Ten Free Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor ... Without Making It Awkward
Next month is the 20th annual Pastor Appreciation Month. Lists, like this one, show up this time of year to guilt generous parishioners into forking over vacations, cars and new wardrobes to their pastors in order to affirm their calling.
But here’s the problem: A gift card won’t heal a year’s worth of spiritual beatings sustained in an abusive church. A vacation won’t help if the pastoral family has to return to a steaming pile of misunderstandings. And new cars might work only if the pastor can speed away from a dysfunctional district.
Conversely, when congregants have gone through seasons of unemployment, having them give out of their meager savings will make a gainfully employed pastor feel guilty, not blessed. And if the church doesn’t regularly appreciate all its leaders throughout the year, the only thing on your minister’s mind will be how many people are annoyed they don’t have a month dedicated to them.
Are there ways to affirm a pastor’s calling free from bankruptcy or awkwardness? Even when everyone knows it hasn’t been the most evangelistically effervescent year?
10. Be a Gossip Goalie: Remember how Brazil lost to Germany in this year’s World Cup? Don’t let people’s shots against your pastor get through, or you will lose something far more valuable than a soccer championship. Block trash talk and negative assumptions.
9. Offer Special Prayer: You know how some pastors visit you, listen to you and offer prayer on your behalf? Reverse roles.
8. Respond in Worship Service: You don’t have to be Pentecostal. A gentle “amen,” a head nod, bringing a journal to take notes, or even tweeting or Facebooking key sermon points lets the minister know you are connected. Preachers invest their heart, mind and soul into their messages, and when it is met with cold stares in emotional vacuums, it makes them feel like throwing in a DVD and letting the church be “Video Pastor’s” problem.
7. Hold a Work Bee: Sometimes being on call 24 hours a day means that a few things around the house can fall between the cracks … or the couch cushions ... or behind the refrigerator … you get the idea. With many handy souls in the church, a couple hours' work bringing the parsonage up to par can alleviate a ton of stress.
6. Call the Pastor Who Baptized You: Many of us began our spiritual journey with one of God’s shepherds as the catalyst. With so many people leaving the church, receiving a call from a still-faithful disciple can be incredibly meaningful and affirming.
5. Share Pastoral Post-It Notes: Platitudes don’t encourage pastors — but brief, specific notes about how your pastor’s ministry has positively affected your walk with Jesus can. Post them all over the minister’s office.
4. Organize a Letter Campaign: This is not a campaign to remove your minister from office or a petition to get them to cancel the evangelistic series. This involves distributing pre-addressed postcards and, after writing specific positive messages on them, mail them to your pastor.
3. Hold a Vote of Confidence: Like any who believe, ministers go through seasons during which they question their faith and purpose. For the church leadership to gather, discuss the strengths of their pastoral leadership, and take a formal vote of confidence in their pastor’s calling and ability is a gesture that can provide spiritual strength for a long time.
2. Provide Recharge Time: Have the church board set aside two to three weeks each year for the laity to cover church responsibilities — this is biblical and healthy for the congregation. This time is not a vacation. This should be a time where the pastor can catch up on interrupted reading, prayer and planning for the forthcoming year. Both the church and the pastor will benefit from leadership that is prayerfully planned out instead of spending the bulk of the year flying by the seat of their spiritual pants.
1. Do What You Volunteered to Do: Please, I beg of you. The best thing you can do is just follow through on the ministry God has led you to do in your faith community. One of the best affirmations a pastor can have is when the people they are leading are actively engaged in ministry without having to be exhorted, guilted or wrestled into it. To stand on the platform in October and look out over an energetic group of people, using their spiritual gifts with joy and following through on their commitments is simply the best.
Now don’t let this list stop you from the usual gifts you may give your pastor each year (I had to put that in there so my colleagues wouldn’t sent me hate mail), but consider the items here as deeper gifts that not only impact your pastor — but will also make for a healthier church.