SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. (BP) -- October is Pastor Appreciation Month. This is the month when many churches will take some time to show their appreciation to their pastor for his love and ministry over the past year. Some churches will take up a love offering for their pastor. Many will put a basket in the vestibule for members to place cards in with kind sentiments they want to share with their pastor. A few churches may even have a dinner or a reception -- a nice time to get together to express their feelings for their pastor.
All of these things are nice and good. In fact, I believe that it is a great idea for a church to take one month out of the year to do something special to show just how much they appreciate the time and effort, love and concern that their pastor has for them.
I know that I've been blessed in recent years by a church that does just that. Now, it wasn't always that way. When I first came to Temple Baptist Church I remember when one of our new staff members, who had come from a larger church in North Carolina that evidently knew how to show their love for their pastor, approached Temple's deacon chairman and asked him if the church ever had some sort of a pastor appreciation day. The chairman got a funny look on his face and said, "No. We never have. We just always paid 'em good." My new associate shared how strange that sentiment was to him. He just couldn't understand how a man so successful in the business world could overlook something so simple as expressing love and appreciation for a year's worth of ministry. I remember him telling me how his former church would try to outdo themselves every year when it came time for pastor appreciation month. I know that pastor had to appreciate all they did to show him their love.
As I was driving to the office this morning I was thinking through some of the gifts that I know I have appreciated over the years as a pastor and thought that I would share what I believe are the top ten gifts you should give your pastor, not just during Pastor Appreciation Month, but the other eleven months of the year as well.
1. Your prayers. This is the greatest gift you can give your pastor. If you don't love him like you should, begin to pray for him and you will. Of course, if you already love him, then you'll naturally want to pray for him. I've had several of our senior adults tell me when I call just to check in on them how they pray for me every day. That's fuel for more ministry!
2. Your love. A pastor who really shepherds his people will expend a great amount of love. His heart will be stretched and often broken. Next to your prayers, the greatest thing you can give your pastor is your love. By the way, if you love him, let him know it. Despite what some people think, I don't know of any pastor who has the ability to read minds. I can't tell you how many times I've received a card expressing a member's love and prayers just when I thought nobody in the church liked me, must less loved me.
3. Your unconditional support. Dr. Jim Henry told our deacons just last week that researchers say that other than being the president of the United States, the most stressful "job" is that of being the pastor of a local church. I remember years ago when one of our associate pastors was preaching, he made a statement that at first made me think that he was going to have to make a trip to the pastor's office. He said, "The pastor is not always perfect...." I knew that. Everybody knows that. I just didn't think that somebody would say it from the pulpit. Then he added, "But he is always the pastor."
4. A little grace. I'm amazed at how often people get their feelings hurt in church. Often it is because of something somebody did or said, or didn't do or didn't say. Sometimes that somebody is the pastor. The next time you start to get upset with your pastor, take just a minute, breathe and consider the possibility that he might just be human, too. Maybe, like you, he actually has good days and bad days. You never know what burden he might be carrying, what issue he's having to deal with. It might be something at church or at home. So, give a little grace and cut him some slack. You would want him to do the same for you.
5. A "good word" to your pastor. Everybody likes to hear when they've done something right or been a blessing to somebody. Maybe the sermon spoke to you. Perhaps the service blessed you. Maybe you appreciated his call or visit or you just like his tie. In a given week the average pastor hears a lot of things that he's done wrong. Take a moment and share something that he's done right.
6. A "good word" for your pastor. If your pastor is a gifted Bible preacher, a visionary leader, or a caring pastor, tell your friends. Invite them to come hear him preach, spend time with him. Brag on him. Make sure everybody knows just how great you think your pastor is. This will get out and back and will be a great gift of encouragement.
7. Your faithfulness. Recently I had lunch with a pastor friend of mine who's served the same church for nearly 20 years and he told me that instead of large receptions or lots of money, he'd rather just have his people be faithful. I completely agree. Money or cards don't begin to say what a family's faithfulness does. Your faithfulness to the ministry of your church says volumes about how much you really love and appreciate your pastor. Don't just say it or give it, show it.
8. Time with his family. He won't be any good to your family if he's not any good to his family. If you have a need that's not an emergency, leave a message and tell him that there's no hurry. Or, send an email or a direct message. No pastor minds taking a call or making a visit if there is a real need, but make sure it is a real need before your call in the evening or on the weekend when he's with his family. Another good idea is to insist, and if funds are available, make sure that the pastor and his family can have at least one week to get away on a vacation. In a day where most "faithful" church members miss at least one Sunday a month and take multiple trips or vacations a year, it's not asking too much to make sure that he and his family have at least one.
9. Time by himself. The demands of being a pastor today are exponentially greater than they were just 25 or 30 years ago. The pressure of meeting all the needs and living up to the expectations can get to the point that it just becomes too much to bear. This explains why so many pastors are burning out and quitting -- sometimes to never darken the door of a church with their families again. Let your pastor get away to a good conference where he can refresh. Send him on a hunting or fishing or golf trip. Whatever he likes to do. Allow him to recharge his batteries so that he can come back energized for the ministry the Lord has for him there.
10. A financial gift. There is a reason why this is last -- because it's last. For most pastors that I know and have talked to, a love offering is way down at the bottom of a list of things they would like to receive from their church. Most pastors don’t become pastors to get rich or have a lot of money. They do it because of the call of God on their life. So, consider giving a gift card for a nice meal. Or, even better, a little extra money to do whatever they want to do with it. Express your appreciation for the long hours of ministry and love that he gives, not just during the month of October, but the rest of the year as well.
These are just a few thoughts of a pastor who was raised in the home of a pastor and loves pastors. What gift will you give to your pastor today? Every day?
Brad Whitt is senior pastor of the Temple Baptist Church in Simpsonville, SC. This column first appeared at his website, BradWhitt.com.