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Pastor Appreciation: Saying “Thanks”


When is the last time you said, “Thank you” to your pastor or priest? Or have you ever done it? October is “Clergy Appreciation Month”. It’s a time to say, “Thank you for your service,” as we stop to think about the pivotal role of “pastor” in the life and health of the local church body. This is a national awareness month, a time when we honor those men and women whose vocational ministry and spiritual calling is to nourish, instruct, and shepherd the sheep in their appointed area of God’s spiritual pasture.

These are men and women who have been called by God and have responded to that call by committing their lives to training disciples of Jesus and equipping their congregants to do the work of the ministry in their individual areas of gifting.

This is no easy task.

There are many sheep whose inclination is to wander off from the flock and become prey for predators, to be obstinate and un-teachable, to butt and bite the other sheep, to become “cast down” so that they can’t get up without help, or to become sickly from eating the wrong food.

My husband, David (who is a pastor) and I have been watching ABC’s documentary on the tape recordings of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy, wife of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States. On those forty+ year-old recordings she spoke of the terrible loneliness her husband experienced as he tackled the affairs of State, his sleepless nights, his doubts and fears over decisions he had made, and the tears he shed over the failure and loss of life resulting from such decisions gone bad, such as at the Bay of Pigs.

My heart is drawn to Mrs. Kennedy in her obvious compassion for her husband.  I identify with her sense of the weight of the burdens he bore, and with her desire to ease his distress. Although the responsibilities of the pastor do not compare with the weighty decisions of the President of the USA and their possible consequences of national importance, like the President, that’s where the buck stops if something goes wrong. And though the pastor is not involved in international wars, the spiritual impact of a pastor can have eternal results in the battle for good over evil.

Anyone who has not been a pastor cannot imagine the stresses and energy drain of pastoral ministry and the on-going spiritual warfare that is part of such ministry. Pastoral ministry can be an extremely lonely existence for the pastor, and for his wife and family.

I have watched my husband (my pastor) agonize in prayer over the course our church body should take and when things didn’t work out, to wonder about his ability to hear God. I’ve seen him flounder under undeserved criticism and misunderstsanding, fight against feelings of rejection or failure when families have left for greener pastures, wonder if he’s in the right place and if he should leave the pastoral ministry, puzzle over the lack of comprehension when he’s preached and taught what he believes is the heart of the Father – with sometimes little visible results. I’ve seen his struggle to accept a phone call when he’s already exhausted.

No one in his right mind who knew ahead of time about the temporal and spiritual challenges of pastoral ministry would choose such a vocation. Most of us who have been personally involved for any extended length of time (say, more than a year?) can no longer be casual or callused about the struggles inherent in pastoral ministry.

I have been a pastor’s wife for 20+ years now. Four of those years we were in local church youth/family pastoral ministry while also in part-time itinerant ministry. We also spent about 10 years in strictly itinerant ministry. Neither the years of youth-pastor ministry, nor the years of itinerancy,  during which we ministered to many pastoral couples, prepared us for the role of full-time local pastoral ministry.

We blush a bit now at the presumptions of some of our early “Come Away” ministries – four-day weeks of small group outreach to pastors and their spouses. We were encouraged as we watched their tensions lessen and their tired faces reflect some easement of their ministry stress.  But we did not know by personal experience the feelings of defeat and futility that pastors and their spouses often felt over their local church ministries. We now know it firsthand.

Besides the smile of our Heavenly Father that we feel in His presence, the warmth of His love that drains off the stress and exhaustion of pastoral ministry, there is one other thing that keep us going:  the expressions of gratitude from our church family.  There are things that make it all worthwhile: words of appreciation, the “ah-ha” reflected on the face of a congregant who “gets it” as he/she opens like a flower to the work of the Spirit, a simple “Thank you for that message”, or a sincere hug as someone leaves the worship service. And once in a while a card, or a gift, or a dinner invitation. Or we hear the pride in a voice as it says, “I’d like you to meet my pastor,” or, “You ought to visit our church sometime.”

If you are a member of a church, I’d like to challenge you – this month, this week, today – to think of a way to thank your pastor for his commitment and service to the Lord, to you, and to the rest of the church body. And if there is a clergy person from your past who positively affected your life, take a moment to contact him/her and say, “Thank you for caring about me and having an influence on my life. I’m a different person because of your influence.”

