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10/8/97 Pastor appreciation practiced in growing number of churches

RALEIGH, N.C. (BP)–Looking for new ways to say thanks to your pastor and his family? How long has it been since appreciating and thanking him occupied a top-10 spot on your to-do list?
North Carolina Baptist Men hopes thousands of Baptists look no further than their refrigerator door for a reminder to do just that.
The organization has published a small booklet with a magnet attached to the back called “40 Ways To Say Thanks To Your Pastor.” The colorful, witty booklet is filled with practical ideas for individuals, families and congregations to minister to pastors and any other church pastoral staff members.
“We felt like there had to be a way for Baptist men and their families on a church-wide basis to show appreciation to their pastors,” said Richard Brunson, the state’s Baptist Men executive director.
“Our communications department actually questioned 100 pastors (of Southern Baptist churches) across the state of North Carolina in putting this together,” Brunson recounted. “We didn’t pick a committee and sit around and say this is what they want — we actually based our ideas on what the pastors said to us.”
The booklet is divided into seven categories: Man To Man, Kid’s Stuff, Teen Challenge, Pretty (ideas on how to minister to female pastors or pastor’s wives), All Together Now (for congregations), I Never Knew (things you never thought your pastor would appreciate) and Top Ten (the top ten things your pastor would love to have you do).
“We just wanted to raise awareness because we don’t say thanks often enough,” Brunson said. “So many pastors are hurting and we need to express our thanks to them for what they do.”
Members of the Lebanon Baptist Church, Taylorsville, N.C., have used some of the ideas from 40 Ways To Say Thanks To Your Pastor booklets to honor their pastor, Keith Childers.
“Our Sunday school teachers shared some of the ideas from the booklet and I’ve noticed that more of the children are going up to the pastor and thanking him,” said church member Brenda Bumgarner. “We also prepared a gift basket for our pastor’s wife after reading the ideas in 40 Ways To Say Thanks To Your Pastor.”
Pastor appreciation is a year-round activity for the 150 member congregation, Bumgarner added. Recent projects include remodeling the parsonage and contributing $1,000 when Childers’ daughter got married.
More than 20,000 copies of 40 Ways to Say Thanks To Your Pastor have been distributed, and they continue to be available for about $1 a piece. Information about ordering the booklet may be obtained by contacting North Carolina Baptist Men at (919) 467-5100, ext. 331, or P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107.
Another group that concentrates on year-round pastoral support as well as emphasizing a yearly Clergy Appreciation Day, to be held this year on Sunday, Oct. 12, is Under His Wings Ministries, based in Williamsport, Pa. Efforts by the ministry for the second Sunday in October to be proclaimed in all 50 states as Clergy Appreciation Day got under way five years ago. This year, 44 states have issued proclamations for the Oct. 12 date.
“The idea came about after a time of prayer,” said Jerry Frear Jr., executive director of Under His Wings Ministries. “We were looking for a way to lay a foundation of encouraging pastors.”
He said the idea of Clergy Appreciation Day took hold when he gazed at the calendar and noticed Groundhog’s Day.
“If there’s a day set aside for groundhogs, why can’t we set one aside for honoring our pastors?” Frear asked.
“A lot of congregations spend way too much time tearing their pastor down when they ought to be building him up. We hope this day will help turn those kinds of situations around,” he said.
The scriptural basis for Under His Wings is based on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, which says “to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you and to hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.”
Said Frear, “Paul knew that if we didn’t do this that the ministry will suffer, and that’s why we do what we do.”
Among other initiatives of Under His Wings are the Pastor Encouragement Line, a 1-800 help line for pastors needing encouragement; a page on the Internet’s World Wide Web; e-mail messages of encouragement for pastors; and a Pastor of the Year essay contest. Church members can enter by writing an essay explaining why their pastor should receive the yearly honor. Under His Wings Ministries may be contacted at 1-800- 875-4388 or http://www.clergy.org.
While some pastors are in desperate need of prayer and encouragement, not all ministers, of course, face such burdens.
“When I hear stories of pastors under criticism or disapproval, I realize that I take for granted the fact that I don’t have to face that on a regular basis,” said Don Mann, associate pastor of the 5,000-member Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C. “We have our share of misunderstandings and there are always people who resist change, but I’ve never faced some of the discouraging things that I’ve heard about.”
At Calvary, most efforts taken on by the church’s men’s ministries in regard to pastor appreciation came after involvement with the Promise Keepers organization. Men of the church made themselves available to cut up limbs, clean gutters and other physical tasks.
“That’s real pastoral appreciation,” Mann said. “They put action to their words and we (the pastoral staff) really appreciated it and benefited from it.”

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  • Barbara J. Woerner