Helping professionals (including pastors and their families) often feel valuable mostly for the service they provide.

Every week, pastors provide various services to their congregation from funerals to pastoral counseling, to community partnerships, to presiding over worship services. Clergy are consistently focusing their energy on helping the gospel get off the page and into the lives of their congregation.

Much of that work is unseen. And often, pastors feel equally invisible. Clergy long to be known, not just as service providers but as neighbors and friends.

As Pastor Appreciation Month approaches this October, Wesleyan churches in Canada and the United States will join the chance to love our pastors — to say (to those in a profession that often feels invisible), “We see you.”

Three key disciplines: understanding, advocating and supporting, can be important ingredients in creating a culture of supportive laity-clergy relationships.


One crucial aspect of noticing helping professionals is understanding the emotional labor they undertake. Their work requires not only professional expertise but also empathy, compassion and a deep understanding of human nature. They often bear witness to the pain, suffering and trauma experienced by their parishioners.

Pastors provide solace and support, offering a safe space for individuals to share their deepest fears, anxieties and challenges. The emotional toll this takes is significant; and noticing their efforts means acknowledging the weight they carry and seeking to understand more about their role, and how they (personally) bring themselves to the work they do day in and day out.

When it comes to knowing our pastors as neighbors and friends, one of our best gifts is our curiosity — asking questions over time (like, “What’s giving you life right now?” “What obstacles are you facing?” “When in your week are you able to rest?”) that help you know more about your pastor beyond just the services they provide. Another is our prayer — committing to think through the specific things your pastor is experiencing and holding those things with them in prayer. As we pray, new dimensions of understanding may develop within us toward our pastor, opening the way for more meaningful relationships.

Connection and understanding are great predictors of pastoral health; anything churches and clergy can do to build that is an immediate asset.


Congregations take a lot of energy to orchestrate. Pastors need congregational members to encourage them not only in their leadership of the church but also in their lives outside the congregation.

Pastors generally rise or fall to the level of health their congregations expect of them. Local churches set conditions that enable their pastors to be healthy or unhealthy. Pay rates, benefits and workweek expectations are set by the local church and each influences a pastor’s health in all five areas of well-being (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial).

Because pastors are often calibrated to practice care for others before self-care, churches desiring healthy pastors will have to paint a picture of pastoral ministry expectations that encourages clergy to experience well-being.

Benefits like fair wages, PTO, insurance, access to high-quality counseling, book/education reimbursements, days for remote work or study and extended times of renewal or Sabbatical are best practices in congregations. But beyond these pastorally specific benefits, perhaps the most helpful thing a congregation can do is to encourage and support a pastor in non-church-related areas of their life: hobbies, family connection and general health.


When thinking of support, our minds can easily drift toward words or notes of encouragement (and those mean so much to many pastors). And yet when we talk about “support,” we’re really talking about using whatever we have to give — time, energy, attention, resources — to help life be sustainable for pastors and their families.

Sometimes that may be a note describing something your pastor did that encouraged you or telling a pastor’s child something you’ve noticed about them that brings you joy. Other times, that may be asking the pastor to delegate a task to you, sponsoring a vacation, financial planning services or a beneficial retreat.

When it comes to support, here are examples of messages your pastor may want to receive:

  • “You’re not alone in carrying the work of the church.”
  • “We care about you beyond just the things you do for us.”
  • “The people (family and friends) that are important to you are important to us.”
  • “We want you to be the healthiest person you can be.”

Ultimately, Pastor Appreciation Month is an annual chance to recommit to a sustainable, caring and generative church culture.

“We want our pastors to see themselves as more than a cog in a machine and know that ‘we’ — their own congregation, our denomination and their neighbors — can see them, even as they do meaningful (often hidden) work in their congregations,” said Dr. Carla Working, director of Clergy Care and Development at The Wesleyan Church.

For more resources for Pastor Appreciation Month — including ideas each week of October for how to love your pastor — stay tuned to!

Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.