“Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership not to its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?”
– Hebrews 13:17 TMB
“Let the elders who rule be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.”
– I Timothy 5:17. NKJ
Since October has been designated as Pastor Appreciation Month in the USA., I felt it timely that I share my thoughts and suggestions on showing appreciation to those who serve in the ministry. Many of you know my wife, Anne, and I have been in full-time ministry for fifty-seven years. The last fifteen years have been spent in encouraging God’s ministering servants or, if you prefer, “pastoring pastors.” I have visited personally with hundreds of ministers across the nation and beyond. We call on pastors, ministers, and priests under the covering of CSR’s Ministry of Encouragement and PastorCare. In addition, we serve as the Mid-South Regional Directors of PastorCare, a Christ-centered Network for hurting clergy providing resources for Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, and Relational Health. (www.PastorCare.org)
Many pastors, ministers and church staff suffer from discouragement, depression, and the lack of appreciation for their labor. Unchecked, this often leads to burnout, breakdown, or even leaving the ministry. The good news is that this need can be corrected by sensitive lay leaders and members of the congregation. Please know that I am not talking about flattery or placing the pastor on a pedestal. To exalt anyone or anything above our allegiance to Jesus Christ is idolatry, plain and simple. Being a pastor, I can say that we “put our pants on” just as you do. We have our own set of problems and needs, and we are not the saviors of the Body. With that said, I would like to share some ways you can show sincere appreciation to those who watch over you.
Encourage your pastor, on a continuing basis. Drop off by his or her office just for the purpose of encouraging, leaving all other agenda items at home. Only twice, that I can remember, did I have a parishioner drop by just to say thanks.
Pray for your pastor on a regular basis. Ask him or her how you can pray for them. I try to pray immediately when I have offered to pray. When he shares a prayer need, listen, really listen, then pray. I can’t tell you how many times, usually in a group, I have expressed a heart-felt need and then have no one pray for this need.
Realize that your ministers need “down time,” time with their families, off days, and times when they are unavailable. According to my book, a pastor is not on the job twenty four hours a day. That is a sure prescription for burnout. Remember, he or she is not your savior, and if you have a pressing need and the pastor is not available, take your need to the Lord, and then call someone else.
Do not impose unrealistic expectations on your leaders. They already carry the burdens, and none of them are Supermen. They not only do the ministry, but they are charged with equipping the saints for the ministry. Don’t add to their load unless it is absolutely necessary.
Adequately compensate your ministers and church staff. Too many are paid too little for too much. If you are a lay leader, address, at least on an annual basis, your pastor’s financial needs including salary, benefits, educational opportunities, etc.
Give an occasional greeting card or small gift to your pastor, his spouse and members of his family. As a minister, I have appreciated gift cards, especially to restaurants, bookstores, or coffee houses. It doesn’t have to be a big or expensive gift to show your appreciation. Maybe it will only be a night out for the pastor and spouse with you keeping the kids. Wow! What a break that would have been while our daughters were growing up.
Give and encourage your ministers to take time off. Honor their off days. Rejoice when they are given at least three weeks vacation a year. Support any decision to grant your pastor a sabbatical. I recommend a sabbatical after no more than three years on the job, and I recommend giving one month for each year’s service. Accumulative for up to six years. You may save your pastor’s life, family, and ministry by being generous with granting time off.
Don’t be a part of the drudgery or one of those difficult people all pastors have to deal with. It seems that there is at least one person in every church whose desire it is to make the pastoral family miserable. Some call them Clergy Killers. Corrective criticism can be helpful if sincere, loving, and handled appropriately. Choose your battles wisely. Don’t make everything you dislike an occasion for laying it on the leadership. Love covers a multitude of sins (mistakes, neglected opportunities, etc. etc.).
Invite your pastor and spouse over for a meal or desert with your only goal being to encourage and have fellowship with your leaders. Leave church business at home. Have no hidden motives. I’ll never forget one couple inviting us over for dinner only to find a movie screen set up when we arrived. They did everything they could to sign us up for Amway. That was not a night off.
Let your pastor’s spouse and children be real and normal people. Remember, the church did not hire the pastor’s spouse nor the children. Don’t be guilty of setting double standards for those in ministry.
Send your pastor and spouse to Israel. Having been there several times, I can say that going to Israel was a life-changing experience. It is amazing how a journey to Israel weaves itself into your life, your being, and your ministry. A trip to Israel will pay rich dividends to any congregation.
And a final word to pastors themselves... don’t ever become dependent on praise and affirmation. God has called you. He will sustain you, and He loves you with an everlasting love. Sometimes the encouragement will only come from Him. Many times, you must encourage yourself and be an encourager yourself. There is no greater need.