The month of October is known as “Pastor Appreciation” month in the life of the church. Having the opportunity to serve on staff in multiple churches, I have found that every church body seems to do things differently when appreciating their pastors. If you happen to attend a church where there are multiple staff pastors, count yourself blessed. One particular year while I was on staff as a youth pastor, the church only recognized the lead pastor during the month and the other pastors on staff were left out. When I say recognized, I mean the lead pastor was the only one to receive a formal gift or words of thanks (in a Sunday service) from the church board. When the lead pastor was called forward by the church board secretary during the service, the rest of the staff were asked to stand where we were while a presentation was made. Yes, it was odd and the rest of us felt a little insulted and left out. Do we need gifts or money to feel appreciated? It definitely doesn’t hurt… but, no. We don’t need those things. But just like everyone, it feels nice to feel appreciated. From a pastors perspective, here are some good ways to let your pastor know you appreciate them and all they are doing.
1. Your pastor doesn’t (necessarily) want/need money, cards, gift cards or other things to feel appreciated. I believe your pastor first of all wants your attendance. Not just your physical presence in church but your mental attendance as well. Many pastors prepare hours and hours for a message to be shared for 20-30 minutes on Sunday. How about saying “Amen” during a portion of the message that resonates with you? That simple “amen” agreement in the message goes a long way in the heart of a man or woman who has done the preparation. One of the hardest things for a pastor to deal with on a Sunday is empty seats. Making sure you are physically and mentally there as much as possible is important.
2. If your pastor is anything like mine, they will love this. This idea doesn’t take any money, gifts or even a huge amount of creativity. This is even something that Jesus challenged his disciples to do: Pray. Get a group of people together to pray for your pastor(s). These men and women are under a great deal of stress and pressure and can never have enough prayer. You may think that this is a super simple thing and that it will not amount to anything. But, if there is any way you could empower people to pray for a solid 24 hours for your pastor it will do so much for them. Having a 24 hour prayer vigil at your church would be huge! Get 24 people to give up 1 hour or 48 people to give up a 1/2 hour OR… have people write down their prayers for their pastor(s) and send them to them through the month of October. There is no amount of prayer that will ever be considered too much.
3. This may sound radical… maybe even crazy. If you do this, you might see your pastors head explode… ok, maybe not but they will be blown away. Volunteer for something at church. Much of your pastors (lead pastor, children, youth, discipleship, administrative) time is consumed trying to find someone to help in different areas of the church. I have heard this next point over and over again in staff meetings. The thing that stresses children’s pastors out to no end is showing up on Sunday morning and not having a volunteer in the nursery or toddler class and having to find someone last minute to cover it. Or, the youth pastor that is doing their best to run an event understaffed. No, you may not be the “perfect” children’s or youth leader but, your presence will speak volumes to those pastors. You could even volunteer to be a greeter or an usher once a month or show up to make coffee. There are lots of ways to help. If you volunteer, don’t just do it once. Make it a habit or practice. If you want to stun a pastor, ask them how you can serve or volunteer. They may be speechless in the moment (because no one ever asks them that question) but it will be greatly appreciated.
4. If you’re going to get your pastor something, go all out. Most pastors are overworked, underpaid, overextended and haven’t had regular/normal working hours their entire career. Don’t be embarrassed about giving your pastor a gift. Most pastors (in their humility) find it hard to accept gifts. If you know your pastor has a hard time accepting gifts, make sure you do it right when you give it to them. Have fun with it. Next, make sure the gift isn’t about you. A good example of this bad idea is giving your pastor the gift of tickets to a sporting event where they are going with you. Or, taking your pastor out to coffee for 2 hours. Sometimes that turns into just another time for them to work… don’t give the gift of work. As I mentioned above, go all out! Get as many people as possible together to give the gift. If you had 20 people going to get 20 different $20 Starbucks gift cards you could easily have 1 person take the $20 from everyone and buy the pastor an espresso machine. You might be thinking that the pastor would love the gift cards more than the machine. You’d be wrong. Get them the machine! They will get many more miles out of the machine!
