Time for minister appreciation - Word&Way

Time for minister appreciation

By Bill Webb
Word&Way Editor

I'm a bit put off by those Hallmark "appreciation" days and months. And it's not that I'm against appreciating bosses and employees and grandparents and ministers and others.

Bill WebbMy concern about an appreciation day, month or even year is that those occasions can become the only occasions when we do what we should be doing all the time. As a grandfather, I like to get hugs from my grandsons all year long. I want them to tell me how much they love me every chance they get. What a drag it would be if they held it all in until Grandparents Day!

There is an upside to having designated appreciation times: We are reminded to show our appreciation when that day or month rolls around, especially if we would be prone not to remember at all without a timely reminder. I have visited with pastors who cannot remember when their congregation intentionally did anything special to say, "We appreciate you."

October is Clergy Appreciation Month, and it should not pass by unobserved if your church has a minister (or more than one). Some acts of appreciation should be done by the whole church — preferably in full view of the community. Appreciation events are healthy for hard-working ministers and for their congregations.

Do something memorable like a reception or a dinner or whatever your congregation can think of. Open it up to friends in the community. After all, your minister's ministry extends out there, too. Go with flowers, decorations, gifts — pull out all the stops.

And for goodness sake, it doesn't have to happen in October. It simply isn't enough to feel appreciation for the minister; appreciation must be demonstrated if it is to do much good.

Churches have been known to do all sorts of crazy things to surprise the minister out of his socks.

Card showers, flowers, financial gifts, gift certificates, a special testimony time, something special done by each Sunday School class (including the youngest) — you get the idea.

I've heard of churches that have given their ministers vacation trips, expense money and adequate time from their daily responsibilities to enjoy the gift. Often, church members donate a time-share slot to help make it happen.

Other ministers have been given Holy Land tours for two, usually with all expenses paid. And despite concerns about discord in the Middle East, Bible-land tours continue safely. For many ministers and spouses, to walk where Jesus walked is the ultimate spiritual rejuvenator.

Some congregations have been known to surprise a minister with a new set of car keys — and a car to go with them. A good majority of ministers, especially senior pastors, run the wheels off their cars in the course of serving the needs of church members.

How does a congregation determine what appreciation gift might be most appreciated and helpful to a minister? The easiest way is to ask. A lot of ministers will tell you they would like someday to attend this training or fellowship event or that — and it may be across the country.

More and more pastors are being granted sabbaticals — time away for both study and rest. Usually, funds to finance travel and the costs of training and relaxing are included. Most often, such sabbaticals are granted after a certain tenure level is reached. Seven years seems to be a perfect number for this sort of thing. Time away can vary from a few weeks to two or three months. The church is responsible for managing without the pastor during the designated time.

A few years ago, Victor Parachin wrote a piece titled "Eight Ways to Encourage Your Pastor" (Today's Christian, September/October 1999). His list has more to do with day-to-day actions to undergird a minister:

1. Cut the criticism. This doesn't need amplification.

2. Pray regularly. Ask for God's best blessings upon the minister.

3. Express appreciation in writing.

4. Use your skills to bless. Are you a dentist, barber, computer fixer, handyman, etc.?

5. Squelch gossip. This is the sin of choice in too many congregations. Confront it on behalf of your pastor.

6. Offer to meet a need. This may be an obvious need, or you may have to ask.

7. Be openly responsive. Respond to effective preaching and pastoral leadership by ministering to others.

8. Throw away the measuring stick. Every minister is different; stop comparing yours with his predecessor. Besides, most ministers could recall members who measure up better than you or me. Let's don't go there!

An attitude of appreciation toward ministers is a gift of God that is cultivated, both by individual members and by the best congregations. Let the attitude blossom into meaningful expression.