October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month.
By Bob Terry
The Alabama Baptist
The fairly new volunteer leader in the church was skilled at pricking people with his “verbal needle.” His pastor was a frequent target. On this day the young man was “teasing” the pastor about working only a day and a half each week — Sundays and Wednesday evenings.
You know the kind of things he said. “Easy job.” “How can you accept a check with any kind of integrity?” “What do you do with the rest of your week?” “I wish I had such a lush position.”
Instead of defending himself or crawling into a corner and sulking because he wasn’t appreciated, the pastor invited the young man to join him for a typical day in the life of a pastor.
The day began with a 5 a.m. visit to the surgery unit of the local hospital where a member was scheduled for a serious surgery. At 7 a.m. there was a discipleship breakfast in a local restaurant where the pastor led a discipling group.
At 8:30 the pastor and the young leader arrived at the church office for a brief meeting with the church secretary to make sure everything was being readied for mid-week activities.
After making a few calls, the two men were back in the car headed to a local funeral home to review plans for the funeral of an elderly member whose funeral was the next day. Then they made another stop at the home of the family of the deceased for prayer and grief support.
A busy day
At every stop, there were impromptu interactions. People wanted to ask the pastor a question or get his advice about a situation. The pastor inquired about how someone’s family member was doing with recovery. The pastor seemed to know the names of countless people. He knew their family members and their situations.
The pastor seemed to pivot continuously from comforting the grieving to caring for the anxious to counseling the confused to celebrating with the joyful. He moved back and forth from representing the church to the community to directing the internal work of the church. He did it all almost effortlessly.
The day was a busy day. The pastor did not get home until after stopping by the local ballfields that evening to encourage the men playing on the church league softball team.
The young church leader had bailed long before then. He left shortly after lunch at the local hamburger place. But the young man left a wiser person.
His pastor did not just preach on Sunday or teach the Bible on Wednesday. His pastor was busy about the Lord’s work all day long. The young man had seen the pastor turn casual conversations into evangelism opportunities by reminding people of the importance of trusting Christ. He had listened as the pastor used visits at the hospital and at the funeral home to teach the truths of God’s never-ending care.
The young man had watched his pastor empower lay leaders with his counsel. He had observed the smoothness with which administrative decisions about the church were made and implemented. He had seen the pastor reach out into the community in the name of Christ and the name of the church he served.
According to the story, the young man never applied his verbal needle to the pastor again. Instead he became an outspoken supporter of his pastor. He even worked for a raise in the pastor’s salary.
Not that unusual
While this story is about a particular pastor in a particular situation, the story is not that unusual.
Many are the pastors and other church staff members whose work is never done. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They slip between roles as evangelist, counselor, encourager, problem solver, relationship mender and more with each phone call or knock on the door.
Is it any wonder that one study by Fuller Institute of Church Growth found 50 percent of pastors felt they were unable to meet the needs of their churches? Is it surprising that 70 percent of responding pastors reported a lower view of their abilities and self-esteem than when they started in ministry?
Pastors did not complain about their long days, but 90 percent of them did say they felt inadequately trained to cope with all the ministry demands.
And in the midst of all these demands the pastors felt alone. Seventy percent reported not having someone they considered a close friend, someone who shared their vision for ministry and was willing to get involved with them.
Some pastors even expressed reservations about being leaders because leading a church requires risk. Preaching against sin invites criticism from a member with a different viewpoint. Lead the church to make a decision that a prominent donor disagrees with and watch the offerings dry up. Initiate a ministry outreach and watch someone attempt to stir up opposition.
How can one lead when every sermon is dissected and every decision second guessed? How can one lead when concerned about the well-being of one’s family or one’s future in ministry? No one can lead a people whom they fear.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month on the denominational calendar. Hopefully Pastor Appreciation services are times when verbal needles like that of the young man in the story are put away and church members acknowledge the important roles their pastor and other church ministers play in the life of the church, the lives of church members and the community.
Hopefully the occasion will be a time marked by appreciation, affirmation and prayer support for the pastor and lessening of any negative emotions that might prevent a positive and healthy relationship between pastor and people.
Having a Pastor Appreciation Month is a good thing. It reminds us not to let a good deed go unnoticed. Even so, appreciation, affirmation and prayer support are needed every day.
This year, make sure your pastor knows he can count on you to be his partner in the work of the church and that he can count on you as a supporter and friend.