Pastor Appreciation: A Lay Person’s Perspective

I have been a part of the United Methodist Church well before I was born. As I grew up with my church, I have had the pleasure of meeting many pastors as they rotated through every 4 years, or so. As a lay person, I have known for a long time that pastors did not have typical jobs or hold regular schedules. In the last few months, I have realized and appreciated this even more.

Previously, my assumptions of what pastors do included the following: attend church meetings, prepare sermons, lead worship at least once a week, lead study groups, lead camps, contribute to missions and social justice, officiate weddings and funerals, provide encouragement and act as a counselor and comforter to those in need. What I have learned is that these are the “basics” of the job. That’s right… if that wasn’t enough, there’s a whole lot more!

Since the beginning of the year, I have had the opportunity to meet, interact and befriend several clergy who were not my local pastor. I was propelled into developing new connections after being called to “do something more” than just within the walls of my local church but I was struggling to discern that calling. I spent countless hours talking with my senior pastor and several other clergy within our conference. While there were numerous attempts to find the right person for me to talk to, that appeared to be a challenge. What took me months to realize is that every pastor within our conference has unique gifts and specific roles within the connection. In other words, pastors are just one piece of a giant puzzle; albeit very important pieces. Most of the time, especially as laity, we look at the individual puzzle pieces and cannot see the entire complicated puzzle. Kinda like not being able to see the forest through the trees.

After being elected as a lay delegate to Jurisdictional Conference, I have witnessed first hand another side of a pastor’s job that I had never considered before. Beyond caring for their local church, they are involved with conference, jurisdictional or denominational committees, teams and other working groups. This means they spend hours on video conference calls with other leaders several miles or states away. They travel to have face-to-face discussions, attend leadership conferences, and share their perspectives while learning about others’. Their lives are filled with overflowing inboxes, frequent texts, endless phone calls and ceaseless alerts from other forms of communication. And all of this is on top of their personal lives! 

With this new perspective, I can honestly say that our pastors deserve lots of appreciation and TLC from their congregations! Most people don’t like to toot their own horn and say “look what I do!”. So let’s take the initiative to shower them with an abundance of congregational grace, love and support. Instead of letting our gratitude rest in our hearts, let’s take action to care for our pastors. Let’s take care of them so they can in turn take care of others and do the work they are called to do.

Amy is a pharmacist at a large teaching hospital. While not at work, she chases after 2 busy kids and cares for her needy husband. Amy enjoys wine and a good book (often together).

Hey folks, this is Pastor Appreciation Month!

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! 


Remember Your “Yes”

A quick scan of any social media will remind you that each day carries significance with it.  I’m speaking of course about the significance of National Hamburger Day, National whatever day.  Just this past week I saw tons of pictures of daughters because, it was National Daughters Day.  What do you do on such a day?  Well, it appears you take a picture and post it to social media.  Along with those pictures comes stories, memories, and appreciation.

Today is October 1st.

Did you know that today is National Hair Day?  For those who have it – appreciate it.

For pet lovers – Did you know that today is National Black Dog Day? Appreciate your pup.

And who doesn’t love International Coffee Day! Today is the day to appreciate the nectar of the gods known as coffee.

For more October 1st holidays check out

Today is also the beginning of a new month.  For those in the church, you might remember that today begins the month of Pastor Appreciation.

Churches tend to celebrate Pastor Appreciation month in different ways.  Based upon culture some churches might make a public appreciation on a Sunday morning – (introverted pastors love this by the way).  Others might offer a card, or a monetary gift to thank and appreciate their pastor.  Others celebrate the month by ignoring it completely.

As a pastor myself I have wrestled with this month.

Probably like you…

I appreciate being appreciated.  But, I feel awkward because I didn’t say yes to this calling because I wanted an entire month dedicated to appreciating me.  Yet, I would also feel the pain of having another October go by where my church did nothing to acknowledge it. I felt envy when I saw other pastors post about what their church did for them.  I felt weird when on the last Sunday of the month I would be publicly presented with a card because they didn’t want the month to go by without acknowledging it.  I felt embarrassed when I had to smile and receive my appreciation gift from the same people who were making me feel unappreciated at a meeting days before.

