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
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:
Pray with your pastor.
Call your pastor just to chat and
affirm his/her ministry.
Take your pastor (and even the spouse)
Send a card of appreciation.
Give your pastor and spouse a weekend
away, and be responsible to fill the pulpit.
Buy an ad in the local newspaper
recognizing your pastor’s contribution to the community.
Gift your pastor with movie or
community theater tickets.
Give a financial gift.
Write a handwritten affirmation letter
over 200 words.
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!