discouraged-pastor-500x337I decided to write this post now, while I still have four weeks left in my summer study leave, so that it can be seen that I am making general comments about pastoral ministry and not scheming for more compliments from my people. I serve a great church, and nothing in this short piece should be read as a surreptitious complaint.

Caveats in place, here is one simple and very important thing you can do to encourage your pastor: tell him you are grateful for his preaching.

I’m not talking about stroking your pastor’s ego just to make him (or you) feel good. I’m not talking about perfunctory praise. And I’m not talking about idle flattery. Don’t tell your pastor anything you don’t really mean.

But if your pastor’s sermon helped you see more of Jesus, or helped you turn from sin, or helped you understand the Bible better, or helped you be a better spouse, or helped you trust God in the midst of suffering, or stirred your affections for the things of glory, tell him. It doesn’t have to be every week or even every month. But when appropriate, and when legitimate, tell him. It can be a short as a two sentence email or a ten second conversation at the door. Just say something like, “I continue to grow as a Christian because of your preaching.” Or, “Last week’s message really spoke to me.” Or, “I’ve learned so much about the Bible during this last sermon series.” A little bit of encouragement will go a lot farther than you think.

I don’t say this because pastors have the hardest job on the planet. In a lot of ways, it’s the most privileged job on the planet. We get paid (most of us) to study the Bible, tell people about Jesus, pray with people in difficult situations, and, in general, do the kinds of things other Christians try to do when they aren’t working a normal job. But being a pastor is unique in that every week our work–and really our heart and soul–is put on display for everyone to see, savor, or sleep through. It’s natural that a pastor would wonder from time to time (and more so as time goes on), “How am I doing?”

Most often, I don’t think the question rattles around the pastor’s head because of narcissism, low self-esteem, or selfish ambition. I think most pastors genuinely have no idea if they are making any difference in the lives of their people. Sure, there are dramatic conversions here or there, and certain members are persistently cheerful and encouraging. But overall, I think ministers spend a lot of time quietly wondering if they are just whistling in the dark.

Maybe some of them (some of us) are. No doubt, there are men in the ministry who could better serve the kingdom doing something else. And yet, I imagine the majority of pastors shouldn’t leave the pastorate. They are working hard. They are using whatever two or five or ten talents they’ve been given. They still love God, love his people, and love the Bible. But they aren’t sure they are really making a difference. That’s why I think so many pastors look at budgets and buildings and bums in the pew. It’s quantifiable. It’s measurable. It’s something to reassure the wavering pastoral heart: “Look, you are not wasting your time (and theirs!).”

So sometime this month–if there is something worth commending in your pastor’s sermon–go ahead and commend it.

To him. Personally. Gladly. From your heart.

Don’t worry about his head getting too big. The Lord knows how to keep his pastors humble so you can worry about keeping your pastor going. Who knows what season of doubt your minister may be enduring? Who knows what discouragement constantly plagues him? Who knows how close he may be to leaving the ministry (by quiet resignation or by public scandal)?

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, thinking about these things” (Phil. 3:8). And if your pastor’s sermon–even once in a great while–falls into the category of “these things,” give thanks to God. And consider letting your pastor know that you did.

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24 thoughts on “One Simple Way to Encourage Your Pastor”

  1. Kristine says:

    Thank you for your words. Also, can you tell me more about the painting that is featured at the top of the blog post today? It moves my soul. Thank you!

  2. Kevin says:

    One additional thought: Be specific. Tell your pastor what you learned, or what step of victory you took. Specific comments are fuel to his fire to preach. They energize a pastor. Generic comments, while helpful, mean little by comparison.

  3. Ross Riggan says:

    This exhortation was very timely for me as our pastor delivered a powerful sermon on Matt. 17 this last Sunday. It was a great encouragement to me and to just keep that to myself and not use that for the encouragement of my pastor would truly be a missed opportunity to love. Thank you for the encouragement to encourage our pastors!

  4. Neville Briggs says:

    Was it the pastor who died on the cross for us
    Was it the pastor into whose name we are baptised
    Was it the pastor who rose from dead and lives in our hearts

    Remember Herod Agrippa, who stood up on the appointed day, arrayed in his special robes, and made an oration.
    ( sounds familiar ) The people shouted it is the voice of a god not a man. We know what God thought of that. ( Acts ch 12)
    Surely Herod stands as a warning about the superstar orator, but why should we listen to God’s warning when we have that wonderful eloquent orator, the pastor, to instruct us.