I get it.

I appreciate you.  I appreciate you because you said, “yes.”  Not everyone does that.  Today let my one small voice in the crowd of seemingly louder critical voices in your context reach you.  Maybe this is how we must begin this month.  Remember your ‘yes’ today.

You are a servant.  You know this because you are reminded often of it because of how people are treating you.  They will treat a servant like a servant; remember this.  Yet, Jesus reminds us that this is greatness.  Greatness will not be easy and rarely are servants thrown a parade for doing their job.  In the murkiness of ministry remember that there are people who appreciate and love you.  They may not always show it, even in a month dedicated to trying to show it.  But whatever you are walking through, you are not alone.  You are part of those that said, “yes”.

Thank you for your, ‘yes’.  Thank you for continuing to say yes when your circumstances encourage you to say, ‘no.’  From one pastor to another – you are appreciated.

Michael Smith

Rev. Michael Smith is the Superintendent of Congregational and Community Vitality for the Mountain Sky Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He is passionate about his family, creating new places with new people, and the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Thoughts on Saint Patrick by Rev. Derrek Belase

Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day.  Folks will wear green to avoid being pinched.  Protestants don’t revere saints, but St. Patrick seems to be a different story.  Let’s explore why.

Image result for st patrick

We know something about St. Patrick.  He lived around the second half of the fifth century in Ireland.  His life in shorthand form is an interesting one.

At 16, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals; he lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family.

After becoming a Roman Catholic priest and moving up through the ranks of the church hierarchy, he voluntarily returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

One of my good friends and colleague, Rev. Rod Newman, is a bit of an expert in Celtic Christianity and I recently asked him some questions about St. Patrick.

When I asked him about what we might learn from Patrick about our own discipleship, he suggested that it has to do with forgiveness.  “One of the most admirable aspects of Patrick is that fact that he … returned to Ireland to bring the Gospel to the very people who had enslaved him. This is putting Jesus’ command to love our enemies in action,” Newman said.

But he was also very outspoken in his condemnation of slavery and called out those in power who abused people and engaged in social reforms.

I also asked Newman about what he was thinking about these days regarding Celtic Christianity.  He said, “I’m very interested in how the Celts understood church. All their churches were small in number on purpose.  If it got too big, a few were sent out to start one somewhere else.

“This emphasis on small, vibrant communities of mutual care and outward mission offers inspiration for our current situation.  How can we see our smaller congregations as strengths,” he wonders. As a denominational executive who works with small membership churches, this has exciting possibilities for church planting and expansion.

Finally, I asked my friend about what drew him to the Celtic form of Christianity for which Patrick and others in Ireland are known.  He shared from his heart about a spiritual valley he was in and from which he wanted to be lifted.

“I was blown away when I learned that they understood sin not as a crime to be punished but a wound to be healed. Having been raised in a guilt and shamed-based version of Christianity this was life-giving. I could say it gave my faith back to me but it feels more like it allowed me to claim the faith I had all along,” he said.

Image result for st patrick prayer christ before us

Patrick lived out the commission Jesus gave to his disciples.  Recorded in Mark 16:15, we read these instructions, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”  That is exactly what the patron saint of Ireland did.

The United Methodist News Service did an article titled “What St. Patrick can teach United Methodists.”   I encourage you to read it:

Derrek Belase is a husband to Rebekah, father to Madison and Elizabeth and a United Methodist pastor.  For 13 years he served local churches before being recently appointed to the Oklahoma Conference office as the director of discipleship.  He has a beard, but it’s turning more gray than he would like!
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An Open Letter from Lindsay McClanahan

An Open Letter from Lindsay McClanahan

I have struggled to put my thoughts into words on this one issue in my life.  See at the end of February the General Conference of the United Methodist Church is going to come together and vote to determine if LGBTQ people are worthy, they will decide if they will change The Book of Discipline (the UMC rule book) to allow LGBTQ individuals to be married and become ordained in the UMC. There are a lot of smart words being tossed around but this is the gist of the meeting.

