We are almost to the end of our 52 ways to care for your pastor! If you’ve been with us from the beginning you’ll have noticed that several of our suggested ways to love, appreciate, and care for your pastor have to do with food. We’ve encouraged you to invite the pastor and his/her spouse out to lunch, call in a pizza order to be delivered to their home, and drop of a meal “just because”. We’ve also mentioned inviting them to your home for a home cooked meal and we’ve even suggested that restaurant gift cards are a great option.
To give you another food fellowship-themed blessing may I suggested inviting your pastor and his* wife out to a nice restaurant on a double date with you and your spouse? I’m not talking about Taco Tuesday here folks; I’m talking tablecloths and cloth napkins. Eating at a nice restaurant and getting a little dressed up is special – for everyone. Some pastors get invited to lots of lunch meetings or buffet-type gatherings, but having the chance to go out for the evening to a fancy(ish) place that doesn’t involve a wedding reception, rehearsal dinner, or fund raiser is quite a treat.
Once everyone is seated, please refrain from talking about church issues. Instead, direct the conversation by asking your pastoral couple how they met and then sit back and allow them to tell their stories. Focus on the pastor’s wife. She doesn’t get a chance to talk about herself much. Give her the time to share her journey to faith, meeting her husband, becoming a mother………..whatever aspects of her life that she wants to share. I know you’ll be tempted to jump in and share your stories. That’s fine, once you’ve given your guests the chance to talk and talk and talk. Just remember, this evening is all about them and having a chance to share without interruption is a wonderful gift you can give to this precious couple. If they are hesitant to begin, just ask questions – not in an interrogational fashion, but with the heart to get to know them.
Make the evening very relaxed. Order an appetizer. Pass the bread and butter. Leisurely enjoy your entrée and if you have room, order dessert – even one for the table. Do whatever you have to do to make your ministry couple feel special, loved, and noticed.
Noticed? Was that a typo? No. I used the word noticed because of an experience my husband and I had with a sweet couple. He was the son of the founding pastor of their church. He grew up in the shadow of his gifted and beloved father. As the current senior pastor, he and his wife had spent more than a decade trying to live up to everyone’s expectations to be just like his father and mother. By the time they got to a Standing Stone retreat they were tired, ready to burn out, and feeling defeated. The first morning of our retreat we asked him to share his story. He talked all through breakfast. He talked all morning. He talked through lunch. After an afternoon of rest, he talked before dinner, through dinner, and into dessert. He talked until it was time for bed. The next morning he thanked us for listening and said he felt a little sheepish for dominating the conversation the previous day, but then he said this, “In my entire life I have never been given the opportunity to tell my story in chronological order from birth to the present day. No one has ever cared enough to really listen to what I had to say. No one asked questions.” At the end of the retreat the phrase that came to them was ICU. Their retreat week was like an Intensive Care Unit for them as individuals and as a couple. But, it also was a time that they felt noticed. They felt like we saw them – warts and all (and still accepted them). They felt like God had refreshed their hearts with the knowledge that He also saw them. ICU/I See You. They no longer felt invisible.
Your pastor(s) need to be noticed; for who THEY are, not just WHAT they do. So do their spouses. An invitation to a special restaurant and a chance to be heard is a powerful way to care for your pastor.
*I recognize that there are many women pastors and that all posts don’t apply equally to men and women in ministry. I try to be gender neutral and when the use of he/she or him/her is too cumbersome we default to the masculine pronoun. The reverse is true for referring to the pastor’s spouse. I hope that you can read past these masculine and feminine pronouns to the spirit behind each post —- creative ways to be a blessing to those who serve us…..and their spouses.