I’ve learned a few things about myself this past year. First, my husband loves long hair more than I do. Long hair makes me hot during the summer and gives me a headache when I pile it on top of my head. My new “do” of choice is a long bob. Blessed relief! Second, I am much better about drinking enough water when I drink it out of a mason jar. It’s big, so it holds a lot of water, and it’s in front of me all day long, so I drink it.
Yes, you can find me on any given day walking barefoot through my house, sporting a long bob and holding a mason jar full of water. That is how I like it. That is life as I prefer it.
Ah, preferences. There’s that word again. Though not wrong in and of themselves, when people care more about their own preferences than other people, it is destructive. I’ve seen it happen in friendships and in families. As a pastor’s kid, I’ve even witnessed how divisive personal preferences can be in the church.
Let me tell you a little bit about my dad. My dad has been in full time ministry my whole life so I’ve observed a lot over the years. He arrives early to make sure the facilities are comfortable for others as they enter. He stays late to clean up after people once they’ve all gone home for the day. He shovels snow and cuts grass because it’s important to him that people have easy access to the church and that, once there, the facility is welcoming and well kept. He leaves his bed in the middle of the night whenever someone in need calls him. He spends hours at hospitals so that family members of patients aren’t sitting alone. When you’re hurting, he prays with you. When you’re struggling, he prays with you. When you’re rejoicing, he praises God with you. He gives 100% of himself to the calling of a pastor.
I’ve seen this man, who is always there for his church family no matter what, be cut down by senseless criticism time and time again. It has made me angry. It has made me passionately defensive. It has also given me a unique appreciation for pastors, both for what they do and what they go through.
My parents no longer live in the same town as I do and I no longer attend the church my dad pastors. Now I sit under the teaching and guidance of the pastors at Northridge church in Rochester. The head pastor, Drew Karschner, and the Webster campus pastor, Nate Miller, impact my life in great ways. Though I don’t see what happens in their day-to-day lives as I did with my dad, I still understand their calling, their serving, and their sacrifice.
I am grateful.
So, to these men and the others like them, I want to say thank you. I appreciate you for your:
- Confidentiality. You are the best at keeping secrets. Not once have I heard you gossip or cut people down, though no doubt you are given plenty of opportunities. I love this about you. I admire you for being able to hold confidence and I am thankful that I can trust you with my own imperfections.
- Excellence. Church doesn’t happen without the people at the top bringing their A-game, or at least it doesn’t happen very well. I know you’ve had to overcome your own weaknesses and insecurities to follow this calling. I know you work hard behind the scenes and that you spend countless hours preparing every week. It shows. I see you give your best and it inspires me.
- Vision. I love how you stay culturally relevant but biblically uncompromised when reaching this world with the Gospel. You love this city and the people in it. You thoughtfully reach into their lives, relieving some of the physical burdens and letting them know someone cares. Even more, I admire how you pray for other churches, desiring to see God’s church as a whole continue to grow and stand firm, not just our own.
- Kindness. You don’t have the luxury of having a bad day. When you greet someone, you smile and give a heartfelt welcome. It doesn’t matter if someone has just criticized you. It doesn’t matter if your family is experiencing a crisis. It doesn’t matter if things behind the scenes are going wrong. You are not rude. You are not insensitive. You are kind.
- Sacrifice. I know that people look to you and want you to be constantly present. You are expected to be the first person to serve in any ministry and to attend every special occasion. I know that when a crisis hits a family in the congregation, you are one of the first calls. I know that there are times you have to leave your family when you’d rather be home, that you fill in the gaps when there aren’t enough volunteers to serve, and that sometimes all you get as encouragement is other people’s leftovers. Some days it may feel like the sacrifice required of you is unending, but it is not unnoticed. You and your family are loved.
I am glad that October is a designated time to recognize pastors. They need to know that their hard work is appreciated, just like the rest of us do. Please take advantage of this opportunity but don’t leave it there. Find ways to encourage your pastors and their families, the church staff and their families, regularly. Once a year is not nearly enough. So to all you pastors out there and those working alongside them to make church happen, again I say thank you.
And to my dad, I say, I love you. Thank you for showing me what a pastor’s heart looks like.