In case you haven’t heard, October is Pastor Appreciation Month.
I don’t hear about Pastor Appreciation Month as much as I used to. Maybe it’s because I don’t listen to Christian radio much (can’t get it where I live). I also wonder if what started as a good idea lost its allure. It’s nice to be appreciated with gifts, cards and recognition, but as a pastor’s wife, looking from the inside out, I could tell my husband longed for and needed more than once a year bonuses and temporal gifts. Giving church members the benefit of the doubt, many parishioners probably wish they could express their thanks for this hard working professional with more than just a card.
If you want to show your pastor how much you appreciate him, give him what he really wants. Here are some idea starters.
Pray. Tell your pastor you are praying for him. Better yet, make an appointment and come armed with a notebook and pen. Ask, “How can I pray for you? What is your upcoming sermon series? How can I pray for your spouse and children? Are there any upcoming decisions for Christ that I can pray for?” Remember to keep anything the pastor says confidential; He will share more as he gains trust in you.
Help with home repair: If the pastor lives in a parsonage, everyone’s business is no one’s business. Needed repairs are at the bottom of the budget priorities. Often tight in time, the pastor can’t always get to his own repairs. What a blessing it was this summer when a retired contractor asked my husband if there were any repairs we needed. He fixed our garage door, checked weather stripping and unstuck windows in the guest apartment. One couple, without being asked, quietly scrapes snow and ice from our sidewalks on snowy Sunday mornings. When your pastor’s family is trying to focus on the spiritual needs of the flock, it is such a relief to not be distracted by those physical demands.
Sincere gratitude: Don’t just tell him it was a good sermon and he’s the best preacher ever. He will squirm with shame, fearing he is succumbing to the praise of men (Jn 12:43). Tell him how the sermon helped you and how you thought about it throughout the rest of the week.
Put your mouth where your money is: External gifts, recognition and praise means nothing if you turn around and stab them in the back. I can’t begin to tell you how devastated my husband and I were when a church member planned a church pot luck to honor us one October, then two weeks later viciously, verbally attacked us. Shortly afterwards, the couple left the church. It should go without saying – don’t send an appreciation card unless you really mean it.
Show interest: Pastors get sick, experience pain, have ornery kids and aging parents. They need someone to care about them just as much as the next person. They are called to share the burdens of people you don’t even know, to rub shoulders with people so different from them, share families’ most intimate and heartbreaking moments, yet often bear their own burdens in silence. Having someone ask how we are doing is like a cool drink of water in the middle of a long hot day.
Commitments to Christ. Nothing thrills my husband and I more to hear the words, “I want to be baptized.” Just as I wrote these words on a Sunday morning, a grandma called. She’s visiting her grandkids half way across the continent and she was about to explode with happy news that one of her granddaughters would be baptized that morning. She just wanted to call jack and me to tell us! That made our day! Seeing people come to Christ and watching them hunger for the Word is the core reason why we’re in this business, so hearing about dedication to Christ means we are fulfilling our purpose in our ministry.
Let it go. If you have grievances against your pastor, deal with it then let it go. If you hold something against the last minister, please don’t tell the current minister about it. You may not realize the silent message you are sending – “we’re watching you and don’t you ever do something like that.” If the worst thing your current pastor does is take his garbage out at 11PM in his bathrobe or cracks his knuckles while reading the prayer list, thank God you have such a godly man and let the little things go. If there are doctrinal issues or moral conflicts, choose your battles, go to other church leaders if you need to, and do lots of praying. Let go of the picky, petty stuff and let your minister know in no uncertain terms that you stand with him, not against him.
The world loves to attack pastors and the current controversies in Houston and Idaho show it is only going to get worse. The world also loves it when the church does the work of tearing down the minister for them. We need to close ranks around our leaders, protect them, and support them so they can stand firm against the gathering storm clouds of opposition.
Support him all year long – not just during the month of October. Send those appreciation cards when he least expects it. Send a gift card for a restaurant or offer to watch the kids one night so he and his wife can go out. If you see him and his wife at a restaurant, stop and say hello – they long for friendship too. Just don’t bring up shop talk! Make him part of your family by inviting him to family gatherings and holiday dinners, then treat him and his family like you would anyone else. When you do those unexpected touches, you never know how you might be partnering with the Holy Spirit to uplift a weary worker.
Caveat: While I’ve structured this blog to focus on the male senior pastor, I fully recognize the number of women in ministry and the number of workers not in a senior position. Don’t forget the spouses as well. They all need our support and encouragement.