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Posts Tagged ‘pastor appreciation’

Nine years ago, I was preparing to take a brief sabbatical at the church I pastored.

I had just finished the first draft of my doctoral project and sent it to my reader.  I also spent a lot of time trying to prepare church leaders for my absence.

On the Sunday in September before my time away, I was presented with an early pastoral appreciation gift … a very generous check.

Three years later, I was presented with another pastoral appreciation check … six times less than I had received three years before.

Needless to say, I felt … can I say it … unappreciated.

I wrote an article a few years ago on how to appreciate your pastor.  Now I’d like to write one on why you should appreciate your pastor.

Since October is Pastor Appreciation Month, let me share with you five reasons why churchgoers should appreciate their pastors:

First, your pastor said “yes” to God’s call.

When I was a staff member in a church four decades ago, one of the deacons continually gave me a hard time.  When I asked my pastor how to interpret his behavior, the pastor told me that this deacon had been called by God into ministry, but had told God “no,” and had always felt guilty about his decision.

But every pastor – including yours – has said “yes” to the call of God.

When you submit yourself to that call, you don’t know in advance what it means … where you’ll live … how much money you’ll make … or what kind of leaders you’ll have to work with.  So answering God’s call is an act of supreme faith.

In addition, that call usually involves receiving formal training for ministry, usually from a seminary.

In my case, it took me five years to earn my Master of Divinity degree because I had a full-time job when I was in school.  I left seminary debt-free, but many pastors are still paying back student loans they assumed during their seminary days.

Your pastor has sacrificed himself and his family to serve at your church.

Can you appreciate your pastor for that?

Second, your pastor probably works extremely hard.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, 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.  Live in peace with each other.

The first quality that Paul highlights in verse 12 is “those who work hard among you.”

Pastors work hard.  It’s not just the number of hours they work every week – usually more than 50.

It’s the intensity and the unpredictability of the work as well.

Pastoral work is intense because most pastors want to do their work perfectly.  They want to preach great sermons … counsel people so their problems are resolved … run the staff with efficiency and productivity … see their prayers for the sick and dying answered … and do it all without making a mistake.  (Because when they do, they’re liable to hear about it.)

Pastoral work is also unpredictable because pastors don’t have set schedules.  They don’t work 8-5 jobs.  They have to be available when people need them … when they aren’t working … which means nights and weekends.  In fact, I once heard Charles Swindoll say that churches whose pastors work several nights a week don’t tend to keep them.

My wife and I run a successful business together right now, and even though we work a combined 110-120 hours a week, we feel like we’re semi-retired because we have our nights and weekends free.

But in pastoral ministry, you have to work multiple nights a week … respond to emergencies on your day off … and do it all without knowing when you’ll have any “down time.”

In fact, you feel like you’re never off work, and that you’ll never finish working.

During my last ministry, I eventually wore down physically and emotionally because I couldn’t manage the ragtag schedule I felt was expected of me.

But somehow, your pastor is managing his schedule … doing his job … and showing up every Sunday.

Can you appreciate your pastor for that?

Third, your pastor has to endure a lot of internal flak.

Flak comes to a pastor in various ways: from notes written on welcome cards … emails he receives first thing Monday morning … anonymous letters … angry phone calls … and people who ask, “Pastor, can I come see you in your office?  I have something I’d like to discuss with you.”

During a pastor’s second or third year, the critics tend to come out in full force.  Sometime between years four and five, they coalesce and make their move, giving the pastor a subtle … or clear … ultimatum: “Either you leave or we will.”

According to church conflict expert Speed Leas, when a conflict hits this level, it cannot be resolved internally.  The pastor and/or board must bring in an interventionist from the outside to resolve the conflict, or the church … and the major players … may be damaged for a long time.

And most of the time, the church tries to resolve it internally … and fails.

Surprisingly, if pastors survive such an attack, they don’t quit their position or find another career … they just keep going … and some will have their best years ahead.

Nearly thirty years ago, I spoke to the president of my denomination on the phone about the possibility of moving to another church.  He told me that no matter where I went, I would have to pay a price.  Churches won’t grow if they don’t change … but when the pastor tries to institute change, he’ll be vilified by those who like things the way they are.

You’re probably not aware of it, but your pastor receives a lot of criticism, yet shows up every Sunday with a smile and a word from God.

Can you appreciate your pastor for that?

Fourth, your pastor experiences intense external opposition.

The less effective your pastor is, the more Satan will leave him alone.

The more effective your pastor is, the more Satan will target him for destruction.

Years ago, I saw a Christian film called Whitcomb’s War (which predated Frank Peretti’s book This Present Darkness).  A small church called a new pastor to lead them.

When the pastor started setting up his office, a group of demons gathered in the basement and planned their strategy to defeat him.

I don’t think we should attribute every conflict in a church to Satan.  After all, human beings must bear responsibility for their own actions.  But whenever deception and destruction are involved (John 8:44), Satan’s minions are definitely present.

Satan usually doesn’t defeat a pastor all at once.  Instead, he wears the pastor down over time until he’s tired of the fight and needs to move off the front lines.

But most pastors stay on the front lines anyway because that is where God placed them.

Can you appreciate your pastor for that?

Finally, your pastor has persevered through many discouraging days.

During my second pastorate, I was so discouraged that I wanted to quit every other Monday.

I read where Dallas Seminary professor Howard Hendricks said that he threatened to resign so many times that he finally wrote out a resignation letter and kept it in his desk.

That’s how I felt.  Little that I did worked out.  Most of what I tried bombed.  In fact, I became so depressed I could barely function.

I felt like quitting.  But what else was I going to do?  Like Bill Hybels used to say, we’ve been had.

I didn’t know it then, but my best days were ahead of me … and all the lessons I’d acquired in my first nine years of relatively unsuccessful ministry prepared me for the next twenty years of very successful ministry.

Many times, Paul’s words in Galatians 6:9 have helped me keep going:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Your pastor is still serving.  He has hung in there and hasn’t given up.

In fact, he’s your pastor.

Can you appreciate him for that?

How will you show or tell him?

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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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