As of today, March 10, we’re two weeks from Maundy Thursday, the first gathering in the Great Three Days. It’s about this time when most pastors (and other staff – this also applies to musicians, for instance) will truly begin to feel the stress.

Don’t worry; they love you and the whole congregation, and they’re really excited to celebrate the most important festival in the liturgical calendar. But between now and Easter, they’re going to be running on all cylinders. Some of them may even be over doing it a little. So here are three ways to care for your pastor in the coming weeks.

1. Ask them how the planning is going; volunteer if needed.

Usually if you ask a pastor how they’re doing they’re going to say they’re doing well (even if they aren’t), and then they’ll tell you how meaningful this year’s Holy Week is going to be.

You may have to ask again: “Sounds great pastor, but how are you doing in the midst of all the preparation?” There’s a good chance an extra volunteer or two would make a big difference right about now.

2. Express your gratitude (for something specific).

Over the next few weeks, pastors will be working overtime because during Holy Week there are extra services – that’s at least three times as much work – and they have to pull this off while still keeping Lent going, which often includes additional worship services or other responsibilities.

Be on the lookout for something going on in the life of your congregation right now, and tell your pastor how grateful you are for the work they do. A simple “thank-you for all you do” is good, but being more specific is even better: “Pastor, I’ve really appreciated the midweek Lenten services. I’m sure it’s an extra burden for you, but my spiritual life really has deepened lately.”

3. Advocate for their sabbath.

During Holy Week, a 40-hour work week is a unicorn. It doesn’t exist. This means your pastor has put in overtime and hasn’t been compensated for it. Help the church leadership find a way to give your pastor extra sabbath time for rest and renewal the week after Holy Week. When your pastor says, “Gee, that’s really kind of you, but really, that’s not necessary,” try again. Really – insist they take time off. (In case you didn’t realize it, clergy burn-out is a real thing.)

For now, we are still in Lent, that season that’s about getting all set to die and be raised to new life.

It’s not just pastors who are called to care for their congregations; we must care for them so that together we can recommit ourselves to practicing resurrection lives of witness and service.

Timothy K. Snyder
Timothy K. Snyder is an instructor of practical theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.  

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