  5. Ross Riggn says:


    Why the sour spirit?? Why the mocking rhetoric?

    Were we not instructed to be kind and tender-hearted toward one another? Is the world not to look at us and know we are Christians by our love?

    Is it wrong to encourage one another, including pastors?

  6. david says:

    It is interesting that pastors have sabbaticals of weeks/months….does the person attending have such luxury to take time away to recharge? Pastors have elevated their position to almost martyr status in many cases. Servant was a word I remember the Bible using, not massive salaries, traveling, months off etc. Pastors are not the only ones working hard today, we as lay must also read, teach, work, give with no 4 weeks off. I have watched in our little town as many suffer the pastor demand 130k salary, then chase another higher paying job(hireling), others preaching only 36 weeks a year, hiking and spending time “recharging”.

  7. It is a difficult situation paid Pastors find themselves these days. In this 21st Century many believers from all traditions have decided to move on from the institution of church to find a more organic ecclesia where their first love Jesus Christ is truly the head of the Church without the rules and regulations imposed by man in the institution. As congregations decline in numbers the career path of Pastors becomes more difficult to maintain. Like many traditional careers in the post modern age (which have disappeared) the position of Pastor is struggling to, Where I live in Australia and In Australia generally many denominations are truly struggling to pay their Ministers/Pastors as congregations shrink.. Those fellowships that have I encounted where they can longer afford a Pastor they have found new hope and new direction following Christ out into their community. I hold no malice towards this career path but the winds of change have arrived and a reformation is happening…to what end lets wait and see. Either way Christ is the answer and unless a Pastor has or can persuade his or her flock to follow them through their total Christ centered life…. people will leave. I clinically supervise quiet a few Pastors and Ministers and the struggle I have just described is very real. Blessings to you.

  8. Liza Zajac Whitehead says:

    Amen, Rev. DeYoung – thanks for the very needed reminder.
    Tiny point to the good of the order: Your very last bible reference (first sentence of the last paragraph) is Phil 4:8 but the link takes you to 3:8 … one chapter off.

  9. NoOneofConsequence says:

    Kristine …

    The image featured at the top of the blog post is of a painting entitled “The Hauler of a Boat” from 1860 by French painter HonorĂ© Daumier.

  10. Linda says:

    Complimenting your pastor on his oratory skills or presence in the pulpit is simply flattery. If that’s all you get out of a sermon, either you are focusing on externals or the pastor is promoting an image. My pastor is fairly young (early 30s) and has an occasional stutter problem, but he faithfully and truthfully preaches God’s word. His sermons are solidly based on scripture. He just doesn’t want us to hear the word, he wants us to understand, apply, and live the word. He is a rare gem in a world that values appearances and saying what people want to hear over scripture-based teaching.

  11. Hope says:

    Kevin thank you for this much needed article that I greatly needed to be reminded of. Just one question. What do you mean by “bums in the Pew”?

  12. Neville Briggs says:

    Ross, the charge of being a naysayer, or unloving is a standard response to anyone who suggests that things in the church should be tested.
    That response has been used to silence people who have been concerned about clergy filling their pockets with loot, it has contributed to the cover-ups of clergy child abuse and to defeat those who have been uneasy about false doctrine.

    It’s about time that the church ,all over, had a long hard look at the clergy system. I say that, not because I am cleverer than anyone, but because things are falling apart in a clergy dominated system.

    I am not disparaging any individual and I am well aware of those who are dedicated and sincerely do their best to advance God’s Kingdom. But I have also seen, first hand, fine biblical orators who had little interest in the congregation once they stepped off their podium. And in the little congregation where I belong, a previous pastor who was a very enthusiastic preacher was the one person there who never said a word to me after my wife died. Now we still get a 45 minute sermon every and yet the attendance is shrinking and the finances are getting close to bankruptcy.

    You wonder why I have a jaundiced view of the clergy system.

