Five Love Languages of Pastors

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. But I sure do love 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 that 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.”

Pastors, are these five your love languages as well? What would you add to the list? Church members, do you speak love languages to your pastor? Tell us your stories.

Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog series at ThomRainer.com. Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at Steve.Drake@LifeWay.com. We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.


  1. says

    Adding to #4, I would include “Free Babysitting.” When my children were very young, we had little money to go out–and little extra to hire babysitters. Fortunately, we had two families who treated our kids like their own grandchildren. They practically begged us for opportunities to babysit. It was a real stress reliever in those days.

  2. says

    I agree with the list, although I sometimes get books I’m not interested in, so I like it when they check my Amazon.com wish list or ask my wife first. When I had my tenth anniversary at my present church, the only thing I wanted was a Book of Remembrances where they would collect letters of thanks. They did some nice things for me, but did not do that one thing that I most wanted.

  3. Steve Drake says

    I would love to serve a church where all five of these examples were the norm. I have been in churches where some of them were normative but only one where five were present weekly. I’ll offer one other expression of love that I would like to have received as a younger pastor. Hopefully this won’t come across the wrong way, but it’s common enough that we make a little joke about it: “My church prays, ‘Lord, if you’ll keep him humble, we’ll keep him poor.”‘ Taking care of pastors financially (salary, insurance and retirement) would be received by many pastors as a great expression of love.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Steve –

      I agree. But most pastors would settle for a monthly or annual expression of these love languages. Weekly is ideal but not the norm.

  4. says

    I would agree with the above. I would also add the elimination of the idea of the 24/7 pastor. If you are not going to make sure that he can make ends meet on what you pay him, then don’t constrain him from meeting his family’s needs by supplementing his income on his off hours. Too often pastors can get blamed or feel judged for financial mismanagement but they are put at a huge disadvantage by such constraints. Your pastor feels called to you and may feel that God is not leading him somewhere else, so loosen the shackles so he can serve without constantly looking in his wallet or checkbook and wondering how he is going to fulfill this calling.

  5. says

    Would be nice to serve a church where they did more than give a Christmas gift equal to one weeks salary. I have pastored 4 small churches, never received anything other than a tie from a dying lady. Now I am not complained, I don’t feel slighted at all. These people need a pastor. This past Christmas I gave my 3 deacons, pianist(my wife), and music leader the Joshua Code. I challenged them on a year long reading with me. I always give a Bible to those I baptize and I ordained a deacon last year and gave him a very nice Bible, all out of my pocket. Giving is on display, Paul qouted Jesus “It is more blessed to give, than to receive.”

  6. Rick Brooks says

    In all honesty, although I love and appreciate gifts and acts of kindness, I am more encouraged and honored by the people who come back to services on Sunday night and Wednesday night to hear me preach. A preacher worth his salt will preach to the crowd fervently whether it’s large or small, but nothing says “I love my preacher” like a crowd flocking back to the evening services. If a member only comes to the “off services” to hear a guest speaker, it is not a very good expression of love to the preacher who labors in the Word every week to try to feed the flock. Yes, church members can certainly prove their love by showing up to the services! For members to openly express their appreciation for the messages that help them grow closer to the Lord is a golden gift that is cherished.

    • Patti says

      That is a very good point. Showing support for the services of the church encourages the Pastor and speaks volumes about your committment to God, your relationship with Him, and to the ministry. I always try to send my Pastor a note of encouragement when a particular message really speaks to me.

  7. Drew Dabbs says

    Numbers 3 & 5 means the most to me. I am a younger pastor with 10 years pastoral experience. For the first four years, I was unmarried. Now that I’m married with three children, family time is MUCH more important to me. I might even over compensate at times, but I recognize that the time you spend with your children while they’re young is irreplaceable.

    As for the defenders, I have seen far too many instances of one man or very small group of men (yes, it’s almost always men, though it will occasionally include some women) completely cut the pastor’s legs out from under him with their nay-saying, while the majority just sit around and watch, saying or doing nothing. By the time the nay-sayers get through, they’ve infected half the congregation with their negativity. Many times, it would only take one or two standing up and voicing support for the pastor’s initiatives to quiet the whole mess and keep the congregation moving forward together.

