If you’re an active church member, you probably know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month. It’s a time set aside each year for churches to show their pastors how much they love and appreciate them and their families. From the pastor’s perspective, it’s such a joy and encouragement to their soul whenever a church member writes a handwritten note of thanks or the preschool class makes a homemade sign or someone gives him a gift card to take his wife out to dinner at a nice restaurant.
The Bible teaches that honoring and encouraging pastors in these and other ways is right. The Apostle Paul teaches, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17). In Hebrews 13, we read, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith…Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
If you’re a church member, you have no idea how much your simple act of appreciation encourages those whom God has appointed as the spiritual shepherd of your souls.
Except when it doesn’t.
You see, sometimes churches fail to show appreciation to their pastors during Pastor Appreciation Month. And during a time when pastors are meant to be encouraged, the sad reality is that many pastors end up becoming discouraged, simply because their church remained silent. In my ministry role, I work with a lot of pastors. And not all are encouraged during this month.
Please don’t misunderstand. Pastors don’t shepherd their flocks for the praise of others. Paul tells the Galatians, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). They serve to please their Master who purchased them by His own blood. They “press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). They long for the day when they will hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
But still, it’s disappointing when the church remains silent at a time when they are encouraged to express their appreciation for their leaders. And in the social media age, the disappointment is often multiplied exponentially. Imagine a pastor who browses his Facebook newsfeed throughout the month of October. Week by week (and sometimes day by day), he reads posts from fellow pastors thanking their congregations for the generous pastor appreciation gifts and notes of encouragement. Meanwhile, his church remains silent. No notes of encouragement. No homemade preschool signs. No date nights. It’s easy to see how this could lead to discouragement.
There are many reasons why a church may remain silent during Pastor Appreciation Month. Perhaps the church is experiencing significant division and conflict. Or maybe members don’t fully grasp the stresses that come with pastoral ministry and the need to encourage the pastor and his family. For many, the silence is simply due to the busyness of the church, and they simply don’t make the time to express their gratitude and appreciation. (I think we may all be guilty of that last one, and not just toward our pastors!)
To The “Unappreciated” Pastor
So, what should you do if you are the pastor of a church that remains silent during Pastor Appreciation Month? Let me encourage you in three ways:
- Remember your heavenly reward. I know it’s tough when it seems that no one notices or appreciates your service. But remember that we do not serve to be noticed. In fact, Jesus warns us not to practice our righteousness in order to be seen by others (Matthew 6). Instead, remember that we ultimately serve for an audience of One. Rest assured that your faithfulness does not go unnoticed with Him. The Lord knows your stresses. He knows the sacrifices you have made. He knows about the 3AM ministry calls. He knows about the time when your vacation was interrupted to deal with a ministry crisis. The Lord knows all these things. And when this life is over, He will reward your faithfulness. As Paul’s ministry drew to a close, he looked forward to his heavenly reward in 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” Brother Pastor, remember that a heavenly reward awaits.
- Don’t let bitterness creep into your heart. When you hear how other churches show appreciation to their pastor, you will be tempted to become bitter. Don’t give in to that temptation! Paul writes, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Instead of becoming bitter for what the church did not do, be grateful for all the ways that the church has blessed you. While the church may remain silent during Pastor Appreciation Month, I believe that if you take the time to think about it, you will remember other ways that members have expressed their gratitude for you and your ministry throughout the year. Maybe a church member babysat your kids during a busy season of ministry. Perhaps a member baked your family a casserole this past summer “just because they wanted to.” There are numerous ways to replace bitterness with gratitude if you just take the time to think about it.
- Keep shepherding the flock. At the end of the day, you are called to shepherd the flock of God when things are going well and when they are not. When you are encouraged and when you are discouraged. Don’t start neglecting your pastoral responsibilities simply because the church failed to express their appreciation. Model for them how to continue to serve the Lord even when their circumstances don’t meet their expectations. Be an example of Christian maturity so that you can say with a clear conscience, “Follow me, as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
To The Silent Church:
What about the church that remains silent during Pastor Appreciation Month? What should you do? Here are three reminders for you:
- It’s never too late to start. On the publish date of this post, there are still two weeks left in Pastor Appreciation Month. There’s still time to show your pastor how much you appreciate him. If you’re looking for some ideas, here are 15 ways to bless your pastor.
- Don’t forget about the pastoral staff. If your church has more than one pastor, sometimes a church shows appreciation to the Senior Pastor, but fails to honor the other pastoral staff members. Don’t make this mistake! All are worthy to be honored and appreciated.
- Once you start, don’t stop. Expressing appreciation for your pastor is appropriate throughout the year. Be a blessing during Pastor Appreciation Month, but also at other times when your pastor may not expect it!