Did you know that Thanksgiving sometimes comes in October?
Well, not the official Thanksgiving, but elements of thanksgiving have found their way into October in many congregations, because the second Sunday in October has been designated as Clergy Appreciation Day, and some congregations observe this spirit of Thanksgiving all month long!
The Apostle Paul may have been the first to express the sense of Clergy Appreciation Day in the church. In 1 Timothy, he wrote, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching" (1 Tim. 5:17). And, in 1 Thessalonians, he said, "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 Thess. 5:12-13).
Focus on the Family named and began emphasizing October as Clergy Appreciation Month in 1994. It was established with the mission of uplifting and encouraging pastors, missionaries and religious workers.
My work as Coordinator for Pastoral Ministry has reinforced my perception that pastors and congregations absolutely need Clergy Appreciation Day or Month. Not all, but many, of the pastors and church staff members that I encounter are overworked, underpaid, and exhausted. They shoulder many responsibilities, and feel the weight of great burdens. Nationally, pastors experience a very high rate of burnout and marital and financial stress. Leadership Magazine (Spring, 2014), published these sobering statistics:
- 80% of pastors are discouraged in their role as pastors
- 40% of pastors seriously considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months
- 50% of pastors say they are unable to meet the demands of their job and are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living
- For every 20 pastors who go into ministry, only one retires from the ministry
- 25% of pastors have been forced out or fired from their ministry at least once
- 45% of pastors say they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they need to take a leave of absence
- 70% of pastors say they do not have a single close friend, and the same percentage say they have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.
—Statistics from Fail: Finding Hope and Failure in the Midst of Ministry Failure (IVP, 2014).
Thrivingpastor.com offers this information:
Clergy Appreciation Month is a special time that congregations set aside each year to honor their pastors and pastoral families for the hard work, sacrificial dedication and multiple blessings provided by these special people . . . .
The nature of the service provided by pastors and their families is unique. God has entrusted to them one of the most precious of assignments — the spiritual well-being of His flock. When a pastor becomes ineffective, the very souls of his or her parishioners are endangered. When eternity is in the balance, we should all be concerned.
Hosanna! Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Illinois, has observed Clergy Appreciation Month for years, and the smile on Pastor John Nelson’s face is testimony to the love that has been shown and showered over the many years he’s been pastor there! When I visited Hosanna! earlier this year and he asked how they might support our larger Association, I said, "why don’t you figure out a way to share Hosanna!’s great way of showing appreciation?" So, when I saw him a few months later, he had compiled a sample brochure that congregations could consider adapting and using to publicize their own pastor and staff appreciation emphasis.
When discussing this possibility with the LCMC Ministry Board, members recognized that many pastors are underappreciated while many already feel deeply appreciated; others wanted to be sure the congregations consider the entire church staff when showing appreciation. Well, rather than doing nothing, we’re forwarding a few suggestions.
There are literally dozens of resources available online (just search “Pastor Appreciation”). Check out ThrivingPastor.Com, Focusonthefamily.com, or Biblegateway.com. You can even find FaceBook and Pinterest pages devoted to pastor/staff appreciation. There’s even a blog post on what not to get your pastor for pastor appreciation month!
Finally, thanks to Pastor John Nelson, Hosanna! Lutheran Church, and Kristy Thomas, LCMC’s Communications and Public Relations Specialist, here’s a link to a downloadable brochure for your consideration.
If you want to be creative, use your own imagination or find out when your pastor was ordained (you might find an ordination certification on the wall of her/his office), and celebrate on their anniversary of ordination.
However, whenever, if ever you choose to show your appreciation to your pastor and staff, whether individually or collectively, be sure to pray for them and all of those who serve Christ, making your prayer with joy, thankful for their partnership with you in the Gospel from the first day until now (loose paraphrase of Philippians 1:5).
Your Partner in the Gospel,
Pastor Steve Lien
Coordinator for Pastoral Ministry
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