Six Recommendations for Pastor Appreciation Month
Every church has a strong presence of involved, grateful members who bring joy to their leaders. During this month of emphasizing “Pastor Appreciation” many have already expressed their gratitude in a practical and meaningful fashion. As I reflect on the things I have learned after over 30 years of pastoral ministry, I want to recommend specific ways to express your support – not just this month, but all year long.
Pray – In his New Testament letters the Apostle Paul was aggressive and unapologetic about requesting prayer for his life and ministry. He understood the mysterious and glorious link between the prayers of God’s people in the blessing of God on his ministry.
When we intercede for our leaders, God uses our prayers to change situations and hearts. When we express gratitude for our leaders, God uses prayer to change us. It is hard to be a critic and a prayer supporter at the same time.
When we pray for pastors, it is a win-win arrangement. They need the prayer; we need the practice.
Communicate – We don’t want to be like the husband who failed to communicate his appreciation to his wife. She expressed to him one day, “You never tell me you love me.” He responded, “I told you the day we got married and if I change my mind I will let you know.”
Love and appreciation fail to be a blessing if they are not communicated. It is possible that all ten lepers healed by Jesus were grateful, but only one returned to give thanks (Luke 17:11-19). Too often, that one-in-ten expression is the experience of pastors. Many in the church are grateful for a pastor’s faithfulness, example, sermons, family, and leadership. Few take time to specifically and practically communicate their feelings.
Believe me, the critics don’t hold back in their e-mails, notes, and negative words. The grateful majority needs to rise up and say so. I have been astonished in past years when I was called away from a church at the specific and kind expressions that came in during my final days of service. I often thought, “I never knew they felt that way.” Make sure you let your pastoral leaders know how you feel this month. Be specific and encouraging. It will go a long way to strengthen their hearts. And, don’t forget similar expressions to the spouse and family members. They can also be overlooked.
Give – In a national study, clergy ranked in the top 10% of the population in terms of education but were only 325th of 432 occupations in terms of salary. Most pastors serve and sacrifice far beyond what people realize, yet most lack the resources to get away and recharge as they should. Tangible expressions of gratitude go a long way. Gift certificates to restaurants, tickets to sporting events, an overnight get-away, and cash gifts all provide a special blessing for the often-strapped pastoral budget. In one church, a family gave us the key to their mountain cabin. Schedule permitting, our family was able to enjoy much-needed time away that made memories and refreshed our lives in ways we could not have otherwise afforded.
Protect – My wise friend Leith Anderson has noted, “Change agents need protectors.” Pastors are targets of change-resistant antagonists. These people seldom play by the biblical rules of relational authenticity. In an effort to control the agenda of the church they back-bite, circulate rumors, and subtly seek to undermine the leadership.
Critics usually lose momentum when they cannot find a listening ear. I often say, “You may be lord of your tongue but I am also master of my ears.” Protect your pastoral leaders by refusing to give an ear to these destructive voices. Insist that they go directly to the leadership or cease and desist.
Beyond this, gossips and controllers need to be confronted about their divisive behavior according to the principles of Matthew 18:15-17. When the entire body works biblically to deal with spiritual disease and maintain godly health, the church prospers, pastors are protected, and Christ is praised.
Serve – Overloaded and weary pastors are often surrounded by members who are not doing their share to steward their own spiritual gifts and serve the mission of the church. Those who serve with passion and perseverance help lift the load and build up the church. Servants usually have gracious and godly attitudes since those who are pulling on the oars seldom have the time or desire to rock the boat. As one pastor said, “You can sit on the shore and watch us row. You can get in the boat and help us row. But, please don’t just sit in the boat shooting holes in the bottom.” Few things are more demoralizing to leaders than coping with non-contributors who function as high-maintenance Monday morning quarterbacks.
Discern – Churches are not perfect and pastors are 100% human. There will always be things we do not like about the ministry. We will always have preferences that are disappointed by the pastor’s leadership or approach. It is important that we discern which issues are really worth our concern. There are usually few hills worth dying on.
When leaders have to spend energy resolving concerns over non-essential issues, it distracts and dissipates their effectiveness. Focus that should be given to meeting real needs and leading in the vital mission of the church gets squandered by needless squabbles.
Hebrews 13:17 tells us that our spiritual leaders watch out for our souls as those who must give an account to God. This is a serious and sacrificial obligation. This verse exhorts us to support them wholeheartedly so they can lead “with joy and not with grief for that would be unprofitable for you.” Joyful leaders are profitable leaders. When they feel that their leadership is a grievous task, no one benefits. The Amplified Bible says, “Do your part to let them do this with gladness and not with sighing and groaning.”
Let’s all reap the profit that comes when we encourage and appreciate our spiritual leaders. The positive advancement of the work of the Gospel depends on it.
Copyright © 2016 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.