100 Tips for Leaders in the Church

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This week’s Tuesday Tips is part one of a four part series. These 100 tips for leaders in the church come from Joe McKeever. After five years as Director of Missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner where he’s working on three books, and he’s trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. He loves to do revivals, prayer conferences, deacon training, leadership banquets, and such. Usually, he’s working on some cartooning project for the denomination or some agency. See more from Joe McKeever here or visit Joe at www.joemckeever.com.

1. In all the world, there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.

2. When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say because you never know who is listening to you. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church and his mama is sitting right in front of you.

3. There will never be a time in your life when you know all the Bible and have your questions all answered; if you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.

4. Your church members should submit to your leadership, but you’re not the one to tell them that.

5. The best way to get people to submit to your leadership is for you to humble yourself and serve them the way the Lord did the disciples (John 13); they will trust someone who loves them that much.

6. The best way to get run off from a church is to take your eyes off Jesus and begin to think of yourself as hot stuff who is worthy of acclaim; from that moment on, your days are numbered.

7. In worship services, try not to talk so much, pushing events and meetings, that you are worn out by the time you open the Word and begin to preach.

8. Only a pastor with a suicide wish will tell a story about his wife and children in a sermon without their complete and enthusiastic approval. Even if they give it, you should go over it with them ahead of time to make sure they’re OK.

9. Some of your biggest headaches will come from ad-libbing in your sermons, saying things “off the cuff” which you just thought of. Try not to do that until you have fully mastered your tongue.

10. If the Lord is ever to use you mightily in His service, He will first have to break you. (Usually, this involves some failure on your part which comes to light and embarrasses you.) This will be humiliating to you and so painful you wonder if you can go back into the pulpit. However, you will survive and forevermore be thankful for what this taught you.

11. You need to befriend other pastors, old and young. Ministers need fellowship with colleagues. Do not make assumptions about pastors by the size of their congregation. Some of the Lord’s finest pastors and godliest preachers are bivocational.

12. It’s not all about you. Some people will join the church and it will flourish, some will leave and your church may struggle. Some will love you and some will hate you. Very little of it has to do with you. People have their own reasons for what they do. Get over yourself.

13. Marry someone who shares God’s call into this type of work or your life will be dragged down and she will be chronically angry at the demands placed on the family.

14. A little conflict in the church can be a good thing. Where there’s no friction, there’s no traction.

15. One of the surest ways to tell you are backsliding is when you no longer eagerly pick up the Bible and enjoy finding new insights. The day you find yourself thinking, “I know this Book; I’ve been there and done that,” you are in trouble.

16. If you cannot serve God by faith, you will not make it in the ministry. You will plant a thousand seeds along the way which you will never see grow to fruition. Likewise, you will gather a harvest from seed sown by others and cultivated by your predecessors.

17. If your joy comes from numbers and successes and awards, you are setting yourself for trouble. Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in accomplishments, but “because your names are written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20). This will keep you steady.

18. If you think of the ministry as a career and find yourself ambitious to go on to bigger and better things, you run the risk of imposing the world’s standards on the kingdom. Serve where He sends you, no matter how small or out of the way, and you may be surprised by what He can do at Podunk. Someone once asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Let God move you when (and if) He’s ready.

19. Get all the education you can and continue learning and growing the rest of your life. There is no stopping place until you get home.

20. Learn to live on your income. Avoid all debt except on a house. The first few years (when your income is smallest) are the toughest; after that, it should be easier and easier.

21. Off days. Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves. Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that, a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will inevitably be exceptions once in a while.)

22. Search committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so eager to go to that church that you fail to do your homework (such as, looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.).

23. Mentors. Find one or two older ministers as your mentors. Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry.

24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field. Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.

25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.

