As we move into October, most people start to think such things as the upcoming holidays, apple picking, cool weather, getting out those cozy sweaters and jackets and all things pumpkin spice. These are some of my favorite things. Maybe they are yours as well. Yet, there is one more thing I urge you to think about in October, and that is your pastor.
October is Clergy Appreciation month. Now more than ever, our clergy need our support, our gratitude, and our encouragement. Ministry is an amazing call, full of great joys and significant moments in people's lives: officiating weddings, presiding over funerals, seeing first-hand how lives are changed for Christ. Yet, it is also full of tension: intense conflict, unrealistic expectations, relational strain, and, at times, soul-aching loneliness.
Pastors are used to the jokes about "only working on Sundays," sitting through budget meetings in which the first thing church members talk about reducing is their salary or benefits, and feeling the sting of criticism when church members complain about everything from the Sunday morning music selections to the numbers of worshippers attending services. However, usually what offsets these stresses and disappointments are the times when pastors feel like they are making a difference and when they are able to connect with people on a deeper level.
For more than six months now, as pastors have learned on the fly how to pastor in a pandemic, their job descriptions have expanded, the expectations of them have grown, and they have had little to no time away from the ever coming waves of pastoral care, administrative oversight and worship preparation. Although they might not tell you this, because they do not want to diminish the stress and strain they know you are carrying, they are tired; they are weary; and they are worn.
Now more than ever, they need you. They need your prayers. They need your encouragement. They need your support. They need to know they are valued and not a dispensable commodity when church finances are tight. They need more praise and gratitude than criticism.
During the month of October, I encourage you to think about your pastor. Consider the ways you can show them love, care, and support. While your pastor probably does not need one more Bible, plaque or angel figurine, here are some things they do need and would appreciation:
● a handwritten note from you telling them how their ministry has made a difference in their lives
● a gift card to their favorite coffee shop, bookstore, or restaurant
● a surprise gift (it doesn't have to be extravagant) just something you know they would like, but a luxury they would never buy for themselves
● or better yet a Sunday off-you could connect with other church members to plan and conduct a worship service on a Sunday morning, so they could sleep in, take a drive somewhere or just spend time with family.
Honestly, it does not matter what you decide, just do something to say to your pastor,
● "We know the hard work you are doing for the kingdom of God and for us."
● "We know you have had to adapt in so many ways during this time."
● "We see all of this and we love you, we thank you and we support you."
● "You are not alone."
Our pastors are such a blessing; during Clergy Appreciation Month, may we bless them with our deep gratitude and praise.
Together in Christ's service with you,
Rev. Shana Johnson, ISC Conference Minister