 I am a United Methodist. I believe in this denomination.  A small, white, clapboard church in small town Oklahoma taught me to look deeper into my faith and investigate more! Probably because of that one time I gleefully grabbed mashed potatoes at the church potluck only to realize after one bite I was eating mashed turnips!! YUCK!!!  This denomination has instilled in me a servant’s heart. I could not tell you how many United Methodist Churches I have watched my dad help roof, or I helped paint, or whatever else they needed. The old hymns, apostle’s creed, and Lord’s Prayer are as much a part of me as the blood that pulses thru my veins

In my twenties this denomination welcomed a newly divorced mom with two little girls on as a Director of Children’s Ministries at an OKC metro church. That beautiful congregation baptized my daughters, loved us thru the hard stuff, let the girls come to work with me, but most importantly they grew my faith, and my leadership abilities. This denomination fostered my calling to serve God. Vacation Bible Schools, mission trips, church camps, and continuing education classes all made me a better Christian, a better mother, and a better human!

I met the love of my life at thirty-three and with that love I got to be a mom again and finally got my boys; beautiful sweet biracial boys! I honestly didn’t know what I was missing until we had these four beautiful children with three years between the oldest and the baby. During this time my focus shifted to just being a mom and we moved to the eastern part of Oklahoma and started to attend a beautiful United Methodist Church. This church automatically felt like home. This congregation loved our family and I like to think that we have contributed to the life of the church. I have been a Vacation Bible School Director multiple times, coordinated a camp for children that needed a place to go during the teacher strike in Oklahoma, helped with our youth group which my children attend, cooked numerous meals for our collegiate ministry, our children and I have attended numerous mission trips. We as a family have strived to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and thru our local UMC.

 None of these things should be a big deal except for the fact we are not the normal family unit. I am in a same sex marriage, I am a member of the LGBTQ community, our children are being raised by two moms. We attend a local church that for the most part its not a big deal. BUT there is always a BUT! Our congregation IS AMAZING! I am also aware that we are incredibly blessed to have such a loving congregation BUT if we were not already married our pastors who we love could not marry us, we could not be married in our church, and I who have been called to serve God most of my life cannot be ordained in the denomination I love. My wife and I love our family, love God, and try to do the right thing. We are by no means perfect, but it is a hard thing to only be wanted halfway.

The United Methodist Church wants mine and my children’s time. However, the way The Book of Discipline is written and the fact that LGBTQ members cannot be married in our church or become elders is basically saying they want us ONLY IF… ONLY IF we keep it behind closed doors, only if we don’t flaunt our relationships, only if we keep the pride flags out of church life. How ludicrous is this? Imagine if you will that a heterosexual couple who served their local church faithfully was told “oh sorry you can’t be married in your church we don’t like the spouse you have chosen”. We still want your time, your gifts, your service but you cannot walk down the aisle and pledge before God to love your spouse forever in your home church… A heterosexual couple would probably take their gifts and go elsewhere. So why don’t LGBTQ United Methodist take their gifts and go elsewhere? Because this denomination is home and we want to be the change. Many of us have thought if we just gave more of ourselves members would see how great we are and want the change as much as we do. This is why we want the ONE CHURCH PLAN so badly those of us who are LGBTQ or those that love LGBTQ don’t want to lose the integrity of our denomination we just want our denomination to want ALL OF US!!

I am Lindsay McClanahan an Oklahoma girl who attended Oklahoma State University and majored in Agriculture Education/Animal Science. However as much as I loved the agriculture industry God had other plans for my life that I spent most of my teen years and very early twenties running from; as a life long United Methodist I knew I was called to serve God or at least make a difference in my community from a very early age, I have spent most of my adult life working with United Methodist Churches  with their children and family ministries in some capacity or another. I am a member of the LGBTQ community my wife and I live in Eastern Oklahoma. We are the proud parents of four teenagers (yes you are reading this correctly there are FOUR OF THEM). We have two boys and two girls ranging from sixteen to thirteen! Between livestock shows, sporting events and church activities we stay very busy! Our family strives to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our daily lives