If You Really Want to Make Your Pastor’s Day

Last week, as more and more cards and notes appeared in my inbox, in my mailbox, and on my desk, all thanking me for serving as their minister, I began to wonder if someone had announced my retirement without my knowledge, or if I looked a little discouraged and folks were just trying to lift my spirits. In my momentary amnesia, I had forgotten that October is promoted by many as Pastor Appreciation Month.

Through the years I have been blessed to “feel” appreciated by the core membership of the congregations I have served. But I’m pretty sure that is not the universal experience of pastors. I am told by my counselor friends that many clergy are highly discouraged and often teeter on the brink of depression.

I readily acknowledge that there are a few slackers among us, as there are in every career field, but most of the pastors I know work hard and feel a deep sense of responsibility for their flock. Because the multiple roles within the pastoral vocation uniquely initiate a minister into almost every conceivable life situation (as well as a few inconceivable ones), a pastor’s work from one day to the next can fluctuate between affirmation and discouragement. Although the biblical job description of a pastor portrays one who is called to “nurture, lead, and guide,” in our culture of hyper-mobility and competing loyalties, ministry can seem more like “herding cats” than “shepherding sheep.”

What is the best way to show appreciation to your pastor? Included in the stack of cards I have received, there is a Starbucks gift card, pictures drawn by a children’s Sunday School class, and hand-written notes thanking me for “that time when” I was there when grandpa passed away, when junior got married, or when the baby was born. Through the years I have been the recipient of all kinds of tokens of appreciation, including jars of homemade jam, home-canned pickles, home-cooked cakes and pies, fresh baked bread, or garden-picked vegetables.

While I can’t speak for every pastor, here is what makes me feel the most appreciated: Faithful participation in the life of the church. For me, nothing can be quite as emotionally deflating as working hard all week, then getting to church on Sunday to discover that a high percentage of my flock is at the beach, on the boat, in the mountains, on the golf course, at the soccer game, or just sleeping in. And nothing can be quite as encouraging as working hard all week, and getting to church to see a faithful congregation of believers who have gathered to worship God.

Early in my ministry, I suppose I took it for granted that church members would be fairly faithful, especially in worship and Bible study. Now, even among historically devoted church members, participation in the life of the church is too often determined by convenience than by conviction and commitment.

This is Pastor Appreciation Month. Your pastor will appreciate your cards and notes, and jams and jellies. But if you really want your pastor to feel appreciated, be an active and faithful participant in your spiritual community. When I witness someone get connected and engaged in the synergy of God’s mission through the church, as a pastor, that makes my day.

(Barry Howard serves as the Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida.)

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26 NIV

Jesus invites those who would be his disciples to set aside their own agenda and preferences, to learn the self-sacrificing way of the cross, and to follow him.

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Away from actual historical church community, whatever its faults, we have an open field to live an unconfronted life, to make religion a private fantasy we can selectively share with a few like-minded individuals who will never confront us where we most need challenge. –Ronald Rolheiser

Once a new believer has “decided to follow Jesus,” experienced baptism and welcomed into the church family, they need to be encouraged and equipped to grow into a life pattern of following Jesus. What are some things we should tell new Christ followers, as well as long-time believers, that will help them follow Jesus daily?

  • To establish a devotional life that anchors our daily walk.

 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light to my path.    Psalm 119:105 NIV

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.           Psalm 119:11 NIV

 

  • To deny and discipline our sinful appetites in order to follow a more excellent way.
  • To continually connect with others in a spiritual community where we worship, learn, and serve.

The church as an alternative community in the world is not a “voluntary association,” an accident of human preference. The church as a wedge of newness, as a foretaste of what is coming, as a home for the odd ones, is the work of God’s original mercy. For all its distortedness, the church peculiarly hosts God’s power for life.     –Walter Brueggemann

    • To discover and employ your spiritual gifts.
      • To learn to carry your cross.

 

Learning to follow Jesus is a life-long adventure.   It is neither too early nor too late to start right now.