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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,992
October 16, 2019
Pastor Appreciation Month
By Mike McManus

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. How are you showing your appreciation and what is your church doing to demonstrate its appreciation?

Most clergy are overworked and underpaid. Half make less than $50,000 a year while serving their churches 50-60 hours a week. Nearly 60% of pastors do not receive retirement or healthcare benefits, and 3 of 10 still have student loan debt.

According to an article in Christianity Today, one Saturday a pastor went shopping at Home Depot, emerged to the parking lot and was greeted by a parishioner who shared a number of difficult things in his life. Each question from the pastor uncovered new frustrations. Some 45 minutes later, the pastor got back in his car.

Asked how he felt, the pastor replied, "It was my day off, but I really don't have a day off. When am I not a pastor?"

Peter Drucker, a leadership guru, says the two most difficult jobs in America are President of the United States and being pastor of a church. It is a ministry full of great joys and significant moments in people's lives - at weddings, funerals and seeing parishioners grow. But Drucker notes pastoral life is also "full of tension, intense conflict, unrealistic expectations, relational strains, and at times soul-aching loneliness."

St. Paul wrote about the importance of pastoring to Timothy (I Tim. 5:17): "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor - especially those whose work is preaching and teaching."

Pastors know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month, but feel they cannot say anything about it. Doing so would be grossly self-serving. They can only hope that parishioners take an initiative on their own.

My question to the 70% of Americans who are members of a church: What are you doing to express your appreciation of your pastor's ministry, and what is your congregation doing? Here are some suggestions you might consider:

First, send your pastor or priest a personal note to thank him for his service. You might include a gift card to Starbucks or a fancy restaurant. One family sent the pastor a tin of gourmet popcorn and gave it with a card. The pastor recalls that each mouthful of popcorn was a tangible reminder that my presence was appreciated.

Another clergyman recalled that two years ago, a gentleman used his company's allotted season football tickets to bring two pastors to a Sunday evening Eagles-Giants football game. The gift did not cost the giver any money, since the tickets were paid for by his company, but it would have cost the pastors a huge out-of-pocket cost, that they could never afford.

A landscaper who was the member of a church, planted tulip bulbs in the pastor's yard. The pastor recalls, "I love flowers and he knew it. When they blossomed in the spring, I smiled each time I walked by them as I was reminded that he and his family were grateful for me."

This Sunday, as church members leave the service, each person might be handed a printed suggestion that they each write a personal note to be handed to the pastor a week later, on the last Sunday in October. Those notes should contain two or three specific elements of character or personal service of the pastor for which they are particularly grateful. The goal is to help the minister understand how good a job he/she is doing and to be encouraging.

Has your church created a ministry to help couples create a solid marriage, to enrich it, or to save those in crisis? A couple whose marriage was saved might ask for a minute during the final October service to publically thank the pastor for his assistance.

Here are suggestions that would cost money:

  • You might consider writing your church's board, to urge the congregation to give a $500 bonus check for the pastor during Pastor Appreciation Month.
  • If your church is feeling flush, it might even take out a full page newspaper ad, thanking the pastor for his thoughtful sermons, his upbeat nature, his encouragement to those in crisis, etc.

What's most important is that those who are grateful to the pastor for his service, to take the time to express that gratitude.


Copyright (c) 2019 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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