    Here’s a challenge for Mr De Young; write an article about how pastors should work to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. ( Eph 4:11, the only place in the bible that mentions pastors )
    The challenge is he must not use the words, preaching,expounding,sermon,exhorting,address,homily,presenting or pulpit, or anything to do with public speaking.

  13. Ross Riggn says:


    I am so sorry to hear about your wife. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering you went through. I further cannot imagine how you must have felt when your pastor, the undershepherd of your soul, did not so much as say anything to you about it. While I cannot fathom the pain, I can understand why this has been so difficult for you.

    But brother, can you not see how this hurt is turning to bitterness? Now that one “clergy” member has let you down, you are turning on the system as a whole and assuming the worst of them. Have you gone to your previous pastor like Scripture says and told him the fault you find with him? Have you given him the opportunity to see his fault and ask your forgiveness? Even if you have done these things, have you in the integrity of your heart tried to truly reconcile that relationship?

    You are right that everything should be tested. I was not saying that we should never push back on the status quo and take a good hard look at the orthodoxy of the system. But that “push back” should always be done in a manner of love, a manner you may not be able to articulate because of possible bitterness in your heart.

    I think DeYoung’s heart here is not to put the pastor on a pedestal or to give pastors breaks that are in the face of the congregation’s daily grind. I think his heart is to help that pastor so that he will always be ready for the “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,”

  14. Sungsoo says:

    Thank you so much for reminding me of encouraging my pastor.

  15. Katie says:

    I sometimes speak at my local church. Though it was always great to hear compliments from the congregation, I have always warn myself one question – would I preach differently next time if I didn’t get any compliment at all? Would I change my focus from seeking encouragement and guidance from Christ and Christ alone? I appreciate the point that we human all need encougement, we do. But to seek that from others seem quite odd to me, I know my fallen heart too well to say that attention seeking is still alive in my own heart, the subtle power to seek affirmation is a temptation that I need to flight constantly. Holy Sipirt is as real as the person next to you, would His compliment and encouragement not enough? Would you not trust if He gave you a message, that’d be His job to work people’s hearts. Why would we have such strong urge to seek evidence if our preaching is working or not. Why are we looking at ‘performances’? I would ask myself these questions.

  16. Grahame Smith says:

    I guess Katie the greatest result from speaking with the ecclesia will be those who listened were challenged by what was said and then went out as Ambassadors for Christ with view to let people know the Kingdom of God was here through their words and deeds. This would be the greatest compliment in my view based on evidence from their actions…blessings

  17. wob says:

    I guess I should be used to it by now, but I still have to shake my head at those who can’t read a simple suggestion – ie tell your pastor how much his message meant to you – without having to criticize and otherwise denigrate. There is not one of you here, I dare say, who does not appreciate a compliment regarding your efforts, whether personal or work related. Why on earth would you begrudge your pastor of such? Its not about his pride or his self worth, it’s about common human courtesy, something which many Christians seem to have forgotten. Thank you pastor DeYoung for this timely reminder.

  18. Jean Mitchell says:

    Thank you Wob. Everyone appreciates being told their job or life meant something to them and a pat on the back from time to time. Little kids need it. One harsh comment to a kid takes 10 good ones to make them feel good. I am glad to give my pastor a compliment from time to time, especially if it was something that I needed at that time. Pastors have a tough time today. A little kindness never hurts.

  19. Scott Hescht says:

    Wow, I was shocked to see such negative comments after such an encouraging article. I never knew how hard and discouraging pastoring can be until I became one. Honoring and encouraging someone is never a bad thing. It’s not your job to humble someone. The Herod example someone used does not fit here. There is a difference in “seeking the applause of men” and needing encouragement. We all need encouragement. Most pastors aren’t self-centered, greedy, power mongers. They are seeking to serve God by serving his church. And it can be pretty lonely at times, especially when people have the attitude “why should I encourage him and build his pride.” The author hit the nail on the head. Many pastors just don’t know if they are making a difference. Sure they’re working for heavenly reward, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t use encouragement. In fact the Bible exhorts us to quite the opposite.

    “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10

  20. This thread had been moving along for a while. It would seem if we all stood back and look at the church universal and see how things are going. Preaching isnt addressing the ills of the church, except when after the message the person says follow me (as CHrist did) out into the field of lost souls and extended grace to them and each other. Now thats a preacher I would follow.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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