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.


Beardcast for 9.26.19 Psalm 91:14-16

This week on the Beardcast Matt and Zach looked at Psalm 91:14-16

You can find the Beardcast on YoutubeSoundcloudStitcherAppleGoogle PlaySpotifyCastbox and wherever else you listen to Podcast.

You can also pick up some great BeardedTheologians gear here:


Beardcast for 3.28.19 with Guest Rev. Margaret Gillikin

On the Beardcast this week we sat down and talked to Rev. Margaret Gillikin who is the fun fairy in the Mountain Sky Conference of the UMC and also serves as the District Superintendent of the Trinity District.

You can find the Beardcast on YoutubeSoundcloudStitcherAppleGoogle PlaySpotifyCastbox and wherever else you listen to Podcast.