October is Pastor Appreciation Month.
Having been in the ministry, I have conflicting feelings about Pastor Appreciation month. On the one hand, it is a very good reminder to the people to take a moment and let their pastor know how much you love them. On the other hand, it can be a very depressing time when a pastor hears about all the things other churches did for their pastor and your church did nothing at all to show that they love & appreciate you!
Now that my husband has retired from full-time ministry, I’ve decided that it wouldn’t be self-serving to remind everyone to take some time and really show your pastor that you appreciate him. Church members, you don’t have to wait to be prompted by your board to do something, do it on your own or at least remind the board members so they don’t forget.
Maybe you don’t realize the sacrifices made by pastors AND their families.
There are many.
- Pastoral families have left home and family to come and serve your church. They may be 100s or even 1000s of miles away from home. On top of that, they are seldom able to go home to see their families. They may even miss important events, like reunions and funerals, due to their service to you.
- In many cases, pastors are paid a minimal salary which barely meets their living expenses, even when a parsonage is provided.
- In order to get a degree and ordination in ministry, a minimum of 4-6 years is required at a private Christian College. Many times pastors are in serious debt before they even get started. They probably met their spouse at college, so they both have a lot of debt to pay on that minimal salary.
- Many pastors have a compassionate heart and they give much to the church financially and time-wise.
- Pastors are on call 24/7. They have missed many a family meal and their son’s ballgames due to a need within the church. I have known many, ourselves included, who have canceled vacations, even after they left home, due to a need in the church.
These are just a few of the sacrifices made by your pastor and why you should show a little appreciation, personally and corporately, once in a while.
So …. maybe you are wondering,
I’m glad you asked!
I did a little survey of all my ministry friends. I asked them, “What is the best thing a church has ever done for you?” and here are their replies….
- Cash is always good. Cash helps pay a few bills that they might be coming short on. Also, since Christmas is just around the corner, it may help them provide a nice Christmas for their children.
Cash can be given in the form of a bonus check (one week’s pay?) from the church board, or a love offering from the members. Give it in a nice card or something creative, like a money tree. You could tell your church in advance so they can all participate and bring their own handwritten notes with cash in them.
Cash offerings for special needs is great too. Our church raised over $1,000 when they heard I would be going to Mayo Clinic.
This is a good time to consider a salary raise. In our denomination, the suggestion is every time giving is increased by $1000 a month, you should consider a raise or bonus for your pastor. Board members, how about bringing the issue up every time you get a raise yourself? At least consider a cost of living increase every year.
2. Laymen Sunday. Surprise him by taking over the service and have a special service all about him. Have members read poems, do skits, give/write words of encouragement, give awards or certificates, sing songs. Follow this up with a nice lunch in his honor. Don’t forget the spouse and children. They have sacrificed much as well. At least give the spouse some flowers.
3. A Month of Meals. Have the parishioners sign up for a day in October. Each one can do whatever they like: a) invite the pastoral family to their home for dinner b) gift cards to restaurants c) bring in a hot meal d) take him/he & his wife/the family out for lunch. This is an excellent way for the pastor and his family to get to know all the people.
4. Food Pounding. Now I’m not talking about the “clean out your pantry” type food pounding. One of our churches came to me and had me make a list of grocery items. The board had me write down all the normal food items that most of us probably purchase every week. They didn’t stop there; but, instructed me to write down those food items that we liked and would buy, “if money were no object.” You know, those things that we like to treat ourselves and our children to occasionally. They told us to make a nice long list. Then the church members selected items and purchased them for us. It was an amazing food pounding. We had a freezer and a pantry full of food. My grocery bill dropped significantly for several months. Now that was a blessing!
5. Dinner for Two and Childcare Provided. What couple wouldn’t love a romantic date night with no cost to them? Find a 5 star restaurant and get a gift certificate. Then arrange for someone to take care of the children. (And take away his cell phone. Let the board members take care of any issue that arise during that time.)
6. Photo Album with pictures and handwritten notes from everyone. This sounds like a wonderful thing to do at the beginning of a pastorate. What an awesome way to start making face connections with the people.
7. All Expense Paid Getaway. Every pastor and wife can use a break now and again. They often don’t take the vacation time they are allocated. This could be a weekend getaway or a week or two long trip. Your pastor will return refreshed and ready to serve the church even better than before. There are many choices here … a) retreat centers for pastors. Many places give discounts for pastors. b) a Bed & Breakfast c) a mountain cabin d) a beach/lake house e) cruise f) trip to Hawaii or Israel g) It could be that someone in your church has a vacation home somewhere they would share or offer at a discount.
8. Pay Student Loans. One couple reported that their church made their student loan payments for over 12 years while they served there. What a huge blessing.
9. A Car. You might have to have some connections with a local car dealer. We knew a pastor who received a new car every year. Think about it … no church wants their pastor to break down in an old clunker trying to get to the hospital to be with a church member. This would be a way to keep that from happening. [Just as a benefit, even allowing him/her to drive the church van would be awesome. It keeps the van in good driving order. And it’s advertisement for the church while he drives it around town.]10. His and Her Watches. I hadn’t heard this one before but this is a very nice thoughtful gift, especially for a special year such as 25 years in ministry or serving your church.
11. Special Gift Items. Listen closely and learn the interests of your pastor and wife. If you listen, you will get some great gift ideas. Items that they are really wanting but cannot afford. What are their hobbies? Even if you can’t provide the item, you may be able to give a gift certificate towards it. Do they like to golf? Give a membership to a country club. You get the idea. Giving them what they need to take breaks is a benefit that reaps rewards.
Remember that just because you are giving a gift to a minister doesn’t mean it has to be religious in nature. He probably has all the Bibles he needs. A nice picture for the living room is nice, but it doesn’t have to be a picture of Jesus or a church. Pastors are regular people too! Of course, that doesn’t mean he might not enjoy a new notepad computer to preach from either.
12. Please don’t ignore the pastor’s wife and his children. They are part of the ministry whether she is working elsewhere or not. She has given many sacrifices and she has done more than you know for the church. Something small goes a long way…. maybe flowers or something for her hobby. A toy or game for the children or maybe a few dollars depending on the age. If you love the spouse and children, your pastor will be more than thrilled and the church will reap the benefits.
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2 Things to remember:
- If at all possible, don’t wait until the last Sunday in October to plan your special day. Do it early and he will be more surprised. When you wait till the last week, it kinda feels like your forgot and pulled something together at the last moment.
- Remember your associate pastors too. They may be bi-vocational or not, but they put in a lot of unknown hours to work with your teens, create awesome worship, or whatever ministry they do.
Have fun with this. Remember that a little appreciation and encouragement goes a long way. Watch for another post of “Ways to Love Your Pastor all Year Long!”
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