Tips On Parenting a PK

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Glenn Burris, Jr. is currently serving as President of The Foursquare Church. A longtime Foursquare leader, Burris graduated from Mount Vernon Bible College in 1975 and served as a youth pastor before leading churches in Georgia and North Carolina. He became supervisor of the 10-state Southeast District in 1992, serving in that role until 2002 when he became general supervisor of Foursquare, a vice-presidential position. He also served a brief term as president of LIFE Bible College East in Christiansburg, Va. His passions are planting churches and caring for pastors. This post is one in a series he has written on the needs of pastors and their families.

Pastor’s kids live under a microscope. The expectations of them at times are unreasonable. They attempt to carve out their own identify, as well as discover God’s plan and purpose for their own life, while living in the wake of their parent’s successes or their parent’s struggles. I was a P.K. and Debbie and I were incredibly privileged by the Lord, to parent Heidi & Joshua. A few tips on parenting children in the environment of ministry.
1) Be transparent with them, but also be wise. Sometimes parents share information about issues and people. Just remember that your kids will not process it as easily as you do.
2) When you’re with them, be with them, body and mind. Today’s accessibility with smart phones and tablets make staying connected 24/7 with your ministry responsibilities sometimes too easy. They need your full attention.
3) Model the things you want them to learn, don’t just teach them. They learn more from what they see than what they hear.
4) You can’t love them too much, you can’t hug them too much, and you can’t encourage them too much. But you could under prepare them for a world that they’ll face one day as an adult. Train them, equip them, set boundaries for them, teach them about responsibility and honor.
5) Share your love and walk with God, share about your love and relationship with your spouse and share with them about the values and spiritual principles they’ll need to navigate a complex world.
6) Then trust God with their future and be there for them when they need you.

Waking up with Leah: Learning to Love a Disappointing Church

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Guest post written by Chad Bird. Click here and check out his blog.

In the tiny Texas town where I grew up, sleeping in on Sunday morning was as inconceivable as rooting for someone besides the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Going to church made the list with apple pie and Chevrolet. My dad was a deacon; my mom a Sunday School teacher; and I was the typical daydreaming boy fidgeting in the pew. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and I found myself in a job where sleeping in on Sunday was highly frowned upon since the pulpit would’ve been quite empty without me. There I was: seminary trained, armed to the teeth with confessions and creeds, zealous to convert a world—or, at least, our Oklahoma town—to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Looking back at myself as that twenty-something pastor, I have to admit that I was almost as steeped in naïveté then as I was as a twelve year old boy. Sure, I knew plenty about the church, but it was heavily freighted with the good stuff. The good stuff of the ladies’ guild cooking casseroles for grieving families, youth groups pounding hammers in Mexico to build homes for the poor, a rancher showing up on the pastor’s doorstep with half a beef from his own herd to stock the freezer. But as good and giving and beautiful as the church can be, there’s a dark side, too, that at times can be dog ugly. The day I stumbled upon a secret meeting of the church leadership and one of the elders stood up and slammed the door in my face—that comes to mind. Over the years, there were the not-so-veiled threats of violence, pastors who broke the seal of confession, bishops issuing warnings about me, and occasional rumors about me so outrageous they could have been ripped from the cover of the National Enquirer. I learned plenty through those years, the most obvious lesson being that the church can be a place that’s just as mean and nasty and royally screwed up as the world.

Like the patriarch, Jacob, who after his wedding night, awoke to the wrong wife in his bed, I too one day opened my eyes to find that the Rachel with whom I had fallen in love, for whom I’d labored long years, was not the one beside me as the sun rose. I rolled over and came face-to-face with the uncomely, undesirable, older sister. And then I had a decision to make: leave the church, or learn to love Leah.

