake your head and gossip? Is it to wonder if your local pastor is also toxic? Or is it to fall to your knees and offer prayer for your local pastor? See Rom. 15:30; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1, or look up the article “Why You Should Pray for Your Pastor and How to Pray for Him.”

We are forgetful people. God warns us of this continually. Pastor Appreciation Month is a great reminder to minister alongside, minister to, and faithfully pray for your pastoral families this month and through the rest of the year. Show and tell your ministry leaders how much you care for them!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Tara Gibbs

Tara Gibbs is a wife, mother, and writer. She spent 19 years in San Antonio, Texas ministering alongside her husband Tom to the city of San Antonio at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Tara has authored Bible studies and taught internationally on women’s ministry.  Tara and Tom recently moved to St. Louis, Missouri to serve Covenant Theological Seminary where Tom currently serves as president. Tara has parented four children, led Bible studies, practiced hospitality, worked with the San Antonio area public schools, worked in water conservation, and served as Director of Redeemer’s women’s ministry. Tara loves running, reading, everything outdoors, Tex-Mex food, and fall in St. Louis.