How a season without a pastor helped me appreciate pastors even more

By Jenn Hall

I almost hugged the new furnace when it arrived at our home. We’d been without heat for about eight days and it was the middle of winter (OK, a Lower Mainland winter but for us in BC, it was cold). My husband, son, dog and I had all been sleeping in the same room in the hopes that our collective body heat would keep us warm throughout the night. While the hardwood floors creaked as our townhouse heated up quickly, I appreciated not wearing various layers of clothing to keep my teeth from chattering.

Ever experience an outpouring of thankfulness when something you missed was returned? I certainly did when our new pastor arrived at our church’s doorstep a few months ago. Once again, I was chock full of thankfulness, as well as relief, joy and hope. For roughly two years, our small church of 70 to 80 congregants survived without a pastor. Much of that time was during the pandemic.

I found myself in a unique position as I’d been filling in as administrative assistant when our pastor gave his notice and eventually moved himself and some of his family back to Alberta. Working for the church, I had already gotten a glimpse into what it’s like to be a pastor on staff. However, in the absence of a pastor, I became keenly aware of the things I have appreciated – and was therefore missing – in pastors.

I have particularly valued being welcomed into my pastor’s family, warts and all. At one point, my husband and I were struggling in parenting, and it was stressful for all of us. My pastor’s whole family loved and supported us through our crisis, without judgment.

Other things I have also seen and appreciated in pastors are:

  • Your warmth and approachability.
  • Your love of God and dedication to prayer.
  • Your desire to stay true to Scripture and make it relevant to today’s world.
  • Your availability at all hours of the day/night to respond to crises.
  • Your listening ear and ability to identify the work of God in us.
  • Your ability to appreciate the gifts of God in us and tease them out.
  • Your ability to speak truth, carefully encroached in love.
  • Your ability to put yourself and your family on display. Your openness and vulnerability in sharing what God is doing in you.
  • Your ability to “enter in” – into the celebration of a wedding or baptism, the somberness of a funeral, or one-on-one meeting with a struggling congregant.
  • All the many things you do behind the scenes (like calling an exterminator for the carpenter ants) that don’t usually end up on a resume.
  • Your dedication to us, your congregants, even when it seems like we’re only complaining.
  • Your authenticity and willingness to pastor in a way that lines up with your skills and gifting.

That’s quite a list!

It’s no wonder that Barna Group research found that “42 per cent of pastors considered quitting in the past year”1 – up from 29 per cent in January 2021. “Immense stress of the job” was the top reason pastors gave for considering quitting; loneliness/isolation a not-so-distant second. Though, instinctively, you already know that.

With all that you are expected to be and do, I can imagine how easily you might get discouraged. In all these circumstances, I pray that “[God] would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).

So, from someone who has experienced church life without a pastor, I want to make it clear that you are a gift of God in the lives of your congregants and surrounding community. Just as I was thankful for my once-again heated house, I thank you for bringing the warmth of God into the lives of all those in your care. May you feel supported year-round, not only during Pastor Appreciation Month.

Signing off now so that I can go and appreciate our new pastor!


1 Pastors Share Top Reasons They’ve Considered Quitting Ministry in the Past Year – Barna Group


Jenn Hall is a counsellor for Focus on the Family Canada and a long-time, grateful congregant of a church with a new and enthusiastic pastor.

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