Note from Dan: The following article was originally written and posted in 1999. As of June, 20011 (when I did some updating and remodeling on the site) this is the #6 most read article on the entire CaseStudies site (#5 is “Pastor Appreciation… Month?” , posted in 1997 when CaseStudies was still in diapers. #1 through #4 are the four-part study on David and Bathsheba.)
A lot of things have changed since 1999. We’re a little older and in a different church, for example. Rather than edit this to update the details, I decided to just leave it in its original version.
Over the years, Hundreds of churches have sent me feedback asking for permission to reprint this article, and I can only imagine how many others have done so without asking. I’m delighted that I’ve been able to minister to so many churches and so many Pastors through this article. After you read it, be sure to put it into action!
I was looking over the log reports for the CaseStudies website this morning, when I noticed with some interest that the most read online CaseStudies column over the past thirty days has been one written two years ago, when the Internet version of CaseStudies was still in diapers. It still amazes me that people read these columns at all— but the sheer volume of people reading “Pastor Appreciation… Month?” really caught my eye. What’s even more impressive is that there seems to have been folks actually planning ahead to be a special blessing to their Pastors during the month of October. That really encourages me, because some of those Pastors are in desperate need of those special blessings from their people. Of course, they could have used those special blessings during the past eleven months, too.
Most “average Christians” in the pew don’t really have a clue when it comes to what their Pastor does between Sundays. I’m reminded of a Southern Baptist Pastor who once told me about a deacon who started in on the old “the Pastor really only works a day and a half every week” line of thought. Recognizing the need for some practical education, the Pastor handled this less-than-mature deacon with great wisdom, inviting him to spend a day working at the Pastor’s side, to get a feel for what his typical day is like. In that Pastor’s words, “God really blessed us with a horrendous day!” The deacon dropped out before lunch time, and became one of the most outspoken supporters of his Pastor, both privately and publicly. He even supported giving the Pastor a raise in salary—in a Southern Baptist church, there is no higher (or more unusual) level of appreciation.
Many Pastors—and their families—live their lives under spotlights and magnifying glasses. Faults and flaws that are easily dismissed in others somehow seem bigger and more significant when observed in someone involved in vocational ministry, and it can be even worse when those flaws appear in that minister’s spouse and children. Some churches even have a pattern of bringing in new Pastors, expecting impossible levels of perfection, and then driving them away when the fact that they are imperfect fellow humans comes to light. Some Pastors have been through that cycle so many times that they have learned to live inside a protective shell, hiding their heartaches and struggles from those who ought to be supporting them the most. Sadly, there are many gifted men who have left vocational ministry behind them as a result of that abuse.
So, how should we honor our Pastors during Pastor Appreciation Month? Well, to start with, honor them during the other 11 months of the year, as well. That’s the whole premise of my original column on the subject. Your Pastor has unique needs, so pray over it, get creative, and let the Lord lead you. Here are twenty specific ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Ask him if you can go along on those Hospital and Shut-in visits.
- Discover your Spiritual Gifts, and actually DO something with them in your church.
- When you see him on Wednesday, tell him about the new insights you have as a result of meditating on last Sunday’s sermon.
- Meditate on last Sunday’s sermon.
- Grow up.
- Anonymously (if possible) leave his favorite candy bar on his desk or in his mail slot.
- Invite him to go fishing, golfing, or some other shared interest—without an agenda.
- Call him on the phone and ask what his prayer needs are.
- Actually pray for his needs after he tells you what they are.
- If he’s married, call his wife and do #8 and #9
- If he’s not married, quit trying to “fix him up” with someone.
- Mow his lawn—anonymously—while he’s away from home.
- Ask him how you can help him.
- Actually help him after he answers #13.
- Quit complaining.
- Compliment him when he does things right.
- Say “Amen!” (at the appropriate times) while he’s preaching. Saying “Amen” to a preacher is like saying “sic ’em” to a dog.
- Hug him and tell him you love him.
- If he’s married, send his wife flowers and a thank you note—she plays an important support role. Also see #11
- Now that you’ve read this list, actually do some of it—now.