5. Make it personal. If your pastor hasn’t been at your church that long, it’s easy to create a survey, email it to them (before the month of October) and then pass out their answers to the congregation. In the survey, ask the personal questions that could lead people to get them something they like. If you happen to find yourself in the middle of October and you haven’t done anything for your pastor, there’s a simple solution. My father is a self proclaimed leader of the Procrastinators Club where, on Christmas Eve, he is scouring the stores trying to find the “perfect” gift for my mom. Most of the time he ends up coming through with a last minute gift. However, if you are like me and don’t like the stress of scouring the stores at the last minute, write a hand written card, note or letter to your pastor. That’s right, hand written. No emails. No Facebook post or message. Hand written. The hand written words that you will compile on that page, showing your appreciation for them, will be much more appreciated than any gift with a bible verse printed on it. Most of the hand written notes, cards or letters of appreciation that I have received are kept and cherished. It doesn’t cost you anything but time; and to a pastor who spends their time pouring into their congregation, the time you spend writing is meaningful. A few years ago, the only thing I received during the month of October was a crumpled up Post-It note from a teenager reading, “Good Job”. I took that post it note and framed it and I have it in my office to this day. (See picture above.)
6. Be listening. If something they have said has encouraged, challenged or strengthened you along the way, let them know. As I mentioned above, you can write them a card or letter. But possibly you could “double-dip” on this one. Write it down and then verbally reaffirm it. Sometimes the biggest struggle a pastor faces on a Sunday afternoon is wondering if anyone heard a word they said during the service. Let them know you were listening and that something they said meant a lot to you. It goes a long way… trust me.
7. While most of the appreciation is pointed towards the pastor(s), don’t forget their families. My 2 sons have been received gifts or have been recognized in the past and they absolutely love it. My wife has been given cards as well during the month of October and it has done some pretty amazing things for her personally. It means so much for your pastors family to be recognized right along side of them. I know of some pastors who have felt called to a specific church or location but their spouse is having a hard time with the move/transition. If you recognize those things and encourage the family as a whole, the reciprocation of love will not go unnoticed.
8. Be a legitimate friend. This may come as a shock to most people but pastors are some of the loneliest people. While they are “friends” with people they often don’t have any close friends. They need (even want or desire) people who will still be their friend after they have been called away from the church they are serving in now. Being a true friend looks like Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Help to sharpen your pastor. When they don’t have friends their spiritual edge may become dull and the desire to serve grows weak. Most pastors feel like they are probably going to be “eaten” for lunch after a Sunday service rather than invited to go out to lunch. Be a friend. Treat them how you would want to be treated. Matthew 7:12 reminds us, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
9. Go to bat for them. There’s more than enough negativity floating around out there. The stories where people stand up for the weak and less fortunate are not being published in the news. If you care for your pastor(s) or their family at all, you will be the one who steps up to the plate for them when it seems like no one else is. Put the personal differences aside. Your pastor is a human being who is doing their best to serve The Lord in their current context. They need people who will link arms with them and go to battle for them. When you hear negative talk being said about your pastor, shut it down. What does “going to bat for them” look like? See idea #2.
10. Extend Grace. Remember that your pastor won’t always get this ministry thing right. Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” I can guarantee that as a parent, wife, husband, child or employee, you have messed up. You’ve done things that you’re not proud of. If your spouse, parent or employer wasn’t graceful with you during your mess-ups in their actions or words, it would make it harder for you to want to go to work or be a better spouse, parent or child. So, remember to extend grace to your pastor. Not just during the month of October but the other 11 months that it is so desperately needed.
So, there you have it. 10 tangible ways to appreciate your pastors during Pastor Appreciation month. These idea are just that… ideas. There are many more ways that pastors can/will be appreciated this month but these are some things that can be pulled together relatively easy. While this isn’t, necessarily, something that ties in to Restoration Farm directly, it is something that will help pastors and their families in the here and now better serve the church that they are called to. And, ultimately, that is what Restoration Farm is aiming to do.
Father, today I lift up your servants who are faithfully serving in the churches they are called to. Remind them that they are loved, appreciated, cared for and called. Raise up people who will lift up their pastor in prayer. Allow those pastors to be so encouraged that their people benefit from the overflow of your Grace. There are many pastors who feel alone, shamed and even hated. I pray specifically for them. I pray that you would lift their heads, their hearts and minds. May they be steadfast in their calling to serve the flocks you have called them to shepherd. Amen.