October is Pastor Appreciation month. This is the one time a year the congregation rallies together to show their beloved pastor their appreciation.
But the question is, is it really deserved?
I recall a conversation I had with a gentleman recently about this very subject. The gentleman argued that Pastor Appreciation month was unnecessary; in fact he found it to be offensive even. His opinion was based on the fact that no other profession dedicates a whole month to showing employee appreciation. Therefor why should pastors be any different? What was it about being a pastor that made them more deserving than the rest?
While I understand this sentiment, at least to some degree, I must say that I strongly disagree with his overall thought process.
Though I’m certainly not a pastor, and while I’ve never been married to one, I have served closely beside a few, in my lifetime. In fact, several of them have become good friends! As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to see, up close and personal, some of the many tasks required of pastors in the church today. It’s quite possibly one of the more taxing professions there is.
Pastoral Duties: What Exactly DOES He Do?
Contrary to popular belief, a pastor does not merely work only one day a week. His job does not simply consist of writing an hour-long sermon to preach on Sunday morning, and then sit back and relax the rest of the week.
Not in the slightest.
A pastor’s job is SO much more. The work of a pastor is unique. It requires someone who is bold, strong and confident, but at the same time, caring, supportive and humble. He needs to have thick skin in order to stand up under the weight of criticism, but still exude a heart of compassion where necessary.
The work of a pastor is emotionally draining, and physically exhausting. Ministry work is not for the faint of heart. Pastors must know and believe that they are called to the ministry, because it is in that knowing that they will find the strength to keep going. Especially on the tough days. Of which there are many.
Their’s is often a thankless job. They carry the weight of others’ expectations daily on their shoulders. And there is always someone who is unhappy about something. Whether it be the volume of the worship, the outdated church decor, the length of his sermons, the lack of programs, the size of the building, or that he failed to acknowledge so and so’s presence on Sunday morning.
And that’s only the menial stuff.
In addition, he is expected to care for the spiritual needs of his flock. He is responsible for training up leaders, discipling church members, and mentoring the youth. His attention is given to counseling individuals, strengthening marriages, reprimanding sin, overseeing his staff, visiting the sick, comforting the broken, and serving the community.
The pressure to be all to all is significant. He is often expected to attend everything from little Suzie’s ballet recital, to Tommy’s graduation ceremony, and everything in between. And let’s not forget the weddings and baby dedications, baptisms and funerals, birthdays and holidays. The list goes on and on.
His pastoral job often takes its toll on his family too. Not only is he expected to perform, but his family too, feels the pressure to conform. His wife is typically expected to lead, or at the very least attend, every women’s program within the church, despite whether or not she feels led. Their children are closely monitored and expected to always be on their best behavior. The needs of the congregation often take him away from his family, which too can cause undue stress within the home.
Unlike the rest of us, a pastor does not have the luxury of leaving his work at the office. Instead, it frequently follows him home. His cell phone rings endlessly, his mind is constantly divided between being present with his family, and wandering with concern over pressing matters in the church.
Sleep too, is hard to come by. Much like a parent who lies awake at night, thinking about their child; worried about the decisions he/she is making, concerned about their future, longing to bring comfort and aid where it is needed, questioning if you’ve done a good enough job of training them up in the way they should go, or if there is more you should have done, so too your pastor lies awake at night, thinking of these same things about his spiritual children.
And that hour long sermon he preaches on Sunday- yeah, I guarantee it took a lot longer than an hour to prepare. He spends hours upon hours studying, researching, praying, writing and practicing for each sermon. More often than not, with a steady flow of interruptions, to boot.
All of this, and I’ll bet his income is probably less than the average american household.
So, to answer the question, do pastors deserve to be appreciated? Absolutely!
Not only do they deserve it, but it’s clearly also a command.
“Now we ask you brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you, and lead you in the Lord and admonish you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12)
While there are many scriptures which support this idea, this one is perhaps my favorite.
Given the vast array of pastoral duties, and long list of expectations, our pastor’s NEED our encouragement! It is what keeps them going. It is what gives them the support to continue on.
With this in mind, I’ve compiled a short list of ideas that one could use to demonstrate their appreciation.
Paid Vacation/ Overnight Stay.
What better way to show your pastor you care, than by blessing him and his family with time away together. This will allow them time to unplug, turn off their cell phones, relax, unwind, be present with one another, and simply enjoy some downtime. I promise they will return to church rejuvenated and refreshed, with better focus of heart and mind.
