Pastoring Your Pastor

I recently received a sympathy card with a meaningful note on the side page. It has had me thinking since I read it. Among other comforting words written, there was an especially touching sentence that simply said, “It’s difficult to speak to a pastor about the loss of their loved one, but the loss is still the same.” Those phrases “difficult to speak to a pastor” and “the loss is still the same” are still swirling around in my mind. I was so appreciative of these sentiments that I immediately called these friends. I wanted to express my thanks to them for taking the time to write those candid and hope-filled thoughts down for my comfort.

Comfort One Another

After decades of service as a pastor in a half dozen churches from Texas to Illinois, I have often wondered how pastors sometimes make it difficult for their members to share comfort with them. Without intending to do this, I think we can build barriers by saying, “We’re doing okay. We have a lot of support. Thank you.” However, this may miscommunicate to a person offering expressions of comfort and inquiring how they may help us in a difficult season that, “Pastors don’t need pastoring! This is what we get paid to do!” But honestly, there are times that we do need to be pastored!

Yes, it is in the job description for pastors to be caregivers. It is a significant part of the calling to serve in vocational ministry to counsel, encourage, and offer comfort to their members who have experienced loss. But just because pastors do have many opportunities in vocational ministry to express sympathy, offer support, and help others navigate through their grief and loss, this doesn’t mean that they have been bestowed with some supernatural expertise in navigating the waters of their personal grief.

Pastors and their families need the support and encouragement of a caring community, too! As church  caregivers, let's keep in mind that shepherding and expressing care need not be intrusive. It is a wise, intuitive, and discerning member who seizes the opportunity to come alongside a pastor with a timely expression of prayerful support. A short text, a hand-written note, a tap on the shoulder with a few words to say, “We’re thinking of and praying for you and your family during this time.” This can be a great blessing to your pastor!

And pastors, a word to you as well. Don’t make it so hard (and I know from personal experience how and why you sometimes do!) for your church friends to “pastor you.” There will be times of personal and family grief, illness, struggles, church challenges, and so forth. I don’t need to remind you that the corporate strength and support of God’s people have bolstered many over the years who have needed and received caring concern. The God of all comfort is always working through His Body, the church!

During this season of Lent, our small group has been studying Tom Berlin’s book, The Third Day: Living the Resurrection. Berlin tells the story of a pastor who was going through a very discouraging time in his faith walk. God’s servant was facing great doubts, tempted to give up, and quit his ministry. The personal strain was so great that he even confessed that he might not even believe anymore!

It was then that some spiritually astute and committed friends in his church encircled this man of God with a bold commitment to care. They said, “Stay and let us believe for you!” (p.47). God’s grace and this candidly compassionate offer were just what the pastor needed until he could regain his spiritual balance again!

Pastor and people, we have a mutual need to heed this admonition, “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them… Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:13,15).

God knows how to comfort His people! “All praise to God… our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others... (with) the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT). Let’s all give thanks for God’s grace and never-ending comfort!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.


  1. Thank you for this message, our prayers are for you and your family too.


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