For many years October has been designated as Pastor Appreciation Month, and it’s probably the church’s best kept secret. In 1994 the Colorado Springs based Focus on the Family began to promote Pastor Appreciation Month across the country with varying results. In my almost 40 years as an active United Methodist pastor, churches and parishioners have recognized Pastor Appreciation Month on a scale of nothing, to cards, gift certificates to local restaurants, well wishes, and other affirmations of my ministry among them.

Now that I have been retired several years, I feel like I’m in a place where I can say to congregations, “Hey folks, this is Pastor Appreciation Month! How do you plan to honor your pastor in October?” In our United Methodist tradition each congregation has a Pastor-Staff-Parish Relations Committee that is in an optimum position to take the reins and honor the pastor of that congregation and encourage the members to do something special for their pastor.

Almost everyone knows that being the pastor of a local church (I know there are many other locations for ministry, but I’m focusing on the local congregation) is not a 9-5 job; it’s not a job at all. Being the pastor of a church is a calling much more than it is a vocation. In some churches pastors are “called” to lead the congregations. Whether a pastor is called, appointed, named, assigned, or in any other way brought to church leadership, she/he understands that it is a 24/7 call.

How many pastors have been called back from a family vacation because of a death? What pastor has not been called on the telephone at 3:00am to come to the hospital or to attend the death of a beloved member? And they go.

Pastors spend hours and hours preparing sermons, Bible studies, and special event presentations. There are always new books to read, study, and apply to one’s ministry. People drop in for a chat that turns into a very painful discussion that lasts a long time. And, of course, those committee meetings.

Pastors do not often hear “how good things are going,” but if there are problems in the church, I assure you the pastor hears about them over and over. A kind, caring word of affirmation of one’s ministry goes a long way.

Most pastors will not remind their congregations that October is Pastor Appreciation Month, not even tell the Chair of the Staff-Pastor-Parish Relations Committee the significance of this month.

Not me, not now. Since I’m retired, I am free to encourage, even urge, every congregation to be aware of Pastor Appreciation Month and to take some kind of action. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, like the gift of a Caribbean cruise (although, I am confident your pastor would be most appreciative), but more simple things like recognition of the pastor’s work during the worship services, encouraging congregants to send letters and cards of appreciation to the pastor, small gifts like gift certificates to the local book store or restaurants, a phone call expressing appreciation. Google it! There are lots of ideas online of ways to honor your pastor. The important thing is do something!

I will wrap up this blog with 10 suggestions to honor your pastor:

  1. Pray with your pastor.
  2. Call your pastor just to chat and affirm his/her ministry.
  3. Take your pastor (and even the spouse) to dinner.
  4. Send a card of appreciation.
  5. Give your pastor and spouse a weekend away, and be responsible to fill the pulpit.
  6. Buy an ad in the local newspaper recognizing your pastor’s contribution to the community.
  7. Gift your pastor with movie or community theater tickets.
  8. Give a financial gift.
  9. Write a handwritten affirmation letter over 200 words.
  10. At the very least, give your pastor a hug and say thank you.

All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved. So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news. [Romans 10:13-15 CEB]

Gorton Smith, retired and loving it, served as local pastor [Elder] and as a District Superintendent in the New Mexico United Methodist Conference for a long time. Now he plays the ukulele. Aloha! 

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