Have you been there? Maybe you too grew up with a congregation as your second home, perhaps even served in the ministry, but later encountered within its walls abuse or neglect or a whole host of other ills. While going through a divorce, or struggling with a sexually charged issue, you found not clasping hands of support but wagging fingers of accusation. As the shards of your broken life fell about you, when simply having a Christian show you they cared, when that alone would have meant the world to you, all you saw was the church’s back, turned away, walking the other direction. Or maybe you just slowly slipped away, skipping a Sunday here, a whole month there, and eventually never darkened the doors again, but not a single believer took the time to call or visit to reveal they missed you. You have your story, and I have mine, but all such accounts shoulder a common burden: the fellowship that is supposed to be a hospital for sinners can seem more like a religious country club, a xenophobic clique, or a horde of hypocrites. Call it what you may, it’s not been a church to you and for you. So what do you do? Do you leave or learn to love Leah, walk away from the church or stay?

I could’ve washed my hands of the whole affair and walked away. In fact, I gave serious thought to just that, and for several years, rarely planted my butt in a pew for, when I did, I could taste the bile rising up my throat. But over time, and through a whole lot of healing, re-wounding, and re-healing, I finally came to the point where I see and love Leah for what she is: a beautifully ugly church in whose arms I encounter the God who loves beautifully ugly sinners like me.

A beautifully ugly sinner like me—that’s where healing has to start, with an honest acknowledgement that there may be a slew of unattractive things about the church, but I’m no supermodel of holiness myself. Part of the way we humans deal with our grief or anger or guilt is to deflect any culpability from ourselves by blaming others for almost everything that goes wrong. And though there are important exceptions—such as the victims of sexual predators—most of us who’ve had a rocky relationship with the church must fess up to our own failings. There’s a good chance Leah finds me just as ugly as I find her. I see hypocrites in the church, but I see in my own soul times galore when I wore a mask of piety in public and a face of shame in private. I deplore how the church’s tongue can destroy a person’s reputation, but my own tongue loves the desserts of lies and rumors and gossip more than it loves the bread of honesty. In our society, where it seems everyone claims to be a victim, it needs to be said that we are all perpetrators ourselves. We struggle with the same faults with which we fault the church.

In addition to personal accountability, we’ve got to kill and bury any utopian daydreams we have about the church hitting the gym to tighten her glutes and getting a boob job so we have a hotter, sexier Leah. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time when the church was flawless. Barely had Jesus ascended before the church descended into trouble. Squabbles arose, heresies spread, pastors played favorites, sexual immorality mushroomed, and hearts grew cold. In the last book of the Bible, there are letters from God to seven different churches. Although he commends those congregations for many good things, he also complains of them leaving their first love, holding to false teachers and teachings, spiritual death, and lukewarmness. And this while the church was still basking in the afterglow of the earthly ministry of Jesus! As long as there are people in the church, there will be problems, for if humanity is anything, it is problematic.

Therein is the reason I found my way (or rather, like a lost sheep, was carried) back to the church: because it’s a place pregnant with problems. Because of those imperfections, I fit in perfectly. If you’ve got it all together, have no struggles, live a full and happy life, free of sin, then the church is not for you. But if you struggle with selfishness, greed, lust, addiction, problem children, a cheating spouse, fear, loneliness, or anything else that plagues our race, then the church is the ideal place for you. For Leah struggles with all that crap, too. Don’t let the pretty stained glass and padded pews and vested clergy fool you; all around the church are wounded sinners wheeled about on gurneys, doctors sewing up stab victims, nurses checking IVs, and double amputees carried by the blind who are led by the mute while the deaf sing prayers for healing. The church is messy place for messed up people who are in dire need of a God who cares.

In uncomely, undesirable, older Leah, that’s just what you’ll find: a God who cares. You’ll find a God who was born of an unwed teen whose neighbors likely whispered was a slut. You’ll find a God who hung out with outcasts, welcomed whores as followers, touched untouchables, called bullshit on the holier-than-thous of his day, and walked eyes wide open into the clutches of those who would torture him to death so as to save a world that really didn’t think it needed saving. In the church you’ll encounter the God who takes all his beautiful and exchanges it for your ugly.

And so, after a few years of growing up, maturing in a some areas, and realizing a bit more clearly what life is all about, I can now honestly say, “Leah, just as you are—not who I want you to be, not who others say you should be—but just as you are: I love you.”