  8. says

    So, in Gary Chapman terms, words of affirmation, quality time and gift giving would describe what they said. You could possibly justify acts of service. The only one missing is physical touch. That would make perfect sense. Otherwise, it would just be inappropriate!

  9. says

    I would #6… Meat, I just had a family drop off 20lbs of farm raised beef. Immensely blessed and immeasurably grateful. It s a joy to serve a congregation that loves to pastors…. What would congregations say about us?

  10. Rob Johnston says

    I agree with this list, though my order is different..

    Encouraging notes, or words of encouragement of any kind, can keep me going for a while. Especially after the “tougher” sermons or after having to make an unpopular decision.

    I have 4 kids under 7, and when I hear them praised, it’s a huge pick me up as well. (And offers of free babysitting are awesome)

    Speaking to the Defender: Give me one among a hundred who vocally has my back, and I’m good to go. Thankfully, I’ve had that.

  11. says

    Great list! I enjoy your articles! If you could, what about doing a list on the five love languages for congregations? I’m a young pastor and constantly speak about the language of love as we speak to one another and it would be interesting to know what/how others think a pastor should show love to the congregation he serves. I know I say it and do all kinds if things, but there are still some skeptics out there that I have not been able to break through to. Thoughts?

  12. Emily Pixler says

    I think you should do one for Pastor’s Wives. So many times they are overlooked! Several men I know have had to quit the pastorate recently due to their wife. I once was a member of a church that truly honored the Pastor, on his 10 year anniversary of being at that church, they gave him a new truck – what did they give his wife? A very inexpensive portable dishwasher! I think they had good intentions, and at least they acknowledged her, but so I think this is how so many Pastor’s wives feel – unappreciated and misunderstood. If they leave or quit – the Pastor’s ministry at least takes a huge hit if he doesn’t have to quit altogether. Thanks for this blog!

  13. says

    Well said above as I readed the Five Love Languages of Pastors developped by Thom Rainer and all replays from I mean Pastors and other great man those who commented

    Am a 34years Pastor who did got save by God’ grace after 3 sucide attempts were I was only 12years old and then at 13years I got a colling to the ministry, I served God faithfully and mightly and still moving in the Pastor shoes, at that time as a single (unmarried) pastor under my senior Pastor almost 16years before I got married and bin realist for to started my one ministries that are actualy based in Cape Town, South Africa;

    From the 1st point
    I never recieve any gift card for baying books, any shoping or a gift card for to bay even a soap if it’s not one $100 shoping card for groceries last December 2012, most of books I do have, maybe they have bin given by a Pastor’ friend of mine, or pick up just like that some where…

    From the 2nd point
    It’s bin awesome to hear so many many times the encouraging notes, I have them alot and they constitute for me as feedback helping me to keep up and go deep in Bible readings, meditating, praying and preparing the next sermons, also to keep trusting God for the fullfilness of is promisses

    From the 3rd point
    As married at 29years old, now it’s 5years since I married on the 30 June of 2007, with my wife God has blessed us with 2boys (4 and half, 3years old) I do spend times with my family but no rest because church’ members always need me to be there for them, focused on their matters and always keep me actif were their dont carre about my time I spend on them, about my family as am 24/7 in the ministry, I don’t have any salary, any insurance even a car, can you believe that, I still walking and using public transport…

    From the 4th point
    Realy God gived to us the children, my kidz make a difference, and no one from our church can point a finger on them, do you know why? This kidz arrived with me and my wife early to the church, they work with the two of us, cleaning, setup, interceding and singing whell all the church’ member arrived as boss only 9.30am up were the service starte at 9.00am, with my kidz we leave the church later after every one, past 1.00pm or some time 3.00pm were the service finished at 12. There church’ members goes, driving expensive cars and so on, left us bihend, we must lock doors and walk, my wife, I and the kidz to the taxis rank for public transport.
    Now how can some one point a finger on them?…
    Other thing is, my family survive by God’s miracles and mighty hand
    Can you immagine that the more you spend times on church’ members the more you only get expired foods and second hands fournitures or cloths for your family as donation and support from people you have take all your times and energies (Fullfilment of Pastor’ tasks), Etc…

