It Doesn't Have to be a Big Thing to be a Big Deal

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Today we hear from guest blogger Lis Van Harten who encourages us to show appreciation for pastors and ministry staff this month as part of Ministry Appreciation Month. Your Personnel Team or Council members may want to place an announcement in the bulletin encouraging the congregation to show thanks. One year someone gave each of us a candy jar with our favorite candy! What have you done in your church to show thanks? 

I’ve lived on both sides of the fence. I began life on one side and stayed there for several decades. In fact, of all the folks who attend church about 99% of them are on that side—the PS (pew sitter) side. As a PS, I faithfully attended church. I went through Sunday School, Catechism, and Calvinettes (that dates me). I participated in young couples’ group, small groups, Coffee Break, and weekend retreats. I’ve attended umpteen committee meetings, served and cleaned up too many meals to count, and taught classes for 4 to 14 year olds. I was very engaged in church life but very unaware of the pastor.

My interactions with the pastor (they’ve all been men) were very limited. There were the tweaks on the nose (when I was very young) and handshakes after the service. There was pre-marriage counseling, visits before the kids were baptized, and a couple of hospital calls. In one church the pastor occasionally joined the worship committee I served on.

I don’t even remember thinking much about the pastor (embarrassing to admit now). He was just there. He preached on Sunday which, as the bad joke goes, was the only day he really worked. I had no idea what he did with his time during the week, the pressures he was under, the fishbowl he and his family lived in, the 24/7 nature of his work, etc. etc. etc.

I do remember hearing that someone put a turkey in his car one Christmas. I thought that was very strange. Why couldn’t the pastor buy his own turkey?

In 2000, I moved to the other side of the fence. After farming for a time, my husband was ordained and went to his first church. I was now another kind of PS – pastor’s spouse. This was an eye-opening experience. Ministry is a wonderful calling filled with blessings, but it’s challenging. I could list all sorts of things pastors and their families experience but I won’t. That’s not the point of this blog post. Most pew sitters have no idea of what the pastor’s life is like. Often this leads to a “taking for granted” attitude, rather than one of appreciation, toward our pastor and his or her spouse and family. I was guilty of this for too many years.

Every person needs to feel appreciated. Pastors, and their spouses, are no exception. I remember getting movie tickets in the mail. No note, just tickets. It brought tears to my eyes. A small thing? Some would think so, but to us it was huge.

If you’re a pastor, I encourage you to print this article in your next newsletter. If you’re a pew sitter, I encourage you to become an encourager to your pastor and his/her family. How?

  • A turkey in the car.
  • A ride in your combine.
  • A casserole.
  • A note of thanks.
  • A verbal, “Thank you.”
  • An offer to babysit the kids.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing to be a big deal! 

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Thanks Lis!

This article was awesome. I hope this gets in the hands of congregation members. I have talked to many pastors who have had times of weeping because all they hear is criticism. Some pastors go through long spells of no appreciation shown. Unfortuantely, many pators are "expendable" to them--if they don't like somethign, they can be run out of town and treated like garbage.

Here are some stats that Thabiti Anyabwile cites from The Schaeffer Institute in an article he writes called "Don't Make Your Pastor a Statistic." http://www.9marks.org/blog/dont-make-your-pastor-statistic I hope the stats are better for our denomination.

Health and Well-Being

  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
    they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Marriage and Family

  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
  • 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.

Church Relationships

  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend

Longevity

  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
  • 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form

Its a great reminder and should be something that happens more than during one month of the year.  I would also like to suggest that having "Staff Appreciation" may be more apropriate in a church with multiple staff.  In our church context where we have Pastors, Directors, Managers, and Coordinators, focusing attention on only our Pastors may not be the most helpful.  All of our staff are called to their positions, work hard, and are worthy of more encouragment than they usually receive!