Why not give your pastor a Sunday off, or two, or three (gasp!) from preaching. Surprise him by hiring a lay pastor (or if he has an assistant pastor on staff, even better) to handle the Sunday sermon, allowing your pastor to attend church with his family without the pressure of “performing.” This will give him the ability to unwind, and it might even help him to step back and see church from a different perspective, giving him some fresh, new ideas to implement. It could be a win win for all!
Volunteer your Service.
I do not know of one congregation that couldn’t use more hands on deck. Especially in the children’s department. It takes a lot of work to help Sunday morning’s run smoothly, and very often there are only a handful of people doing all the work. Why not show your pastor you care, by helping to carry some of the load? Pray about where you can be the most useful, and then make a point to get more involved. Not only during the month of October, but all year long!
I recently heard a pastor say that even more than the gifts and special treatment he receives during this month, what he found to be the most meaningful were the hand-written cards that spoke of how he was impacting the lives of his congregation. These were what made him feel special, and loved, and kept him going throughout the years. When doing this, try to think of specific examples you can include in your card, to show him how his service has helped you, what sermons meant the most to you and why, and the difference he has made in your life and the health of the church. This is a sure way to bless him in the years to come.
House/ Yard Work.
Here is a concrete way you can get your hands dirty (literally) and bless your pastor. What kind of skills do you have that you can use to show your appreciation? And what sort of things does he need done around the house that he’s not able to make the time for? Can you commit to weeding and mowing the yard throughout the summer months? Does he need wood chopped? Trees pruned? Could his house or fence use a fresh coat of paint? Are there some minor renovations inside the home you can help with? Do their appliances look outdated? Are you gifted at organizing closets? There are a ton of ways one can use their own giftings to bless his family. It just takes a little creativity.
In brainstorming type of gifts to get your pastor, try to think of what sort of hobbies he has. Does he like to play golf? You could buy him a round of golf at your local range. Is he a hunter? Why not purchase him a gift card to Cabelas, or some other sports warehouse. Does he have a favorite sports team? How neat would it be to surprise him with tickets to a home game! Does he enjoy theater? How about purchasing some tickets for him to take his wife out on a date. Or perhaps a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant. Need something a little less expensive? If they have young children at home, you could always volunteer to babysit for them once a month. Or a plate of warm cookies is sure to be a winner! Again, get creative. Tap into his likes and dislikes, and get him a gift he will really enjoy.
Appreciation Dinner/ Roast.
These can be fun, as long as you are careful to not go overboard and unknowingly offend your pastor. Make it light and fun! Gather the congregation together for a church-wide potluck dinner, in your pastor’s honor. Have an open mic where people can share funny stories (not humiliating) about him. Publicly praise him for his many talents. Share a heartfelt story of how he encouraged you. Let him know how much he means to you and the congregation as a whole. And don’t forget to include some of his favorite foods!
Why not show your pastor how much he means to you by actually spending time with him outside of church. Being a pastor is often a lonely profession. They might be surrounded by people all day long, but very few could actually be considered “friends.” Pastors are in need of friendships too. Most times, there is an ulterior motive for getting together with the pastor. They need to know that they are worthy of friendship just like the rest of us. Try treating him out to lunch, or having him over for dinner, with NO STRINGS ATTACHED. Simply work on developing or nurturing a mutual friendship. This will probably mean more to him than you might ever know.
Spa Package/ Massage.
Help your pastor to unwind by giving him the gift of massage. Better yet, why not purchase a couple’s massage for both he and his wife to enjoy together! *This may not be the type of gift that every pastor would enjoy.* Be sure you know what his likes/dislikes are beforehand. I personally know of a pastor friend who would HATE this kind of gift, but I also know of one who would LOVE it. If you’re not sure, you can always ask.
Monetary Love Offering.
What pastor wouldn’t love the gift of money?! There are several ways you can bless him monetarily. You could purchase a gift card to his favorite grocery store or gas station. You could offer to foot the bill to have his suits professionally cleaned and pressed at the local dry clean. Is there a looming credit card bill you could help to pay? What about a car payment or electricity bill? When all else fails, good ol hard cash does the trick every time!
The best gift you can possibly give to your pastor…PRAYER!
Here is a favorite scripture that I personally like to pray over those in leadership~
(1 Peter 5:2-3) Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly–not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.
How about YOU? What are some ways that you like to show your pastor appreciation?
Are there some things that you would add to this list? Why not share them in the comments below?