    From the 5th point
    Defenders. “I know, I deal with critics, and I realize that in any leadership position, you will have critics. It so true Thom Rainer, I congratulate you for this speach realy! but you know what?
    Wherever I passed, My testimony (Ecclesiastes 7:1) and what God his doing with me can shout down critics also church’ members are there the first one to also attact back or their always do have some things to challenge those who criticise on my back

  14. says

    I love thes! Another one I would add – and perhaps it goes with “elimination of 24/7 pastor” – a church that believes in equipping ministry. When I was interviewed I took the call because they said “you are here to help bus do the ministry – not do it all for us”. 5 years later and they have stayed true to their words.

  15. Don Matthews says

    The most neglected person in the church is the pastors wife. The pastor knows he will, at times, receive the criticism of the church members. The pastor knows it comes with the territory. The pastors wife, however, must watch as her husband is being hurt deeply. She keeps the hurt in her heart without saying anything. If you want to bless a pastors heart then do something nice for his wife. Encourage her. Praise her publicly. Encourage her to network with other pastors wives. Have a pastors wife appreciation Sunday.

  16. Lindy says

    Great article. The “Encouraging Notes” are very helpful to me. There are so many daggers thrown that I few up-words are a breath of fresh air. And as someone else mentioned, I, too, appreciate the small gift cards to restaurants and other places. Thoughtful tokens such as these make it easier/nicer for my wife and I to enjoy a date night without worrying about money. And finally, I have one or two guys that take me to lunch once in a while and say to me, “Pastor, how can I pray for you?” Wow. Someone who cares! That’s like air to breathe!

  17. ASheep says

    Can I add something as a church member instead of a pastor (because I’m not one…LOL). I love this and all of the other suggestions. I grew up with an Uncle who is a Minister and it is very difficult for me not to judge all others by him. He is an awesome man and I know he is not perfect however, he has helped me understand that not all churches work the same way and not all pastors preach the same way. I sometimes forget to say thank you and to say something nice. Thank you for reminding me that I have to do my part as well. I would also like to add that you please talk to your congregation as if they are new to the church every week. I’ve found that when I have moved and went to visit a church that I do not always feel welcomed and it’s mostly because I’m not attending with my husband. I actually have had pastors ignore me because I didn’t have my husband with me. I finally looked at one and said, “Well I have to work on myself before I can work on him. How do you expect me to lead him when you are not leading me?” I didn’t wait for a reply because I was heartbroken. There was another occasion when I attended a church and I met the pastor. It was probably the fourth Sunday when he was standing at the front of the church and said I would like to introduce the congregation to some new people in our church…Mr. and Mrs. So and So! I noticed the other woman that started attending about the same time as I did wasn’t mentioned either. Not that I cared about being mentioned but I felt like I didn’t matter because once again, my husband wasn’t there. I applaud you all for the path you have taken because to me, there’s not a more difficult path than leading people to Christ. To have people make you feel like it’s your fault for their short comings and sometimes literally living off of the Love and Grace from God. You should be paid more for all that you do. I know first hand how much you don’t get paid just from knowing all my Uncle has gone through – on only half a heart – literally! LOL…he says God is good because he keeps the other half pumping! LOL

  18. Matt says

    I am a pastor, and I would add Replenishment as a love language. People who know I need time away for conferences, to spend time with my parents and in-laws, and for vacaction time. I find that this is one area that many places don’t do well. Send your pastor to a campmeeting or a conference or a denominational gathering. Make sure he can do to see his extended family if they live away from him or has time to take care of them if they live close. Make sure he goes on vacation and has money to do so.
    Make sure these things are separate, and that vacation time is not sucked into conferences and taking care of family.

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