Clergy Appreciation Month is Oct.
Clergy Appreciation Day is Oct. 11th
Sometimes pastors are the loneliest people in the church. Often their hours are long, the pay minimal,
the criticism considerable and constant.
Paul's warning to "serve one another in love" (Gal. 5:13 ) should
encourage us to remember our shepherds. Here are eight ways to make their
a little brighter.
Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, creator and host of television's "Mr.
Roger's Neighborhood," recently gave an address describing the time he was a
student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and attended a different church
each Sunday in order to hear a variety of preachers.
One Sunday he was treated to "the most poorly crafted sermon (he) had ever
heard." But when he turned to the friend who had accompanied him, he found
her in tears.
"It was exactly what I needed to hear," she told Rogers.
"That's when I realized," he told his audience, "that the space between
someone doing the best he or she can and someone in need is holy ground. The
Holy Spirit had transformed that feeble sermon for her—and as it turned out,
for me too."
Unlike most workers who are evaluated once or twice a year, clergy are often
critiqued weekly after each worship service. It's not unusual to hear people
say "the music was poor," "the hymn selection was awful," or "the sermon was
boring." We would do well to remember that most spiritual leaders work hard
to make worship a unique celebration each week.
Ask God to shower your pastor with an abundance of love, hope, joy, faith,
peace, power, wisdom, and courage. Pray for your spiritual leader's maturity
and growth in the faith. As you pray keep in mind this wisdom from German
writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "If you treat a person as he is, he will
stay as he is; but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be, he
will become what he ought to be and could be."
A spoken compliment is always welcome, but I forget spoken works too easily,
and so I have appreciated those who have served me by sending notes of
encouragement at just the right moment. Like times I've battled to maintain
my faith, and friends write to tell of their own struggles and God's
faithfulness. There was the time I started to regret not getting a teaching
degree. A friend wrote a note to say, "Thank you for teaching me so much,"
reminding me a degree wasn't necessary to teach others. I remember the times
I've felt wounded by grief and notes that said, " I care or I'm praying for
you" lifted my spirits. I reread the notes that say, "You are a wonderful
friend" when I'm feeling like a horrible person. It's amazing that a few
words arranged in the proper order can bring such relief to an aching heart.
I will always cherish those who serve me with their words.
Are you proficient with computers? Help your pastor master the church's new
computer. Are you a mechanic? Offer to service the car free of charge or at
a reduced fee.
One pastor I know recalls:
"I was ministering to my first church—a small
congregation with limited resources. While there, I developed a series of
dental problems and could not afford treatment. What a joy it was when a
dentist in the church offered to treat me for free. Correcting my dental
problem involved nearly a dozen visits. He treated me carefully and
cheerfully each time. I have thought of that dentist many times since then
and the memories of his kindness continue to bless my life."
If you hear a negative comment, respond with a positive one. If
misinformation is being spread, correct it with the accurate information.
Or, if people are gossiping, just walk away. Remember the Bible soundly
condemns gossip and careless speech. James 1:26 says, "If anyone considers
himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he
deceives himself and his religion is worthless." And Psalm 34:13 reads,
"Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies."
Some people make their spiritual leaders defensive and angry by saying, "You
need to …" That approach is seldom welcome and almost always
counterproductive. If you see a need, approach your spiritual leader by
saying, "I'd like to help by …" If you see an area that can be improved,
take responsibility for working on it.
Be an active participant in your church. Get involved by teaching a class,
leading a workshop, singing in the choir, feeding the hungry. Ask your
spiritual leader where and how you can employ your gifts.
Nothing excites a spiritual leader so much as seeing people respond
to the preaching and teaching. Imagine the surprise and delight of a pastor
in Virginia Beach, Virginia, who, when greeting a visitor to his church,
found she came because of the kindness of a church member who was her
"I'm recently divorced, a single parent and new to this community," she told
the pastor. "To keep up with rent and provide for my three children, I must
work two jobs. That leaves me very little time for yard work. I was relieved
when the weeds didn't overrun my yard as I had feared they might. However,
when I made an unscheduled trip home in the middle of my workday, I
discovered the reason why the weeds had not taken over my yard.
"My 86-year-old neighbor—a member of your church—was on his hands and knees
pulling my weeds. I barely knew this man and he was embarrassed to be caught
in this anonymous act of kindness. He explained that he heard you preach a
sermon on the importance of living a life of compassion and kindness and
decided to put that sermon into practice by weeding my lawn."
One pastor's heart filled with joy when a group of women in Washington,
D.C., responded to a sermon preached from the words of Jesus—"Do not judge,
or you too will be judged" (Matt. 7:1). After hearing the sermon, the women
decided to give a baby shower for the young woman who provided childcare
while they met for Bible study. She was unmarried, close to going on
welfare, and without support from her family or the father-to-be. The young
woman was moved to tears by the surprise baby shower.
Later, the women explained to the pastor, "Your sermon taught us that it's
possible to reach out to someone in need—in this case, an unwed
mother—without judging or condoning the situation."
Don't expect that your present spiritual leaders will do things the same way
their predecessors did. Lay aside personal agendas and preferences. Instead,
focus on how your leader is being used by God to do effective ministry now.
By serving your shepherds, you will ensure that they will not only be
encouraged but will feel appreciated and continue to minister with
enthusiasm and energy.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill
cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck-measure
but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light
so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5: 14-16