Editor’s note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month.
LIFEWAY (BP) – A new tie as a Pastor Appreciation Month gift may come from a sincere place, but most pastors have greater needs than a wardrobe update.
In Lifeway Research’s recent Greatest Needs of Pastors study, U.S. Protestant pastors revealed what they’re most concerned about. By examining the issues most pastors highlighted, churchgoers can find ways to really show appreciation to their ministers.
Here are some ideas for using the 17 needs a majority of pastors identified and finding creative ways to demonstrate your care this month and throughout the year. Some of these may cost money, but many of them can be done with no financial costs and only a change in attitude and priorities.
Developing leaders and volunteers
One of the best ways you can appreciate your pastor is by stepping up as a leader and serving as a volunteer in your congregation – without being asked. Pastors feel the strain of having to constantly ask someone for help or to do a job that should’ve already been done.
If you are already serving and leading, why not look at ways your church can bring in more leaders and volunteers to alleviate this concern of more than 3 in 4 pastors?
Fostering connections with unchurched people
As most of a pastor’s day is spent studying Scripture and around other believers, many find it difficult to form relationships with those outside their congregation. To facilitate those relationships, find out what your pastor enjoys and provide your pastor with a means to connect with others around that shared passion.
Buy gift cards to a local coffee shop so he can meet people there. Sign him up for an art class or a hunting trip. Buy him a firepit so he can invite neighbors over for s’mores in the fall. Look for creative ways to provide your pastor with something he will enjoy that will also give him opportunities to make friendships with the unchurched in your community.
People’s apathy or lack of commitment
Be enthusiastic in your volunteering at church. Demonstrate joy in attending and being involved. Don’t make your pastors take the lead in recruiting others to volunteer. Encourage others to step up and take ownership of ministries.
Consistency in personal prayer
Your pastor’s leadership of the church will never be better than their prayer life. If he isn’t spending time with God in prayer, your entire church will suffer. So make sure he has that time.
Make it an expectation and a spot on the calendar each day for the pastor to be praying. Outside of genuine emergencies, don’t interrupt him during that time. Both you and he will benefit from them spending time with God.
Friendships and fellowship with others
When you have friends over to watch the game, invite your pastor. If you’re looking at going out to dinner with a group from church, ask the pastor and his family if they’d like to come as well. Find ways to connect with pastors yourself, and help them connect with others in the church.
Training current leaders and volunteers
Don’t make your pastor lead every training event. Have a long-time small group teacher lead the next training event for teachers. Invite a respected couple to host a marriage seminar or parenting retreat. Use all the skills and experiences of the body to make everyone better instead of relying on the pastor to do it all.
Consistency of Bible reading not related to sermon or teaching preparation
Just as the pastor needs scheduled time for prayer, make sure the calendar also has allotted moments for personal Bible reading. Maybe you can buy your pastor a desk calendar that has time already blocked out for those important tasks.
Pastors are people, too. They have sins and struggles like the rest of us, but they may not feel comfortable sharing those because of unfair expectations placed on them. Ask your pastor how his personal relationship with Jesus is going and give him the freedom to be honest and transparent. Even if that’s not possible, encourage your pastors in moments they step out in faith.
Relationships with other pastors
Host a regular gathering for all the pastors in your community. Take care of all the arrangements, provide a meal, and just let the pastors talk and develop friendships.
Consistency in taking a Sabbath
Demand that your pastor take some Sundays off each year. Require him to take a vacation. Work with your pastor to schedule a time for a local denominational leader or retired pastor in the area to preach some Sundays.
Don’t be the cause of it. But also give your pastors grace and patience as they seek to follow God’s leadership for your congregation. If stress becomes overwhelming, encourage your pastor to meet with a local Christian counselor who can help find healthy ways to deal with that stress.
Personal disciple making
Foster a congregation that is more concerned with growing together than with rivalry. Give the pastor permission to follow God’s guidance in singling out a handful of people in the congregation to go into deeper discipleship. Don’t view that as the pastor playing favorites but as benefiting the whole body as more people grow in their faith.
Confessing and repenting from personal sin
Allow your pastors to be human. Don’t hold them (or their families) to unnatural and unattainable standards of perfection. They will mess up. When they do, be ready and willing to forgive.
Maybe your pastor would love an exercise bike or a gym membership. Or, again, maybe he just needs permission to carve out time on the calendar to go for regular walks.
Avoiding overcommitment and over-work
If pastors see an unassigned job or an unfinished task, more often than not, they’re just going to step in and do it themselves – whether they really have the time and space to do it or not. Help your pastor avoid falling into overcommitment and overwork by making sure responsibilities are filled. And make sure they have time with their families away from church work.
Challenging people where they lack obedience
It is inevitable that churchgoers will make mistakes and miss an area where they should be following God. If a pastor is seeking to lovingly correct you, take that as a blessing and a sign of his love for you.
Yes, there are abusive pastors who seek to coerce others purely for their benefit and consolidate power, but the vast majority of pastors love the people in their church and only want to see them grow in their faith.
Graciously take correction yourself and look for ways you can loving help others walk in deeper obedience instead of expecting the pastor to do it all.
Here we are back at the calendar and the clock. Seek to take as much off the pastor’s plate as possible by spreading responsibilities throughout the congregation. Verbally encourage your pastor to keep his priorities in order (God, family, church). Then tangibly help him by stepping up to serve and asking others to do the same.