It’s October, which means it’s time to show your pastor some appreciation. For most, the ministry year is just getting started, but before you know it, it’s going to be March, and your beloved pastors are going to be on the verge of a meltdown. They’re going to be tired, drained, and in desperate need of a recharge.
But here is what I say. Let’s not allow our pastors to chart that path this year. Let’s make sure that those who have chosen to dedicate their lives to growing ours to be more like Christ are adequately taken care of. It may be pastoral appreciation month, but I want to challenge all of us to take this month and create a habit of appreciation that will last all year.
Because when our pastors are better, our churches are better, and we are all the better because of them.
A Date Night
Because ministry is very emotionally taxing, getting the occasional recharge is critical. I had a former colleague that would often encourage his students as an act of ministry for their pastors to provide free babysitting. Date nights are great, but when you have a couple of kids that need a babysitter, date night becomes too expensive to enjoy.
A few months ago, my wife and I really wanted a night out to try a new local restaurant (trying new foods is like our shared love language). We were hoping for a perfect night on the town, but by the time we ate dinner, grabbed a coffee, and paid the sitter, we ended up in the hole more than $200. We both felt our time and money would have been better spent on the couch binge-watching Friends…again. But we know we need to get out. We need us time (as my wife calls it). And so do your pastors. But if your pastors don’t have immediate family to watch the kids for free, it’s likely they aren’t getting out.
Taking care of your pastors means kicking them out of the house regularly—guilt-free and without having to take out a second mortgage.
Thank you email
This one almost seems too simple—stupid simple. But it’s absolutely effective and can mean the world. You can do this in two ways—and do both of them. Take a few minutes and craft a very simple email to your pastor thanking him. Ministry is hard. If I had to guess, nearly 50% of my graduating class from seminary is no longer in ministry. It’s high stress, low pay, and not as glamorous as some may think. Believe it or not, a thank you note of some kind, goes a long way. It’s a small gesture that can an enormous impact. But don’t stop there.
Do the same with your pastor’s wife. Being a pastor’s wife might take an even greater toll. She’s always under the microscope and often very lonely. Send her a note as well, thanking her husband, her support, and the ministry that she provides to the church. It can be an email, a text, or a handwritten note.
And let’s be brutally honest with ourselves. Parents can be highly over-critical, but taking a few minutes to say thank you does two really cool things. First, it strengthens the relationship, and a stronger relationship handles conflict much better. If a pastor knows that overall, you appreciate him, when there is an issue, they are far more likely to come to you and settle the matter in a very Christ-like fashion. Second, it changes your heart toward them. And a changed heart is far more gracious and forgiving.
I know this is a no brainer. Praying for our pastors should almost be automatic. But it’s a good to have a reminder. But take it one step further. Take the time to ask how you can pray for them—specifically. Allow your pastors to be a little vulnerable. Doing so will remind them they are not our personal spiritual and emotional dump zone.
Several weeks ago, I was having breakfast with one of my pastors. He is an incredible listener, he’s patient, and just fun to be around. I was having a bad morning, and about midway, through my rant, I realized I was just dumping. He was, of course, happy to listen, but I found myself stopping to shift gears. I paused and said, “I’m sorry, what’s going on with you? How can I be praying for you?” That single question changed the entire dynamic of our relationship.
This one is really more about understanding their love language. My students always knew of my addiction to coffee. And every so often, one of my students would drop in first thing in the morning and leave a fresh coffee on my desk. I didn’t need the coffee but knowing that my students thought of me while getting something for themselves carries a lot of weight.
So maybe it’s gift cards for coffee, Amazon, or even Wall-Mart. Maybe it’s showing up with a coffee, Slurpee from 7-Eleven, or you found the perfect hat, t-shirt, or marvel action figure (slightly speaking for myself here). Grab it and make their day next time you see them.
Serve and be a champion of the ministry
This one might be the most important because none of the things I have suggested above mean anything if you are not a champion of the ministry. Brag on what they are doing, how your kids are being impacted, or help invite the rest of your neighborhood. Want to go bigger? Volunteer. No matter the ministry, the location, or the experience of the pastor—everywhere I go, I hear the same thing; an urgent call for volunteers. Good pastors know they cannot do the job alone. There are no successful maverick type pastors. More than anything, they need your time. So get in there and get your hands dirty. There might be no greater sign of appreciation.
These are my top five. But I would love to hear some of the ways you have made your pastors feel loved and appreciated all year long. What do you have?