If you have a pastor for whom you are thankful, how about jotting down a few sentences and sending them to me. I’d like to include them in a post before the end of October. Also, share this post with others and remind them to thank their pastors.

Thank you!

©2011, Marcy Alves

This post is a re-post of an article from October of 2011. There is a sequel coming this week on ideas to express thanks to your pastor(s), entitled How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor.

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How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor: Part 2


So, you finally decided what to give your pastor as a gift for pastor appreciation month. Maybe you decided to share verbal or written approval, or a kind deed to express your thanks.  But is what church members do once a year enough to truly let a pastor know that people are glad he is serving their church or parish?

October is “Clergy Appreciation Month”. In a previous blog post I shared some “hands-on” ways to express appreciation to your pastor. In this post, I would like to share some basic “attitudinal” ways to let your pastor know you are on his team and appreciate his team leadership.

Gifts, deeds and words are important ways to express appreciation for your pastor, but attitude gifts keep on giving. There are three attitudinal areas I would like to address in this post: consideration, respect and trust.

  • Consideration

Most pastors are on call 24/7, especially in a small church with a one man staff. There are days when the telephone never stops ringing – not just from current parishioners. In our church, people have learned to practice consideration in their calling. David and I take our weekly Sabbath on Mondays: our New Life family members don’t call us on that day – unless it’s an emergency. They also don’t call after 9:00 PM, if something can wait until the next day.

About 3½ years ago, my husband’s stress level sent him into a depression – there were mitigating causes, including a mini-stroke (his), plus my diagnosis of breast cancer the year before. Our small church (aided by our church Association) helped us to have a 6-month paid sabbatical. This was a gift motivated by consideration for our needs. My husband came back from that sabbatical a very refreshed man.

There are people who ask my husband for personal time, over breakfast or lunch. He eats out frequently. With our personal budget and our current church budget, there is little to cover such costs. It’s always a blessing when the person requesting the mealtime mentoring also offers to pick up the tab. Though it’s a small thing, it’s a consideration that means a lot to us.

Allowing your pastor to not have to attend every church calendar event is also considerate, especially if the church is a large, program-oriented church. The most important “work” things your pastor should give his/her time to is prayer, study, mentoring others, and preparation of Bible studies and weekly messages. He need not be the one who prays at every church function.

Another consideration: it’s very important that your pastor have down-time for rejuvenation and personal family time. He will not be of much good to you if his family or marriage is falling apart from neglect, in order to meet your personal needs or wants.

  • Respect

1 Thess. 5:12-13 instructs the church:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” ESV

It’s hard for a pastor to minister to the people if there is a lack of respect for him and the calling of God on his life. If your pastor has applied himself to ministry preparation through additional years of specialized education, that commitment should garner respect.  His/her care for the flock in continual preparation of sermons or special seminars, individual discipleship, time with members who have special emergency needs, and prayers for the body deserve respectful acknowledgment.

1 Tim. 5:17 “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”  NRSV

The office to which God has called your pastor should also to be respected, just as in public areas of appointed or elected authority.

  • Trust

Appreciation for your pastor is also demonstrated in trust. Trust that he has the congregation’s welfare in mind when he has to make determinations in areas that call for leadership, admonishment, or correction is essential. Trust in his knowledge of and ability to teach the Word, his understanding of how to apply the the truths of Scripture, and his discernment of God’s desires for the congregation at any given time are very important.

That trust should carry over in those times of personal disagreement regarding doctrine, decisions on church polity, or other church issues; in such situations trust is demonstrated by an open mind and a humble, teachable spirit. Cordial, productive discussions are easy when mutual trust is at work.

As you contemplate “Pastor Appreciation Month” and how to effectively express appreciation to your pastor, I hope this post will be helpful to you. Remember, pastors and other church workers need appreciation all year long – one month a year can’t make up for lack of appreciation during the rest of a year.

How are you doing in the areas I have mentioned of attitudinal gifts? Do you need to polish them up a bit? Or to ask God to give you an attitude change?

How to Say “Thank You” to Your Pastor: Part 1


Do you know your pastor’s “appreciation language”? If you don’t, then you may not know how to best express your appreciation in a way which communicates your thanks to him/her.

I’ve been a pastor’s wife for 20+ years and have friends who are pastors’ wives, so I’d like to share from an inside view.

