When I was a little girl, the woman who took care of me during the day called me “Silly Girl.” And do you know, right up until she died a few years back, she called me “Silly Girl.”
I suppose I earned that name. I was pretty silly as a child. I was the little girl who wanted to be a cup of chocolate milk when she grew up. I brought the “shiny bubbles” inside after skimming them from the pool water, only to discover (when they hatched) they were mosquito larva. I stood on the back of the potty to sing, stared at a stranger so intently enough to win the cherry in his drink, told my grandmother she should try an iron for her wrinkles since it worked so beautifully on her pants, peeled sticks of butter and ate them like bananas, and tried to train roly-polies to do a circus act. I was silly. And I was known for it.
So here I am, Silly Girl at your service. 🙂
In Acts, we read about Joseph, who was called Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” Now that’s a nickname! Have you ever thought about what Joseph/Barnabas must’ve been like to earn the nickname “son of encouragement”? Have you ever really thought about what “encourage” means? I mean, we talk all the time, in Christian circles anyway, about how we were encouraged to serve in the nursery, how a song in the service encouraged us, how encouraging it is to hear the latest reports of what God is doing in foreign lands through missionaries.
But what does “encourage” mean? The word literally means in+courage. To instill courage. To act in courage. To grow in courage. The idea of Barnabas being the “son of encouragement” carries with it a sense of Barnabas being one who supported others by giving them courage – somehow breathing courage into their lives – so they could do what God called them to do. He was so committed to strengthening the courage of others he was willing to serve alongside John Mark a second time – after John Mark had previously abandoned him in ministry.
Courage isn’t about the absence of fear, but rather the persistence of righteousness in the presence of fear. Encouragement is coming alongside others and lifting them up so they can act righteously in the face of fear.
One of the ways you can show appreciation to your pastor is by in+couraging him. Building him up – breathing courage into his life so that he can persist in righteousness when things get hard or scary.
A pastor is called to do a lot of hard or scary things. He is called to:
- preach the whole counsel of scripture, even the unpopular parts about God’s view of sexuality, marriage, and the value of human life
- raise children who understand the gracious and compassionate presence of a father, while simultaneously balancing the needs of his congregation
- enter into the pain of others and meet it with empathy, wisdom, and the word of God
- live transparently, leading in repentance, which means revealing his weaknesses (and clinging to God’s grace when he meets condemnation or criticism)
Last week I wrote a post called A Pastor is an Everyday Hero about re-thinking the whole Pastor Appreciation Month thing. I’d simply like us to think beyond October – to the everyday need our pastors have to live up to their calling. In last week’s post, I called pastors heroes. They are. And you have the opportunity to come alongside that everyday hero of the faith and breathe courage into his life so that he can do what God is calling him to do.
Here are two ways you can encourage your pastor:
- Write him a note telling him how you’ve grown through his ministry (not who you know that needs to hear what he preaches, but how his preaching, teaching, or ministry has impacted you personally). Did you know many pastors keep a file of handwritten notes they’ve received as “ebeneezers” or reminders of God’s faithfulness through them? It’s often hard to tell if you are making a difference. Your gifts of appreciation ARE appreciated, but you’ll really encourage him if you include a note specifically calling out what you appreciate. October is also a great time to establish a plan to regularly communicate praise and encouragement throughout the year. Set reminders, put it on your calendar, schedule a day each month, quarter, year, to write down how his ministry in+courages you to walk in faith.
- Take time to compliment him about his kids. He hears enough about how his kids run in the halls after church or lead the line at pot-luck dinners. Well-chosen, specific, and sincere words affirming his kids in October will encourage him. October is also a great time to plan to get to know his kids throughout the year. As you live alongside his children, you can speak of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord to his children (Psalm 78:4) so they hear it and see it from more than their pastor-daddy who gets paid to say it. Teach Sunday school, volunteer to help with VBS or kid’s clubs, lead children’s church or the children’s choir, serve in the nursery, invite the whole family to dinner, offer to babysit, include his kids in service projects or fun activities with your own children/grandchildren. You never know, you may be shaping a Silly Girl into a woman who will follow God into ministry alongside a pastor-husband. You may be shaping a Silly Boy into a man who preaches the gospel to your great-grandchildren… once he stops hiding plastic cockroaches in his sisters’ beds.