It was not the answer I was expecting. In fact, it startled me. I felt myself physically jump back a bit when she said it.
At a recent gathering of leaders in Texas, I was conducting an interview with three women--three church planter wives. The women had all been in ministry for a while—ten years, twenty-five years, and thirty-five years. And we were up in front of the group talking about the various ups and downs of what it’s like to be married to a pastor and/or church planter.
As we headed to the end of the interview, I asked a question that I figured would be a good ending spot: “What would you like someone to say to your husband? If you could prompt someone to say one thing to your minister husband, what would it be?”
I was expecting something like, “Spend more time with your wife and kids.” Or, “Don’t take ministry success or failure so personally.” Or even, “Relax and take a vacation.”
But the answer from one of the women was immediate. It seemed like she blurted it out before I even finished asking the question.
“You’re doing a good job!” She added, “My husband is working so hard, and he is doing so well, he needs someone other than me to tell him that he’s doing great.” A second woman simply said, “Exactly. That’s what I want someone to say to my husband.” And the third woman explained, “Who encourages the pastor? No one takes the pastor out to lunch to tell him that his preaching is improving. People are quick to point out his faults, but no one thinks about telling him he’s doing great.”
Wow. I was stunned. I hadn’t even thought of that. Maybe that’s the problem. No one thinks about telling pastors, planters, leaders they are doing great. My job is to support planters and leaders, and I don’t always put encouragement as a priority.
We often miss the importance of encouragement toward our leaders.
Yet the spirit of encouragement was evident throughout the early stages of the Christian church.
“When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.”
- Acts 11:22-23 (NLT)
One of the reasons the early church turned the world upside down is there was a strong sense of encouragement. Charles Schwab observed, “I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”
I’m not a huge fan of “Pastor Appreciation Month” every October. I see it as implying that we don’t need to appreciate our pastors from November through September. And I think most churches do a pretty mediocre job of celebrating their leader that month. They aren’t sure what to do or how to do it.
Maybe we can simply start with telling our leaders, “You’re doing a good job!” When I hear that from an unsolicited, genuine, spontaneous source, it makes a huge difference.
If someone took you out to lunch to say, “You’re getting better every day!” or “I think you are doing great” would it make a difference? I suspect so. Let’s consider doing that for a leader we know.
And let me say to you, “You’re doing a good job!” Pass it on.