October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I’ve found it to be one of the most awkward pseudo-holidays in existence, mainly because nobody knows exactly what to get their preacher. In light of those struggles, I thought I might share a list of a few things I’d really love for Pastor Appreciation. Some of these things apply to pastors as a whole, and some of them are pretty specific to me. Regardless, this month doesn’t have to be a competition to see which churches want to financially bless their pastors the most. In fact, you’ll many of the things which would mean the most don’t cost a penny.
So without any further adieu, here are 10 Things I’d Love for Pastor Appreciation Month:
1. Rest. If most pastors were honest, they very seldom get entire weekends without some kind of church obligation or function to attend to, or at the very least a couple church related phone calls they can’t ignore. Sometimes I’d love nothing more than a Friday and a Saturday to truly Sabbath, two entire days to just put the phone down, knowing I’m not neglecting anything, and enjoy a little bit of rest.
2. Love my family. My wife and son give up just as much as I do, and they didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. They didn’t choose to go to seminary and pursue ministry, they were married/born into it. The best way to love me is to love my family. Bring my son some candy to church. Get my wife some flowers or a gift card to get her nails done. Volunteer to babysit one night so my wife and I can go on a date. Heck, just give them a hug and tell them you’re thankful for them. I promise you they can never hear that enough.
3. Some Sunday morning peace. You know what pastors love to do right before they preach the infallible word of God? Talk about an announcement they need to make, or the kind of candy you should put in the foyer, or a complaint about the sound system, or hear about someone’s 3rd cousin who had an appendectomy and needs a hospital visit. (Sarcasm.) I, and most pastors I know, take the responsibility of preaching God’s word very seriously. Many of us have been up since the crack of dawn, if we were able to sleep at all, in prayerful anticipation of the sermon God has laid on our heart to preach. One of the greatest gifts you could ever give me is waiting until AFTER the service to handle a housekeeping issue, and allow me to enter the pulpit in the same reverent and Christ-focused manner in which I prepared the message.
4. Buy-in. Support. Unity. Trust. Whatever you want to call it. I know that’s a lot to ask sometimes, but to be completely honest, without the presence of buy-in your other gifts don’t really mean a whole lot. If you don’t believe I’m the man God’s calling to pastor this church, and you don’t trust my decision-making or leadership, it doesn’t do either of us much good for you to give me a Starbucks giftcard. (But I do love Starbucks. Hint hint.) Sometimes as pastors we hear so much noise and negativity, it’s hard to know who’s in your corner. One of the best gifts I can get is knowing you believe in the same God-ordained vision for our church that I do.
5. Celebrate a small victory. Come tell me how excited you were to see that new family at church Sunday. Tell me you’re glad to hear about the student who gave their life to Christ last Wednesday night. Let me know about your friend who had nothing but great things to say about their visit to our church. Sometimes I get so blinded by all the little “issues” I deal with from day to day, it’s hard to see those little victories. Knowing those stories, and knowing you see them too, can be all the encouragement a pastor needs some days.
6. Volunteer. This is especially great if you attend a small church where your pastor is a vital participant in every ministry. For example, on Wednesday nights, I drive a van to pick up kids, help with dinner, teach a class, and drive a van again to drop kids off after church. On Sunday mornings, I have an Elder’s meeting at 8, teach a lesson in our Campfire Kids group at 9:30, preach at 10:30, and lock the building up at 12 or so after everyone leaves. The things I don’t do personally normally get delegated to the same 10 or 12 volunteers every time. Even if you can’t volunteer regularly, give a little bit of your time to participate in the mission of the church. It warms by heart to watch Christ’s church truly be his hands and feet.
7. Compassion. Most of us will never admit it, but sometimes pastors shudder when they see certain people approaching them. Not because we don’t love those people, but because we know these
people have an agenda behind every kind or caring thing they say. It’s incredibly refreshing when people ask how I’m doing because they genuinely care about my well-being as a person, not because they’re warming me up to ask for something. For at least a moment, check agendas at the door and simply show some human to human compassion to your pastor. Don’t ask for anything, don’t offer any suggestions, don’t share the latest gossip, don’t talk about a meeting, just ask how we’re doing and show you care.
8. Go an entire week without posting about politics on Facebook. This is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but it’s driving me insane. I already know who you’re voting for, we’ve all made up our minds, let’s just quit being weird and hateful online for a little while.
9. A thank you. This could be in person, a heartfelt card, or a variety of things. Sometimes our vision can get clouded by all the little fires we fight week to week. It’s nice to be reminded sometimes that our efforts make a difference. So say thank you for something. Tell your pastor a sermon really spoke to you, you appreciated their visit, or how much your teenage son enjoys playing basketball with them. Those are the little moments that mean the world.
10. Coffee. Other than the Holy Spirit, it’s the one thing that keeps me functioning each and every day. I may not be a great pastor, but I’d be significantly worse without coffee. K-cups, a Starbucks card, a bag of coffee from Wal-Mart, coffee in any form is always a welcome gift.