J. R. Briggs: What Your Pastor Won’t Tell You (But Wishes You Knew) About Pastor Appreciation Month

Dear churchgoer,

You may not know it, but this is a significant month for your pastor. October is Pastor Appreciation Month, bringing with it a complex mix of conflicting thoughts and emotions for most pastors.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with a pastor friend about his recent day off. He was shopping at Home Depot, quickly grabbing a few items for a home project. After checking out, he bumped into a congregant in the parking lot. You can probably guess what happened—a short greeting turned into a much longer conversation. The congregant shared a number of difficult things happening in the church and in his own spiritual life. Each question from the pastor uncovered five new frustrations. Forty-five minutes later, they finally parted ways.

I asked the pastor how he felt in that moment. “It was my day off,” he said, “but I don’t really have a day off. I mean, when am I not a pastor?” This always-on, week-in, week-out grind takes a toll on pastors and their families. It’s why leadership guru Peter Drucker said this:

Over the years I have made a career out of studying the most challenging management roles out there. After all of that I am now convinced the two most difficult jobs in the world are these—one, to be President of the United States, and two, to be the leader a church.

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. But it’s also full of tension: intense conflict, unrealistic expectations, relational strain, and, at times, soul-aching loneliness.

I know this firsthand. I served as a local church pastor for 15 years. Now that I’m no longer serving in that role, I want to share an insider’s perspective about your pastor’s sacred yet difficult calling. Here are a few things your pastor is probably thinking, but won’t tell you during Pastor Appreciation Month.

Whether or not your church recognizes Pastor Appreciation Month, it’s on your pastor’s mind.

Pastor Appreciation Month (originally called Clergy Appreciation Month) was established in 1992 by a group of pastors and church leaders to honor those who serve in ministry. They grounded the celebration in Paul’s words to Timothy: “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). No, it’s not an official holiday, but it is nationally recognized, like Boss Appreciation Day and Administrative Assistant Day. And chances are, your pastor is thinking about it this month.

Last year a pastor called me on November 1. When I asked my friend how he was doing he said, “Another year, another Pastor Appreciation Month …” his voice trailing off into silence. I knew exactly what he was saying. He wasn’t fishing for compliments or looking to be congratulated, but he couldn’t hide his disappointment. He felt invisible, like his congregation was taking him for granted. “As long as people are pleased,” he told me, “they say nothing.”

This pastor is not self-serving. He’s humble, faithful, and gracious. But during that phone call, I realized that one of the greatest gifts someone in his church could have given him at that moment would have been a simple, hand-written card or a quick text of gratitude for his faithfulness to the congregation. I was also struck by another thought: How was the congregation supposed to know he was in such need of encouragement?

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Source: Christianity Today