Each October is Clergy Appreciation Month and Sunday, October 11, 2020 is Pastor Appreciation Day. In 2020, COVID-19, political debates and social justice arguments have added extra levels of difficulty to the already challenging occupation. For the next few days, I will be sharing some thoughts about the work of pastors and other Christian ministry leaders, and why we should honor them as the Word of God mandates. I will also offer some suggestions for doing so as you plan your celebration next month.
Part 1 – The Blessed & Challenging Work of Ministry
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.– 1 Timothy 5:17
On a regular basis, we see the well-deserved special recognition heaped upon first responders, military members and veterans, teachers, and others in the serving professions. They are heroes, for sure. Lately, I have been thinking about the many pastors, missionaries, leaders of small Christian charitable organizations, and others who lovingly and faithfully serve God and people. Many of them receive meager compensation and some, little (if any) medical or retirement benefits. Still, year after year, they and their families sacrificially give of themselves in loving obedience to God’s calling on their lives. For this and much more, they deserve honor times two!
Please don’t misunderstand. Ministry is an amazing and fulfilling life. Experiencing the life-changing, eternal impact of the gospel message on people is joyous. Leading people to salvation and discipling them to Christian maturity is unspeakably rewarding. Pastors have the joy and privilege of delivering sermons, teaching the Bible, dedicating babies, performing weddings, and baptizing new converts. It is a blessed, but often difficult calling. Having been a lead pastor, and being close friends with several current senior pastors, I know this quite well.
The Difficult Work of Pastoring
What they won’t tell you is, the responsibilities of the job takes a toll on pastor and family. The primary work of personal devotion, sermon and lesson preparation, plus hospital visitations, officiating funerals, tension-filled counseling sessions, unrealistic expectations of parishioners, relationship challenges, and other unpleasant aspects of the job make it one of the most grueling of occupations. During COVID, many pastors have had to become teleconferencing and Internet streaming savvy, as well as video preachers! Add to the aforementioned responsibilities church administration and property management, and it is easy to see why it is said that being a pastor and being President of the United States are two of the most difficult occupations on earth. Imagine also having to hold another job to pay the bills! This is the situation of many pastors of smaller churches.
Ministers Need Encouragement
Understandably, all of this can lead to depression and loneliness. Many pastors feel unappreciated. It is no wonder that 250 pastors leave the ministry every month.[i] Most stay and suffer in silence. As the New Testament writers make clear, elders – especially those who excel at preaching and teaching the Word – are deserving of special recognition. Not one day of the year, or even one month out of the year, but every day.
Showing appreciation does not have to be anything special. Just saying “thank you” can be very encouraging to your pastor. Make it a point to regularly express gratitude for them and their families for their sacrifices. This is a way of doubly honoring them. So, find creative ways of celebrating your pastors and other spiritual caregivers in October and throughout the year. Next installment, I will offer some ideas.