October is Clergy Appreciation Month.
Maybe your church’s bulletin encouraged you to send a card to express appreciation. Some congregations pool together a special offering and present their pastor with a check at the end of the month. Idea lists are available on Christian websites, providing advice on what to do, make, bake or buy (or in the case of the infamous praying hands desk decor, what not to buy) to celebrate your pastor’s service.
I recommend you take a slightly different direction this month and think about the heartfelt need of your pastor. While working alongside pastors at my church for over a decade, I’ve caught glimpses into what bolsters their courage to press on in ministry. It’s different for each pastor, but there are a few basics that apply across the board.
Whether or not your church formally recognizes Clergy Appreciation Month, my hope is that you’ll consider these points, reach out in some way within the next two weeks and be mindful of how you can continue to encourage the pastors in your life throughout the year.
1. Serve wholeheartedly
First, let me share a bit of context. In addition to shepherding, teaching and overseeing, a pastor is called to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). Pastors aren’t meant to shoulder the work alone, but to empower, train and encourage each of us to use our God-given gifts. Young or old, single or married, we are each a vital member of the church body, and we have something to contribute to the health and function of the church.
One way to bless your pastor is to embrace the vision and serve. If you’ve recently moved or have just started attending a new church, I’ll grant you a temporary pass. However, if you’re regularly attending, please don’t spend months or years merely warming a church pew for an hour on Sunday mornings. Commit to investing in your brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re family. If you’re only receiving and never giving to your church community, get involved!
Find a place of service that sounds interesting and give it a try. You’ll eventually find your fit, and it will become a joy to minister. Take your volunteer tasks seriously, as you would a paid job. Your leader is counting on you to show up on time, ready to serve. Consistency, a positive attitude and enthusiasm are incredibly encouraging to pastors. Such whole-hearted participation is a sign of an effective ministry, and it removes some of their mental load when they witness congregants utilizing their gifts and flourishing spiritually.
Our churches function best when we all get involved and serve one another in love. By doing this, you are an encouragement to your pastor.
2. Meet specific needs, as you are able, and tithe
According to a Facts & Trends article, the vast majority of American pastors serve in small churches (fewer than 100 weekly attendees) with limited budgets. Their families might be “getting by” each month, but when the van breaks down or when it’s time for annual dentist or eye doctor appointments, it’s hard to come up with the funds. Though we hear about the lavish-lifestyle of megachurch pastors traveling to conferences on private jets, that’s not the norm … thankfully.
As we casually observe our pastors and their families on Sundays, we might never know the depth of financial sacrifices they are making throughout the week on our behalf. I recently asked pastor friends for examples of gifts that have helped relieve financial stress. Here are a few examples:
- “Once a member deposited $100 into my child’s hot lunch account [at school].”
- “Gift cards [to grocery stores or gas stations] are always the most helpful and practical. I have a second job to help out, so practical stuff feels like my love language now.”
- “Our favorite gifts are baby-sitting offers and help with home repairs.”
Another way to encourage your pastor this month and throughout the year is to be faithful in your tithing and financial giving. Although it might not change the salary of your pastor, it’s a kind reminder of your investment in the church family when you give regularly, cheerfully and generously … whether that’s $50 or $500 each month.
3. Provide encouragement and helpful feedback, year-round
Pastors need our verbal encouragement. Plain and simple, a specific compliment can mean more than a gift.
It doesn’t take much time or energy to email your pastor on a Monday morning. Say thanks and name a specific point from Sunday’s sermon that was impactful, inspiring, insightful or convicting.
Do you know the type of feedback most pastors hear, week after week? Complaints. The music is too loud or quiet, the temperature of the church is too hot or cold, the sermons are too long or short. The expectations placed on pastors are high and the tangible rewards can be low. For every negative comment made, there may be 20 positive comments that could be made, but aren’t. Because, like any other business or field of work, the satisfied, happy customers don’t take time to comment or provide feedback.
Your pastor is not a perfect person. Like all Christians, pastors are flawed human beings, saved by God’s grace. Many, if not most, are doing the best they can to serve their congregations well. There are opportunities to jump ship and make more money elsewhere, so if your pastor has faithfully served your church for years, it’s a sign of love and care. Your pastor is continuing to pursue ministry, trusting God’s call and loving you, a member of the flock.
Take some time this month to reach out and recognize your pastor’s commitment. You may never know how timely your encouragement will be or how a specific compliment or gift can be a blessing.
What do you appreciate about your pastor? How do you plan to recognize your pastor’s service during Clergy Appreciation Month?
Copyright 2018 Lindsay Blackburn. All rights reserved.