E-F

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Our guest blogger today is Mollie Myers and we are so glad to have her here! In her own words:
“I have the incredible privilege of doing exactly what I love.

•wife of Karl
•mother of Mandy, Kellen, & Kory (and a four legged 11 year old Golden Retriever named Tanner)
•Hunny to Spencer, Miah, Alli, & Beau,
•Foster Hunny to J, J, A, & H
•Tulsa Director – Red Letter Initiative
•Active member of the LoveTulsa team with CityChurch
•Active member of the 111Project Tulsa team
•Author of children’s books from Red Letter Works
•Chief cook and bottle washer at Dam House South”

Please welcome her and visit her blog here

There is not a letter between E and F, but there is a world of difference between them. I was struck by this as I’ve driven my Suburban more than the Crossfire recently and it seems to loom towards E much more quickly than the one that costs much less to fill.

It occurred to me that when my car runs out of gas it stops. Period. There is nothing that can make it run unless I put fuel in the tank. No wishing, no whining, no bargaining with the lifeless engine will take the place of putting fuel in to motivate the 8 cylinders to come to life. And no substitute or distraction will either.

Same goes for my physical fuel tank. When I am on empty, I stop. Literally. I tend to pass out if I don’t eat. I can coax a little more out due to some energy stored up in the warehouse, (Those are called fat cells…) but it doesn’t take long before I resemble a diva on a Snickers commercial. When I worked with Doug, I would often work through lunch and put off going to get something. He would come in mid-afternoon to find a grouchy, irritable person babbling in incomplete sentences who looked a lot like me sitting at my desk. He would take one look at me and say, “Let’s go have a meet and eat.” Gotta love Doug!

I wish my spiritual fuel cycle operated similarly. There are definite signs that the fuel tank is low, but it doesn’t cause me to come to a screeching halt like running out of gas or fasting from food. Low spiritual fuel has a warning light that starts dimly then begins blinking with slow intensity warning me that I am in desperate need of a refill. Similar to a hospital where a nurse can turn off the sound of the alarm while the light continues to signal alert, I too can silence the alarm and, unfortunately, ignore the blinking light. It is, however, to my detriment. Refusing to fill up may not stop me in my tracks, but it does definitely put me on a different path. One I would never have chosen had I stopped for the refilling.

I think this is why we were created to experience Christ in community to a great extent. When I travel alone, I often tend to ignore the pleas my body is making for a restroom, food, or stretch break and find myself in desperation in the middle of nowhere. (Starbucks stops are the exception to the rule here.) However, if someone is with me I am eager to make make those stops to ensure their comfort and well being. Likewise, people traveling with me seem to do the same on my behalf. Eugene Peterson sums this up perfectly from The Message in Ecclesiastes 4:12 “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.”

Go! Get a couple of other strands and be dangerous!

If Churches Shut Down

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People across the United States are finding out what it means for their life when the government shuts down. From this, a new hashtag on Twitter has started: #IfIShutDown. Dentists are tweeting empty dentist chairs, newspaper editors blank sheets of paper, and moms and dads messy kitchens and unsupervised children.

But what if churches shut down?

It might be the most “felt” shutdown of all. 

Why?

Because if churches shut down,

…food pantries would run empty

…residents in nursing homes would go unvisited, and many would be forced to close

…large numbers of preschools, after-school programs, daycares, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and even colleges and universities would have to close

…untold numbers of AIDS orphans in Africa would lose their monthly support

…marriages facing crisis would have to fend for themselves

…homes being built for the homeless would have to be dramatically scaled back

…countless orphanages would be forced to close

…parents with wayward children would be left without support

…the arts would lose one of its greatest patrons, and one of its biggest venues

…arguably the single largest values training program for young children would end

…recovery groups of all kinds would find themselves without places to meet, staff to serve, or support to continue

…one of the last stands of living, breathing bookstores would end

…vast numbers of funerals would go unofficiated and weddings put on hold

…leaders and constituents in the vanguard of ending human slavery and sex trafficking would be sidelined

…teens dealing with drugs and drinking, cutting and bullying, would be adrift without focused support

…people in hospitals would be unvisited, and hospice support would be devastated

…and hundreds of millions of dollars going into aid and benevolence for the poorest of the poor would end.