There is probably no one more uncertain about whether or not he is doing a good job than a pastor – except for politicians who often lean on state or national polls for affirmation. (The only time a poll is taken on a pastor’s performance is when a contingency in the congregation wants to relieve him from his post and needs a 2/3 vote to do it.)

Whether you are in a small or large church, your pastor needs your expressions of appreciation. No matter how big or small the church staff, being a pastor is not an easy job.* (see my earlier posts)

In Hebrews 13:17, church members are instructed to make the work of leaders (pastors and elders) a joy.  Here are some ways to say “thanks” and to stimulate joy in your pastor’s service to the body.

  • WORDS

Spoken: The easiest way to express appreciation is with words. It really encourages my husband when our folks let him know that a particular sermon, training session, mentoring time, study group, his handling of a situation, etc., has impacted their thinking and their choice to follow Christ more fully – that his toil has been meaningful to their lives.

Be specific. Let your pastor know which part of his efforts have most affected you. If it’s sermon content, say so. If it’s his personal interest or concern, let him know. If it’s his character, such as compassion or integrity, say so. If his/her lifestyle speaks to you of Jesus, say so.

Written: Think about putting your appreciation in writing. We have been in ministry for the entire 34 years of our marriage. When we were itinerant speakers/singers there were many accolades spoken or written to us on a regular basis, not so in the pastorate. When we receive “thank you” notes or letters that speak appreciation, we are very encouraged by them. We keep them in a file as reminders that there are people who have been positively affected by our ministry.

  • DEEDS

There is an old saying that “actions speak louder than words”. It could be that your pastor’s appreciation language is “acts of service”.

A couple months ago someone ran over our mailbox; we woke up one Sunday morning to find the box smashed flat with the post bent almost to the ground, and tire marks across the grass. We went to our church service, then to another event to which we were committed that afternoon and evening. When we arrived home later that night, we discovered a brand new mailbox and post (cemented in) at the end of our driveway. A couple in our church took it upon themselves to do this kind deed.

There have been people who have worked on our cars, repaired our lawn tractor, plowed our garden, cleaned our house, and taken us out for a meal.

Other good deeds you might consider: babysitting while your pastor and spouse have a night out alone, caring for their pets, watering their plants or picking up their mail while they are on vacation, calling to see if they have any personal prayer needs.

Just as encouraging to us are those times when folks have stepped forward to do deeds for the church body, such as cleaning the church building, mowing the lawn, volunteering in the nursery, or helping someone in the fellowship who has a temporal need – anything that says “we get it”.

  • GIFTS

When you are giving gifts to express your appreciation, spend a little time and thought on what your pastor may enjoy. Is he/she a sports fan, an avid reader, a collector of some particular thing; does he have a hobby or special interest?

You might consider tickets to a concert or sporting event (if your pastor is into sports). Once we were given a gift of two nights at a lovely bed and breakfast. We felt so special.

Last October we received a card with money in it from several church members, with the instruction it was not to pay a bill – we had a nice dinner out.

In other years, our Lifegroups (small home groups) have presented gifts on particular Sundays during the month of October, such as beautiful potted plants, wall hangings, gift cards, a gas gift card, etc. (Caution: when giving a decorative gift, consider lifestyle and personal tastes of your pastor and spouse. If they have been in the pastorate for a long time, they may not need something else that needs periodic dusting.)

For female pastors or the pastor’s wife, think “feminine”: a visit to a salon, a pedicure or manicure, a gift certificate to a clothing store or specialty shop like Bath & Body Works, fresh flowers, a lunch with you, etc.

Last but not least by any means: Whether male or female, your pastor’s overall health is essential and foundational to a vibrant life and ministry. Be certain to consider a sabbatical policy for your church. Ask your pastor if he/she prefers print books or owns a Kindle or Nook. Purchase BOTH A Sabbatical Primer for Pastors (CLICK on title) and A Sabbatical Primer for Churches (due in May 2014) at Amazon.com. Give the Pastor’s primer to your pastor(s) and the Church primer to someone in leadership who cares about the pastor or pastoral family and wants to love and honor them.

These are some practical tips for saying “thank you” to your pastor(s). In my next installment, I will share a few other items that don’t cost time or money, but are important in showing heart-felt appreciation for your pastor.

Are there things you have done to say “thank you” to your pastor that you would like to share? Or, if you are a pastor or the spouse of a pastor, how has your church or individual parishioners shown appreciation for your ministry to them?

©2012, Marcy Alves

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