October is Pastor Appreciation month. One of the parody accounts I follow on Twitter posted this, “Today starts Pastor Appreciation Month, or as we call it at our church, Passover” (@Rev_Norespect). It’s a funny post. Unless it is also true. During my years as a pastor I served some churches that did a good job with this. Some did not. So, now that I am in a position to do so, I want to encourage churches and church members to show your appreciation.
Pastoral ministry is unbelievably rewarding. In my opinion the opportunity to shepherd the flock of God is an incredible calling. But it is also hard work. It can be emotionally and spiritually draining. Last month I shared on my Facebook page an article written by Thom Rainer that addressed the issue of suicide and depression following the death of a California pastor. A pastor’s wife thanked me for sharing and concluded with this, “Ministry is tough – so, so tough.”
Hebrews 13:17 instructs Christ Followers to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Church members should do everything they can to encourage their spiritual leaders and show their appreciation. Here are some suggestions…
A Churchwide Emphasis
In one church I served the deacons coordinated a churchwide emphasis every October. This usually involved some kind of gift that was presented to staff members along with recognition in a morning worship service. The church recognized all staff members. They celebrated those who reached their five, ten, fifteen (and so on) year anniversaries. The celebration included a love offering and a fellowship in their honor. In another church the members showered the staff with personal notes and gift cards throughout the month.
It is good for a church to show appreciation through a churchwide emphasis. I know that I always appreciated being appreciated. But some of the most memorable acknowledgements or gifts have been those from individuals or families who just wanted to show their appreciation. One church member knew I loved books, and every year he would give me a volume from his personal library. Each one contained a handwritten note on the inside cover. I cherish these still today. Another church member wrote me a long handwritten note that I still keep with my desk items. I often read it when I am feeling discouraged.
Here are some other ideas for individuals to show your appreciation…
- Develop a prayer calendar and pray something specific for your pastor every day during the month. Then send him a text message letting him know.
- Do something to bless his family.
- Take him to lunch. One year, during a particularly difficult season of ministry, a number of church members did this during pastor appreciation month. One family took Melanie and me to Sunday lunch an hour away. It gave us time to visit on the drive. And as a bonus, we ran out of gas on the way home, which meant that I missed a committee meeting that afternoon!
- Send your pastor and his wife on a date. Give him a cash gift and tell him it is for the sole purpose of taking his wife to dinner at a nice restaurant, or to a movie, or both. If they have young children, partner with another church member and make the cash gift enough to cover babysitting. If you have multiple staff, tell a few friends what you are doing and encourage them to do the same for the other staff members.
- Send your pastor and his wife on a vacation. This may not be as expensive as it sounds. When I served in south Alabama a church member offered our family the use of their beach house. The offer was made during pastor appreciation month for a week during the following summer. Those were some of the most restful vacations we ever took.
- Be creative.
The Best Gift of All
In addition to praying for your pastor and doing something specific to show your appreciation, the best gift you can give your pastor is to follow his leadership. Take Hebrews 13:17 to heart. Make his burden light. Bring joy to his life. Avoid criticism. Silence others who would criticize. Confront those who would bully him. Honor him as God’s man sent to shepherd the flock of God. Be a good sheep.
I am thankful for the churches and the individuals who have shown their appreciation for me and my family through the years.