No one in Seventh-day Adventist churches, besides the pastor, has more influence than an elder. Who better, then, to provide insight into the best ways to support our pastors? With that in mind, OUTLOOK editor Martin Weber asked each president of Mid-America’s six local conferences to select two elders—one from a larger church and another from a smaller church—who represent the excellence and spirituality of their calling. Eleven responded to our request for an interview. In this nine-part series, these elders share their wisdom on how to make pastoral appreciation a practical, year-round experience in our churches.

OUTLOOK: My research has shown that how a congregation treats the pastor’s family is a huge factor in whether the pastor’s children will remain in the church. What is something your congregation does to help your pastor’s family feel welcomed, accepted and appreciated?

Nigel Abrahams (Lifesource Adventist Fellowship, Denver, CO): It seems simple but it’s often overlooked—tell them they are appreciated. Pastors and their family will undoubtedly hear the church’s displeasure. Make it a point to let them know when they’ve made you smile as well.

JoAnn Arnold (Bismarck, ND): Long before the pastor and family ever arrive the parsonage is put into tip-top shape. Having a clean, neat up-to-date home is such a blessing to a new pastor. There were many who spent hours making this a reality before our pastor and his wife arrived. Our head deacon and plant manager definitely had this well in hand. Several members also brought food when they arrived. Our church members are very hospitable and invite the pastor to many events in their homes or other social settings—to say nothing of all the food that is taken to their home. When we have had pastors with children, we make sure those children are invited to the homes of others who have children so they could play and share events.

Steve Bascom (Gutherie Center, IA): We try to include activities that will appeal to the children at whatever age they might be. We try to remember them at birthdays and special events with a card and gift.

Joe Bates (Aitkin, MN): We see them as part of our family.

Alan Brass (Colorado Springs Central, CO): Cards and letters are always nice. In our technological age, a quick text is a nice way to touch base. Even if they are unable to respond, at least they know you are thinking of them and appreciate them.

Bobby Franklin (Claremont, Pueblo, CO): We have a pastor’s appreciation day and welcome them in our homes.

Jenni Glass (New Haven, Kansas City, KS): The New Haven congregation has done a good job assisting pastors with moving in their new house, inviting them over for Sabbath lunch and showing appreciation throughout the year, not just in October. Since we have a Young Adult Pastor at New Haven, I make a point to ensure she has the support she needs to be successful as a pastor. Sometimes it is as easy as taking her out to dinner, celebrating birthdays or just hanging out and talking.

Michael Kelsey (St. Louis Central,  MO): It’s important to not put lofty expectations on a pastoral family. These folk are not in their hometown, and are often far from family. Building a genuine friendship can be a real support during the tough or lonely times. Having built lasting friendships wherever the pastor serves can contribute to a treasure God can offer them for their labor in His vineyard.

Gina Olberg (Andover, MN): It’s important to learn the names of their children, and regard their children non-judgmentally, as any of the little ones in our midst. We smile, talk to the children, and help them feel cared about as individuals. I think there are a lot of people in my congregation who are sensitive to children, without unrealistic expectations. I am thankful that we are a child-friendly group.

Merlin Wehling (Kearney, NE): Schedule coordination is hard when your pastor has multiple churches, but we try to invite them into their lives with Sabbath lunch, afternoon in the park, a bike ride, etc.

Kathy Widicker (Bowdon Country Church, ND): The pastor, his wife and children need to know we support them and we appreciate their contribution to our church.

For more questions and comments from local church elders click here.