By Thom S. Rainer, President of LifeWay Christian Resources
With apologies to Gary Chapman for playing on his well-known “Five Love Languages” theme, I asked 24 pastors how a church member might speak to each pastor in his own love language. And though 24 persons do not constitute a massive survey, I was amazed at the consistency of the responses.
To fit the theme of five, I determined at the onset that I would only report the top five responses.
To my surprise, there was an obvious break between the fifth and sixth most-frequent responses. The five love languages thus were a natural fit.
So how can you speak a love language to your pastor? Here are the pastors’ top five responses in order of frequency. I offer a representative response from one of the pastors for each of the five.
1. Books. “I have a limited family budget, so I can’t just go out and buy a bunch of books. One year a deacon gave me a $200 gift card to a Christian bookstore. I was ecstatic! Now the church gives me a $300 book allowance each year. I know it’s not much for the type of books I get, but I sure am grateful.”
2. Encouraging notes. “I treasure every word of affirmation I get. It helps to soothe the pain of the criticisms. I keep all of my notes of encouragement in a box, and I sometimes read many of them at one time just to remind myself how blessed I am. I particularly appreciate handwritten notes. I know the church member took some time to write that to me.”
3. Time guardians. “My most encouraging church members are those who try to help me protect my time. They do everything they can to make sure I have enough time to prepare sermons and to spend time with my family. They are able to speak to other members about my time constraints in a way that I’m not able to.”
4. Compliments about children. “There are times that I really feel sorry for my three kids. They are really good kids, but they aren’t perfect. They live in a glass house, and any wrong move they make usually gets the attention of a church member. But I have a few church members who go out of their way to tell me the good about my children. One sincere compliment about one of my three kids will make my day.”
5. Defenders. “You know, I deal with critics, and I realize that in any leadership position, you will have critics. My greatest hurt takes place when my supporters remain silent in the face of intense criticism toward me. They are more afraid of rocking the boat than speaking the truth. But I have one guy in the church who will always speak a defending word for me unless he thinks I’m wrong. Then he speaks to me privately. I could use a dozen church members like that.”
If you really want to express your appreciation for your pastor, try speaking a love language he understands. In so doing you will find that not only will he will be strengthened, but you will be blessed.