Oh, and there’s one more little thing: the one message that can alter the entire trajectory of someone’s eternity would lose its most powerful voice.

So what happens if the government shuts down? Arguably, some good things end. But much still goes on, such as the recent purchase of a mechanical bull for $47,000. So at least the important things are cared for.

But with the church?

That’s one shutdown no one would want to face.

James Emery White

 

Blog post is written by Dr. James Emery White from crosswalk.com. James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.

Love Letters

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The musty odor of stored memories clings to the dust motes suspended in the air of my home.  Boxes of birthday cards, football ribbons, and headlines proclaiming the first moon landing and its return blast from creased yellow newsprint weighted down by a hula girl flask.

In a shoe box carefully wrapped with wedding shower paper lie page after page, envelope upon envelope of words of love and devotion.  The letters are numbered and dated, and there is a secret code in the top right corner – a special message meant only for me.

I carry the crumpled box of letters to my class on my 30th wedding anniversary.  My husband sits in the corner of the room trying unsuccessfully to remain inconspicuous.  I read the tender phrases, “I told the lady at the car rental place about you and showed her your picture.  I said, ‘Isn’t she pretty?'” A smile turns up the corners of my mouth as I recall how I poured over each phrase, committed each one to memory, struggled to decipher the code, and haunted my college p.o. box in anticipation of the next delivery.

Gradually my mind turns to other letters written to me long ago.  “Every time I think of you I give thanks to my God,” (Philippians 1:3).  These letters also have words of love and devotion.  They’re numbered and dated (in a way).  There is definitely a secret code that speaks only to me – the right word at the right time.

When these words were new to me I read them again and again.  I memorized each line and told anyone who would listen about the letters written to me, and about his love for me.  I examined them to figure out the code – as much a mystery to me as the binary message written on notebook paper. But somewhere along the line the reading became a responsibility and not a treat.  A limited grasp of the mystery became sufficient.  I filed a great deal of it away where it has become dusty and faded – a sweet memory of young love.

I share these things with my class, not as a Jesus Juke, but as a very real example of love growing cold.  I want to show them that although this is common, it’s not o.k.  My goal is not to heap guilt and condemnation on them, but to stir up the fire of their first love.

I walk them through the steps of the Lectio Divina  – read, meditate, pray, contemplate – encouraging them to hunger for intimate relationship, not settle for casual acquaintance.  I challenge them that discipline doesn’t increase your righteousness, it just prepares you to hear, grasp, and experience the deep things.  I remind them that prayer is more about receiving His love and acceptance, and less about talking and asking.  All the while I am teaching these things to myself.  I wonder how long it has been since I have simply rested in His presence, quietly, patiently, lovingly.

Whenever things are inevitably packed away, these words of love will not be forgotten.  The delight of my beloved will remain when he thinks of me – that he accepts me in all my unacceptability.  His love for me will remain palpable because there will be new letters, new codes, new hope.  We will discipline ourselves to spend time just being together without an agenda because it puts us in the best place to receive blessing.

I will pack these keepsakes again.  The newspapers must be sealed lest they disintegrate.  Old soda bottles must be rewrapped to protect against damage.  We’ll box everything up and it will make its way back up into the hot, dusty attic.  Time will cause more names to fade from memory. But the love represented in the letters will not fade away.

Ten Ways to Bless and Encourage Your Pastor’s Wife

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In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, we want to spread the love to our pastors’ wives as well.  This post was written by Rachel over at www.holyhenhouse.com.  Drop by a see what other wonderful things she has to say.

 

It’s been three years since my husband began his full time ministry.

