Clergy Appreciation: Honoring the Person and the Call
- 2006 29 Sep
It’s Sunday morning, and the church is beginning to fill. The pastor quietly considers the people sitting in the pews that morning. He knows many of their stories:
- The family grieving the son they recently lost in a motorcycle accident
- The couple he saw on Tuesday for a counseling session
- The dad who just lost his job
- The newlyweds whose ceremony he conducted just last month
- The grandmother struggling with the effects of her chemo and radiation therapy.
Yes, the pastor knows all these stories — and many more. As the service begins, he bows his head and prays that the words he speaks will be the words of God — words that will comfort, confront, encourage and engage his people to more authentic life in Christ.
But even as he ministers to and for his flock, the pastor and his family have their own story. It’s a story that those in the congregation may not know:
His reluctant daughter, sporting a new tattoo, is angry and tired of being under the “pastor’s kid” microscope… With a salary that is markedly less than the average income of those he serves, his personal financial pressures are unrelenting… His schedule never seems to allow enough time alone, time with his spouse or time with his children… And denominational duties often make it seem that his professional life is one big meeting after another.
Clergy Appreciation Month
A pastor’s job is as difficult as it is important. As our shepherds, teachers, mentors and God’s chosen servants, pastors exercise great love for the people of their congregation. But they also must contend with their own families, personal lives, and finite resources of time, energy, and finances.
In October, you have a chance to say thank you. October is Clergy Appreciation Month. It’s a special time set aside to recognize and honor our pastors for all they do and all that they are.
At Pastors Retreat Network, we hear great stories of churches and individuals who already understand the importance of thanking their pastors in meaningful, tangible ways. These three real-life examples give a partial picture:
One pastor talks about the elderly woman whose weekly notes (each accompanied by a piece of his favorite candy) tell him that she’s praying for him.
Another minister’s face softens at the memory of a parishioner who offered to watch her children one afternoon so the pastor could have some time for herself.
A clergy couple smiles widely as they remember the gift certificate to a nice restaurant, complete with free babysitting, given to them by a small group in the congregation.
What about you?
October is the perfect time to tell your pastors how much you appreciate their faithfulness to God and their service to your church.
Be creative. Make your expressions of gratitude both tangible and meaningful. Need a little inspiration? Follow the examples above or thoughtfully read the list below. As you’ll see, there are lots of ways to get started.
Offer assistance on a personal project (mow the pastor’s grass when he is not at home) or a project around the church (do a little spring cleaning or straighten up the church library.).
Take an ongoing responsibility off the pastor’s shoulders. The possibilities are almost endless. Could you stuff bulletins, pick up left-behind articles after the service, make the coffee for fellowship time or come in early to open the building?
Stop the rumor mill — don’t spread gossip, no matter how juicy or under what disguise.
Get to know your pastor as a person — what he likes, special anniversaries and birthdays (send a note, card or flowers!) Invite him to participate in a shared interest and do so without an agenda.
If the pastor is far from her families of origin, invite her family to your house for holidays and other celebrations, no strings attached. And say the blessing yourself!
In times of loss or transition, offer sympathy, care, and support.
Allow the pastor’s kids to be kids.
Recognize that people in the pew (including you!) just don’t know a lot that goes on behind the scenes of a church. Extending grace and mercy instead of criticism and judgment will go a long way toward building a healthy faith community.
Support your pastor’s spiritual health by:
Honoring his day off
Asking how you can pray for him and then doing so regularly
As a congregation, offer the gift of time away from the church. Go beyond vacation benefits and church conferences to give the pastor and his or her spouse time together on a personal retreat. Pay for their transportation, and find someone to care for the kids, the dog, and the church. Respect this time away as sacred, personal time — no phone calls while they’re away or probing questions when they return.
A Personal Spiritual Retreat
The last item in the list above — a personal spiritual retreat — is one that we at Pastors Retreat Network know a little something about. A true spiritual retreat is different from a church conference or a vacation. It is an intentional time away from regular activities and structures to pursue the most important relationships of all, those with God and spouse.
The goal is not to strategize about how to build a bigger church, solve a major issue, prepare sermons, do denominational work or otherwise accomplish long-neglected tasks. Unlike some “getaways,” a pastor will not return from a true spiritual retreat more exhausted than she was at the beginning.
A spiritual retreat is an intentional time set aside to stop the regular activities of life and ministry, thereby opening up a space to rest and listen for God. The pastor reads and reflects on the Bible for personal reasons, prays for personal issues and insight, listens to God and delights in His company.
Pastors Retreat Network provides just this kind of experience. Over five days, pastors and spouses take time away at one of our three retreat locations—free of charge. There are no classes and no schedules. God creates his own lesson plan in each heart. Through Scripture, fellowship, times of solitude and the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit, guests experience the presence of God. The lovely natural settings relax mind and body, while abundant laughter and understanding fellowship serve as the release necessary for a deeper experience of God and one another.
To learn more about Pastors Retreat Network’s programs and services, request an invitation or make a contribution, please visit www.pastorsretreatnetwork.org. While you’re there, check the “What’s New” page, where you can download a free certificate to present the gift of a personal spiritual retreat to your pastor.
Every day, your pastor is at work building your community of faith. You, too, have a role to play in this important work. And showing your gratitude to the pastor is a great place to start.
Why not begin by simply saying thank you to your pastor — creatively, tangibly, actively, sincerely. Then, keep the “gratitude attitude” going throughout the year. It’s the kind of gift that will mean more than you could ever imagine.
Betty Mulloy joined Pastors Retreat Network in 1998 after more than 20 years in human services. In her current role, Betty trains and supports program staff, oversees program quality and the development of new sites, and coordinates the marketing aspects of the ministry. She is a graduate of Lakeland College and is pursuing a Masters in Spiritual Formation and Leadership through Spring Arbor University.