By Kristen West
If churches awarded frequent flyer miles for every time folks attended, I’d have unlimited free air travel for the rest of my natural days!
I have spent my life in church and experienced a variety of roles—attendee, member, volunteer, and staff member.
As a result, I’ve learned a few foundational truths:
- People are messy—even in church.
- Life is hard—including in church.
- Care is a key—especially in church.
But here’s a particularly disturbing thing I’ve noticed over the years. The higher up in church leadership someone is, the less likely they’ll receive attentive care from those around them.
My last several years of working in vocational ministry made this more apparent than ever before—probably because I feel it more personally now.
It’s a principle penetrating all sectors of life.
People who hold leadership positions—pastors, principals, CEOs, supervisors—juggle some of life’s heaviest loads while receiving the least amount of personal care within their professional circles.
The old saying, “It’s lonely at the top” applies.
We may assume those in supervisory positions are doing well.
They are qualified, mature, and strong enough to get that leadership position in the first place, right? Why would they need any additional encouragement, support, or care?
But they’re just people.
Truth be told, a person in church leadership probably needs more care than most.
They travel a lonely road dotted with criticism and little praise. They help shoulder the weight of other’s struggles and hardships while juggling their own.
In churches, pastors are expected to pour out their hearts, souls, and lives into their congregations and communities. That’s what they’re called to do, isn’t it?
Yet, as people—flesh and blood—they have burdens, problems, troubles, and worries just like the rest of us.
How can we help and care for them?
Five Ways to Care for People in Church Leadership
Here are five practical ways to extend genuine care for those who lead:
1. Pray on their behalf.
“I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” – 1 Timothy 2:1–2 HCSB
Write out your prayer and text or email it to them. This lets the receiver know you’ve taken the time to intercede for them.
Ask how you can specifically be praying in the future. (This makes pastors and other church leadership happier than a 4-year-old on Christmas morning!)
2. Say thank you.
“I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” – Ephesians 1:116 HCSB
In a world where genuine thankfulness is a rare commodity, reaching out to thank your pastor, supervisor, coach, or leader means a lot. It’s free—but valuable.
We may underestimate the value of thankfulness and bypass opportunities to let those around us know we see and appreciate all they do.
The more specific you can be in your gratitude, the more meaningful it’ll land.
3. Extend a hand.
“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3–4 HCSB
Offer to take something off their plate.
We may overlook this simple piece of care, assuming our supervisors will ask for help if they need it. But, in the whirlwind of their days, they may not.
Take the initiative and ask. You can tangibly help by taking a task off their plate.
4. Offer a shoulder.
“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9 HCSB
The load those in church leadership carry is weighty. Sometimes having someone come alongside and listen to what’s going on in their world is the best type of care.
Listening is the most disciplined part of any conversation and, when done with all your heart, conveys support.
5. Encourage unplugging.
“‘Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’” – Matthew 11:28–30 HCSB
Downtime can be extremely hard for a leader. The day-to-day pull from others can be difficult to shut off.
Sabbath and other rhythms are crucial for the health and well-being of anyone—especially leaders.
Help extinguish the enemy’s arrows of guilt by being their biggest fan and exhorting them to unplug to refill their tank because God supports, encourages, and commands us to do so (Ex 20:8–10).
While many additional ways exist to care for those who lead—from tokens of appreciation to notes of affirmation— ask what makes someone in leadership feel valued.
Uncover what speaks care to a supervisor on a personal and unique level.
Galatians 6:2 HCSB reminds us to, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
May we become more aware of those in leadership who care for us so we can extend that same grace and support in return.
Kristen West is a communicator who is passionate about inspiring, encouraging, and challenging others in their walk with Christ. An author of two devotion books, Kristen writes with light-hearted humor and refreshing transparency about the things God has done in her life so others can find hope in theirs. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.