The Good, the Bad, and the Hilarious Sides of Pastor Appreciation Month
I come from a tradition where a lot of people view the minister as a servant in the “hireling” sense of the word. The notion of “Pastor Appreciation” was completely foreign to me in my youth. In fact, we didn’t even use the term “Pastor” and wouldonly refer to the position as “minister” or “preacher.”
The first time I heard about the idea of “Pastor Appreciation Sunday” was when I visited a friend’s church. I thought it was either something cool that they had come up with or a mandate from their denomination. Imagine my surprise when I learned it was a common event outside my tradition. As I grew in ministry and accepted the call to be a Pastor, I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the hilarious in Pastor Appreciation gifts.
There are three things that you can give that are nearly universally loved by a Pastor:
The first is Prayer. Actual confirmation that you are praying for your Pastor is one of the most encouraging things you can ever do. But, when it comes to Pastor Appreciation Month, remember to use more than words. A daily text message that mentions specific things you’re praying about would be fantastic. Even more powerful, the gift of a prayer journal with your prayers for them. While praying for your Pastor may already be a regular part of your life, actually sharing that with your Pastor in one of these ways can be a powerful encouragement.
The second thing leads me to make a statement that is so obvious as to be nearly insulting, but in my experience, some people don’t know or agree with it. Appreciation and compensation go hand-in-hand. As the ranks of bi-vocational pastors grow and the average church size in the US continues to be under 100 members, everyone recognizes that many churches are struggling financially. However, balancing the budget on the Pastor’s back is unacceptable (1 Tim 5:8). Pastor Appreciation Month is an opportunity to give above and beyond. Taking a special offering or giving a gift certificate are powerful ways to show appreciation. Don’t neglect the opportunity to show how you feel economically.
The third is even easier than the first two. Give your Pastor time off! A weekend away is great, but in many churches, it just isn’t an option. When you are short on volunteers and budget for guest speakers, it is once again time to think outside the box. Let them enjoy time away when hotels are usually cheaper and more available (weekdays). There are also many retreat centers that welcome Pastors and may even give them a complimentary stay. Give them time and make them use it.
There are three things I can do without ever receiving (again, in some cases).
Velvet paintings of any subject, ceramic praying hands, and the tie that you would like to see the preacher wear are all examples of awful gifts. There I said it. If a person buys me any of these things, unless it’s meant to be ironic, I hope that they’re able to procure sackcloth and ashes for themselves through a type of BOGO program. These things are not only dated and clichéd, but in the case of the tie, they represent what you want your preacher to be and not who they are as a shepherd of your flock in the Kingdom of God.
If you don’t know what to get your Pastor personally, you cannot “appreciate” them by giving ambiguous pastor-ish gifts. It does the exact opposite of showing appreciation. Your Pastor is a person, not a role that gets played by some random actor. If you aren’t personally close, don’t buy personalized gifts. They are like unsigned greeting cards. You can do better.
Hilariously Bad and/or the Participation Trophy
Have you ever seen the Participation Trophy or the Hilariously Bad version? I can laugh now about receiving both of those. But, the “compliment” that has remained with me since the beginning of my ministry comes back every October when I reflect on Pastor Appreciation Month. Right after service, as we shook hands on the way out, the kind lady gave me a big hug and said, “You’re getting better.” Now, that’s a compliment!
If we aren’t thoughtful, then appreciation becomes deprecation. It happens when we give gifts that say, “You could be better.” The best example is giving a book on leadership or preaching. If there is one gift that I do not want from the people I serve, it is a book by either John Maxwell or Stephen Covey. I own plenty of their books; I don’t need them as gifts from the people I serve.
Thinking about what you are saying or could be saying through a gift is important. Similarly, a tin of breath mints doesn’t express appreciation. It expresses concern. Chocolate is almost always “ok,” just don’t get me low-calorie chocolates, unless you think I’m fat and can’t bring yourself to say it out loud. Then, by all means, deliver your message under the guise of appreciation.
Appreciation only happens in the absence of obligation. This truth is why Pastor Appreciation Month is an opportunity to show your Pastor some love. If you care, here is a chance to show it. Take the chance and let them know that they mean something to you. They have given their lives to serve you, even if you only take a moment to acknowledge that in prayer today, you will be a blessing. Isn’t that what we strive to be? Take the opportunity.
Written by J.D. Hite.