Five Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Pastor
Personal reflections on thoughtful ways to show love to your pastor
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Yesterday, a BGAV pastor stopped by my office on his way to a meeting and as friends, we asked each other, “What’s going on in your life?” He effused, telling me all the things his church is doing to celebrate him and his wife in ministry throughout the month of October. I walked away from the conversation wishing more pastors felt so appreciated in their work. How would that affect the burnout we’re seeing in the church these days?
I began to reflect on my own ministry. Before I worked at BGAV or owned my own business, I was a pastor for almost 25 years. I had great support in the churches I served, as well as detractors who could sometimes steal my joy. I found through the years that some church members were special gifts to me, because they knew the fine art of appreciation.
After a rush of memories, and I came up with the five kinds of support I received and valued most in my pastoral career. I hope at least one of these will help you encourage your pastor.
- Show your gratitude. A simple note of thanks for something they’ve done will go miles. Maybe it’s for leadership through a tough time, a hospital visit, or a sermon that inspired you. Even if it was a long time ago, saying thanks today will help your pastor face another tomorrow that might be difficult.
- Celebrate special occasions. Pastoral work is mostly about caring for others, so receiving care by way of celebration is a special treat. You may never know the importance of a small celebration. Typical pastors are not on the high side of the income scale. A gift card for a new restaurant, the offer of babysitting overnight for a mini marriage getaway, and Duane’s fresh corn and tomatoes were always highly valued in my younger days of family and pastoral life. I remember a year when my birthday fell on a Wednesday night; I was given a birthday serenade by the choir at church supper, and the dessert that night was my favorite cake with a candle in mine! The recognition moved me to tears.
- Encourage rest and self-care. A colleague once told me to have a regular Sabbath. I complained, “It’s hard, because Sunday is a work day for me.” He warned, “Well you better take Sabbath a little at a time, or you’ll take it all at once, real sudden at the end.” Pastors are prone to burnout due to the demands of their role. Encourage them to practice self-care and to spend quality time with their families. Everyone deserves a day off each week. Some are fortunate enough to get two days called “the weekend.” One of the great things about being Baptist Christians is that the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer empowers laypersons to do pastoral ministry in many ways like their ordained pastors do. You can offer to cover some of their duties temporarily to give them a much-needed break.
- Offer support. The burdens of the pastorate are heavy. Being present with a listening ear, a kind word, or speaking up to that business meeting bully will be long remembered. I never expected church members to agree with “my” agenda, and some of the biggest moments of my early ministry were tough meetings where a key leader spoke up and said something like, “I’m not sure this is the right way to go, but let’s give it a shot.” It was a display of support that turned a group’s heart and vision forward and empowered my labors. Pastors, this requires trustworthiness in your character and your work. Church members, it requires faith on your part that your pastor is seeking God’s direction for your church.
- Pray for your pastor. Regularly pray for your pastors' well-being and that of their families. Pray for their work! So much of a pastor’s work is hidden and may never be known. Prayer brings strength to that work. And if you don’t like the way your pastor “pastors,” then pray about that. Few are encouraged by overly negative criticism, but all are lifted and changed by prayer. Even the person praying is changed!
Gary M. Long, Jr. is BGAV's Chief Marketing Officer.