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Posts Tagged ‘pastor appreciation month’

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

If you regularly attend a church, how grateful are you for its pastor(s)?

The concept of showing appreciation to our spiritual leaders is biblical.  Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica:

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

What form might this take today?

I won’t presume to speak for other pastors … just for myself … but here are four appreciation expressions I always cherished:

First, I was touched whenever someone wrote me a note about my ministry.

When I first became a pastor, I stood at the back door after the Sunday service to greet people as they were leaving.  I enjoyed meeting “my flock,” but sometimes, the comments I heard seemed insincere.  For example, a fairly well-known pastor and his wife visited our worship service one time, and as she passed me at the door, she stopped and said. “Good diction.”  I could have done without that “compliment!”

Joe Aldrich used to call this the “glorify the worm” ceremony.  It’s almost like people feel obligated to say something positive about the service and sermon … even if they don’t mean it.

So, like many pastors, I eventually stopped greeting people at the door after the service, preferring to remain up-front, especially so I could pray with people who had a problem.  Although not my intent, this meant that if someone wanted to express appreciation for the message, they had to seek me out after the service.  By doing this, I received far less feedback – and sometimes no feedback at all.

But if someone sent me an encouraging email that night or a gracious note later in the week, their thoughtfulness lifted my spirits.  For years, I kept an email folder titled “Thank Yous” and would re-read those notes if I was doubting my ministry effectiveness.  To this day, I keep a box filled with notes of appreciation from those in past churches.

The best notes don’t say, “Thank you for your message/ministry, pastor.”  The best notes say, “God really used you to speak to my heart today.  I’m going to ask God to help me change this area of my life.”

Do that, and your pastor might break out into praise … or tears.

Second, I was touched whenever someone gave me a book as a gift.

For centuries, books were the tools that pastors used to prepare sermons.  With biblical software, the internet, and e-books, the hardbound or softbound book isn’t as popular as it once was … but books still have great value for many of us in ministry.

During my first staff position – as a youth pastor – the youth group gave me The Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon when I graduated from seminary.  Still have that set.  (Although you can now get it on your Kindle for free.)

When I left my second staff position, a deacon gave me a book of poetry.  He wrote something inside like, “No church could ever have tested you like this one.”  (He was right!)  Another family gave me a set of commentaries by J. Vernon McGee.

In my last ministry, one man gave me a book on Joe DiMaggio signed by the author.  A woman gave me a book called Jesus CEO.  Someone else gave me an old set of Spurgeon’s sermons.

It can be a challenge to buy books for a pastor – some have extensive libraries – but even a gift certificate to buy books from Amazon is most appropriate.  Craftsmen can always use new tools.

Third, monetary gifts are welcome during Pastor Appreciation Month.

Many churches send out a letter to the congregation and ask people to give a special gift to their pastor(s) every October.  You won’t believe what a blessing this is.

During my last ministry, I took a sabbatical of six weeks after seven years of service.  Before I left, the church collected a pastor appreciation gift a month early so I could use that gift during my time away.  Although things went south at that church several years later, I will never forget the kindness and generosity of that congregation for most of my time there.

Those unexpected funds allowed my wife and me to buy some things we couldn’t normally afford.  One time, I bought my wife a large Goldilocks chair.  Another time, I purchased a marvelous recliner – one I still use every single day.

And when I see those chairs, I’m reminded of the gracious people who sacrificed so we could occasionally take time to relax!

Finally, the best gift is to know that people in the congregation are walking with the Lord.

In 2 John 4, the apostle John writes:

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.

If your church paid your pastor $500,000 a year, but no one was growing spiritually, that pastor would be poor indeed.

But if your church barely paid your pastor enough to live on, but God’s people were truly walking with the Lord, that pastor would be rich!

Few pastors venture into ministry to become wealthy.  We enter ministry because God has called and equipped us to serve His people.

And whenever the pastor can tell that believers are growing in their faith, he knows he is doing what God called him to do.

I’m getting to the age where I don’t know how many years I have left.  Two?  Ten?  Twenty-five?  Only God knows.

But if someone has touched my life – especially for the Lord – then I want them to know now how much they’ve meant to me.

And so I thank God for three pastors who have touched my life deeply:

*For Pastor Bill Brittin, who dedicated me as an infant.  Years later, I served as his youth pastor for 3 1/2 years.  To this day, he’s the only man I call “pastor.”  He is now with Jesus.

*For Dr. Earl Grant, the first pastor I ever worked for.  I only served under him for two years, but learned enough to last a lifetime.  He performed my wedding ceremony … because I married his daughter.

*For Pastor Dave Rolph, my friend for 45 years.  Dave and I took English and Greek together at Biola, sat in the back row together at chapel four days a week at Talbot Seminary, and graduated together 33 years ago.  Dave has always been there for me, and it’s been exciting to see the way God has used him both in his churches and on the radio.

When is the last time you expressed appreciation to one of your pastors?

If they’re still around, how about doing just that … maybe this week?

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I witnessed a wonderful scene this evening.

A church voted to extend a call to a new pastor.

I’m currently serving as an interim pastor at a church in the Northeast.  The church’s founding pastor resigned a few months ago and the leaders quickly assembled a search team and began searching for a new pastor in earnest.

The search team received resumes … sent out questionnaries … interviewed candidates on the phone … interviewed candidates on Skype … reviewed resumes … read the answers to questionnaires … and prayed passionately that God would lead their church to the right person.

Several weeks ago, the search team invited a candidate and his wife to the church for a weekend.  The candidate met various leaders, preached in two services, and answered questions in group settings.

Then he went home to await word of the congregation’s decision.

The atmosphere this evening at the church was electric.  The worship center was packed.  As members entered the sanctuary, their names were checked off of the membership roster and each member was handed a ballot.

The board chairman announced the process … thanked the search team … read Scripture … prayed … and then asked the members to cast their votes.

While they were being counted, the congregation sang enthusiastically to the Lord.

When the vote was announced, the pastor overwhelmingly won a plurality of the ballots cast.

After the pastor’s call was announced, people were invited to stay for cake and coffee.

The process of calling a pastor is long … and tedious … and frustrating … and nerve-wracking … and very, very emotional.

So when a pastor is finally called, it’s a glorious day for the church … and for the pastoral candidate himself.

Pastors are gifts from the risen Christ to His church.  Ephesians 4:11-12 says: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …”

People from this church have come up to me and said, “Thank you so much for driving across the country to come to our church.  When our pastor left, we didn’t know what we were going to do.  We’re so glad you’re here!”

Those sentiments say little about me … but quite a bit about how much the presence of a pastor means to a church.

It’s Pastor Appreciation Month.  I hope your church invites the congregation to donate toward a generous gift for your pastor and/or pastoral staff … and that you donate toward that gift.

But there are many ways to thank your pastor for who he is and what he does.  There are websites that can suggest many more ideas for you.

But whatever you do, and however you do it, let your pastor know in a personal way how glad you are that he’s your pastor.

Before tonight’s meeting, I spent a few minutes talking with a lay leader who worked closely with the church’s previous pastor.  This leader viewed himself as the pastor’s protector.  He told me stories about how he used to contact people whenever someone was unhappy with the pastor.

In other words, he was the pastor’s “spiritual bodyguard.”

When a pastor has a few such bodyguards around him, he can minister in a freer and more effective manner … as long as his bodyguards don’t turn around and stab him in the back.

Assuming your pastor is a gift from the risen Christ to your church …

How can you let him know you’re thankful for him?

I’d love to hear your ideas!

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