In a culture where it’s acceptable—even expected—to put those in the public eye on pedestals, it’s no wonder that we do the same with our pastors and clergy. We easily slip into the mindset that our pastor is a superhero.
After all, the pastor preaches, teaches, prays, and leads people each week. He or she is on display for all the church to see and evaluate.
We come to view our pastors as a little larger than life. They become holier and closer to perfection than the rest of us. We equate them with Superman and Wonder Woman, so we are disappointed when they don’t live up.
But our pastors are NOT superheroes. In fact, our pastors and spiritual leaders are fallible human beings. They struggle with the consequences of their own sin and strive to walk closer with Jesus. And, like us, they strain under the demands of everyday responsibilities.
In 2016 the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development* completed a survey of 8,150 randomly-selected ministers. Their findings paint a sobering picture of the unique challenges pastors face:
54% of pastors still work over 55 hours a week
18% work more than 70 hours a week and face unreasonable challenges
57% can’t pay their bills
43% feel over-stressed
35% battle depression
26% are overly fatigued
28% are spiritually undernourished and 9% are burned out
23% are still distant to their families
65% of pastors feel their family is in a “glass house” and fear they are not good enough to meet expectations
Show Your Pastor Your Appreciation in October
Pastor Appreciation Month is celebrated in October. We have 31 dedicated days to express our gratitude to our pastors and clergy.
This year, take a different approach to Pastor Appreciation Month. Go ahead and treat your pastor to a pastry and coffee, but while you’re at the café, ask him what he really needs. Ask him what his greatest challenges are. Tell him you want to help him and find out practical ways to do that. Tell him you’ll commit to pray for him—and then actually do it.
Seek to reach your pastor’s heart this year with five gifts of appreciation that they may not be expecting.
1. Send your pastor packing—on vacation.
The demands of ministry drain even the most extraverted of pastors. Burn-out in ministry is a very real problem, and it’s your job to safeguard your pastor against it.
Your pastor needs to have two entire days off each week, at least three weeks of vacation each year, and periodic sabbaticals. The pastor should work no more than 50 hours each week.
This is especially important for small churches with few staff members. If your pastor preaches Sunday mornings, teaches Sunday school, fills the Communion trays, scrubs the toilets,
hosts the Easter egg hunt and the Christmas Eve service, she’s doing too much!
Clear her schedule, hire more help, reduce congregation expectations, and give her some time off.
2. Move the pastor’s family out of that glass house.
The pastor’s family is not perfect and will never be. They won’t look like that couple on television, nor will they respond like the family down the road.
The pastor’s family is like any other family living in a fallen world, struggling with sin, and striving to follow Jesus.
Cut them some slack. Stop being hyper-critical and judgmental. Stop comparing them to others. Temper your expectations and extend grace. Give them understanding and compassion, and make sure they enjoy space and downtime.
3. Give your pastor a raise.
Historically, pastors are overworked and underpaid, especially in smaller towns with smaller churches. Many are bi-vocational just to make ends meet!
Is your pastor making a livable wage? Are his expenses covered? Is he able to support his family on what he makes?
Perhaps the greatest act of appreciation your congregation can offer to your pastor is to give him a raise. Make sure his salary is keeping pace with inflation and the rising costs of living.
4. Step up, show up, and check your attitude.
In the Shaeffer report, 45% of pastors said the greatest challenges are apathy and leading through change.
Do you somehow find the “glass half empty” aspect of every situation? Or do you sow seeds of discontent with your words among your friends in the congregation? How about always having an excuse when the call goes out for volunteers?
A great gift for your pastor this year would be a willingness to help and a positive attitude.
Volunteer to teach a kids’ Sunday school class. Help with the next service event. Ask the pastor and ministry leaders what the greatest needs are. Then step up to offer your skills and presence.
James tells us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). Watch your grumbling and complaining. Listen to the leadership of your church when concerns are raised. Instead of being critical and stubborn, fight for unity and trust your church leaders.
5. Pray for your pastor.
Do you ever listen to yourself when you talk about prayer sometimes?
Often, we’ll throw up our hands in exasperation over a situation and say something like, “Well, all I can do is pray.” That’s usually followed by a big sigh and a shake of the head.
We often regard prayer as a tiny factor in a bigger problem—like trying to put out a raging inferno with a squirt gun.
But what if we understood and embraced prayer for what it truly is: a ginormous hose that will extinguish the fire with the first blast of water?
That’s the type of bold, confident, passionate prayer that we are called (and empowered) to do. Your pastor needs your prayers for all facets of her life and ministry! She needs your interceding on her behalf and taking her concerns before God.
How often do you pray for the pastor, her work, her health, her own spiritual walk, and her family? Show your appreciation to her this October. Commit to lifting her in prayer and see how God uses the prayers of your church in her life.
Pastor Appreciation Month Should Last All Year Long
Our pastors love us, so any token of appreciation you choose to give will be received graciously. But why not go one step further this October?
Use the opportunity of Pastor Appreciation Month to begin new habits that continue. Your pastor needs your help, understanding, compassion, presence, and prayers 24/7.
Those gifts keep on giving long after October ends, and your pastor and church will be happier for it.
*Statistics on Pastors: 2016 Update, Research on the Happenings in Pastors’ Personal and Church Lives, © 2016, Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development.