From the moment Josh stood in the pulpit on that first hot July Sunday, I’ve been know as “the pastor’s wife” in our little town. In these three short years, I have been learning and growing so much as I serve alongside and support my husband! There have been struggles and hurdles, of course, but joy and blessings overflow.

Our wonderful church family has made my role an easy one by caring for, respecting, and loving me (and my family) so well. I am so thankful for that! I am truly in awe of their kindness and generosity. The heart of Jesus shines so brightly through them. After being inspired by that love, I created a list of ways I have been blessed and encouraged by the people of our church and I wanted to share it with you. Please know that these suggestions are not meant to be self serving. Perhaps they will help you to understand your own pastor’s wife a bit better? And maybe even give you ideas for ways to bless her!

1. Give her grace. Here’s a little secret – she’s not perfect! : ) She is no different than you or anyone else sitting in the pew. She can’t do it all, serve in every way, be at everything, and remember every single thing. She has struggles and hurts and insecurities. And if she’s anything like me, she messes up sometimes and needs forgiveness.

2. Respect their family time. With meetings, visits, teaching, studying and sermon writing, Josh is pulled in many directions and can be working anytime from the hours of 6am to 11pm, seven days a week. His days and evenings are very full so when he is home, he is home. Our family time is a priority to him and he is intentional about scheduling in that time together. There are occasional calls that come in during dinner or in the late evening, but for the most part that time is spent without interruption.

3. Accept and celebrate her for who she is. She doesn’t play the organ or piano? No biggie! She doesn’t lead a ladies Bible class the same way as the previous pastor’s wife? Not a problem! She runs into church at the bells with wet hair and a toddler on her hip who’s cramming crackers in his mouth? Hey, she made it!! That last one certainly never happens me me. ; )

4. Spoil her a bit. It certainly doesn’t have to be often and it doesn’t have to be much – a sweet card in her mailbox, little present, tickets to a local event, gift card for a restaurant or grocery store, or bouquet of flowers are all things that let your pastor’s wife know I’m thinking of you and appreciate you. I guarantee she will be oh so thankful and that you will make.her.day.

5. Don’t involve her in church gossip. Not only is it wrong and yucky to spread rumors and such, it’s also extremely uncomfortable and discouraging for the pastor’s wife to be put in a situation when one member is talking badly about another member. I’ve only experienced this a tiny handful of times and I pray I’ve handled it in a God-pleasing way.

6. Invite her along. Whether it’s meeting for a quick coffee, lunch with a group of gals, or a fun day at the lake, don’t be afraid to extend an invitation! Pastor’s wives are in need of and crave fun, friendship, and fellowship, too. Inviting her along opens up a door to get to know her on a deeper level. That being said, if she declines an invitation, don’t get frustrated or take it personally that she has to pass this time!

7. Offer to do something/provide something. Baby-sitting for the evening. Veggies from your garden. Hand-me-down kids clothes. Dry cleaning the pastor’s white church robe. Picking up a kiddo from soccer practice. Chocolate chip cookies. The list could go on and on! It’s likely that your pastor’s family doesn’t live near relatives, so having people offer these simple, but wonderful things can definitely make them feel more at home.

8. Keep it positive. Please don’t speak negatively about the pastor to her or complain about a church issue that is out of her control. Those are things you need to take directly to the pastor himself. I have not had to deal with this myself, but I can see how this would be extremely stressful, discouraging, and disappointing for a pastor’s wife.

9. Praise her husband in front of her. What wife doesn’t want to hear nice things about her wonderful hubby?! Hearing positive feedback about an event my husband planned, a sermon he gave, or an impact he made makes me smile. I am so proud of Josh and it’s a terrific feeling when others acknowledge his hard work and dedication as well.

10. Pray for her. This is the most important thing! Feel free let her know that you are doing so. She loves you dearly and having you pray would mean the world to her!

Is there anything you would add to this list? Or if you are a pastor’s wife, what is a way you have been encouraged and blessed?