By Heidi Goehmann

I have the farthest thing from a green thumb you can imagine.

If I buy anything to plant in the ground, it usually dies in the pot on my front porch because I forgot to plant it in the ground.

If I remember to plant it in the ground, I have zero ability to distinguish good soil from rocks and even less ability to understand what needs sunlight at what point in the day.

If I plant it in an area where plants can actually start to grow, I will inevitably look on my plants in a few weeks shocked to find them wilting for lack of water.

“Oh! You have to water them too,” I say to my husband every single year like clockwork.

This is why, when my husband was about nine months into his first call as a young pastor,  I looked at congregation members like they were speaking a foreign language when they asked where I was putting my garden.

“I don’t speak-a da garden. I only speak-a da produce aisle.”

They would lovingly pat my shoulder, nod their heads, and lament that I was raised in the city.

Then, an amazing thing started to happen once the harvest rolled around — produce started to show up on our doorstep.

I’d come home from taking kids to visit the library and find a basket with zucchini and peppers in it.

Another day, I’d find a grocery sack full of fresh green beans.

Then, I started to find five-gallon buckets of tomatoes by the back door.

At some point I asked one of the ladies in the congregation, “What do you all do with all the tomatoes?”

I found myself invited to her house to can tomato juice with a few other women.

It was hours in the kitchen — messy and wonderful.

As they passed around my baby and asked me how nursing was going, each woman shared stories about her family, how they learned to can, and their favorite recipes.

I left with 16 quarts of tomato juice for the winter, and I felt much, much less alone than when I came.

Giving fresh produce and canning lessons seem like such small things, but they are not.

In a world that is disconnected, these kindnesses brought a sense of warmth and connection to my relationship with this congregation that still seemed so new to me after almost a whole year.

And, as a young church work family, we had student loans to pay off, Lutheran school tuition to think about in the coming years, and a slim grocery budget.

We were doing OK, but rarely did a day go by that I didn’t fret about the state of our bank account because a child needed a coat or the car needed something fixed.

Now, after 15 years in the ministry, I appreciate every zucchini and slice of rhubarb I receive as much as I did that first summer.

It stretches the budget, helps us to steward what we’ve been given, and speaks care and affection into my life, my husband’s life, and the life of our kids.

Creative provision is a gift for your worker anytime

More congregations than ever are faced with these questions:

  • “How do we pay our pastor?”
  • “How do we pay our teachers?”
  • “How do we keep our electricity on?”

Considering the breadth of how we provide for our workers is extremely relevant.

We can — and should — compensate our church workers using a district salary standard.

Each district calculates these standards based on the living costs of their region, keeping in mind the education levels and experiences we expect of our workers in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

If meeting those guidelines is not possible for a congregation, it’s time to ask for the district’s help in discerning how to provide well for the workers.

And congregations can get creative about how we provide for our workers.

Creative provision is a gift for your worker anytime, even when they are compensated beyond the district standards, because of that connection piece.

Offering out-of-the-box provisions goes a long way towards helping your worker and their families feel included as members of your church.

Those tangible items you give to your pastor, worker, their spouse, or their children reap intangible gifts of love and care, which can stave off ministry burnout and builds up the Body of Christ exponentially.

The Bible tells us that this sort of intentional care for one another in the Body provokes both the recipient and the giver onto more love and more good works.

“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works.” (Heb. 10:24)

Caring for church workers and their families

What kind of creative provisions can you offer your pastor or church worker?

I asked a group of LCMS workers and their spouses for alternative ways they’ve experienced provision in the Body of Christ.

I ended up with 2 1/2 pages of ideas. Below, you’ll find just a few.

You have our permission to borrow any ideas from this list, or you can create your own ideas.

  • Extend invitation for dinner/coffee in your home or at a restaurant
  • Give freezer meals or restaurant gift cards
  • Provide free babysitting/child care for date night or special events
  • Pay a portion of self-employment tax
  • Offer meat, produce, and eggs
  • Cover tuition or financial aid for workers or their children
  • Send birthday cards for the worker, spouse, and children
  • Send hand-me-down clothes with permission to take what they can use and donate the rest
  • Establish a ministry fund for extra pastoral and teaching expenses that arise
  • Treat ministry kids like bonus grandchildren
  • Provide student loan relief
  • Offer opportunity to use a timeshare or night in a hotel, airline miles, etc.
  • Give money for furniture, baby items, propane, or other items for the home
  • Extend invitation to a family birthday party or holiday gathering
  • Give leftovers from church meals or celebrations
  • Offer discounts for a doctor, dentist, optometrist, hairdresser, plumber, electrician, etc.
  • Send invitation to participate with you in a hobby such as sewing, hunting, winter activities, fantasy sports teams, etc.
  • Give tickets to sports events, concerts, theater, fair, etc.
  • Offer computer and technical support
  • Send flowers picked from the garden or for them to plant
  • Provide meals, snacks for Holy Week and Christmas Week
  • Share home brew or wine
  • Encourage workers to take designated days off and respect their free time
  • Teach Sunday school to the workers’ children if no one else comes
  • Pay insurance co-pays or deductibles
  • Provide housekeeping services once a month or more
  • Enroll workers in Community Supported Agriculture program or give club store membership
  • Cover conference/retreat fees for pastors, workers, and spouses
  • Give worker an unexpected night off of meetings
  • Offer a yearly raise, no matter how small
  • Ask “what do you need?”

As workers, we are humbled every day to serve you.

Most every person I know in ministry, as well as their family, is awed that God would allow them to share His Word and connect with His people in the ways He gives them each day.

Thank you for loving your church worker through words, through actions, and especially through Christ.