How Do You Talk About Pastor Appreciation Month?
I’m uncomfortable, you’re uncomfortable, everyone’s uncomfortable.
October is almost here, and if you’re a pastor, you know what that means – it’s pastor appreciation month. Which, if we’re being honest, feels delicate.
When I served as a pastor, I was always the first to say that I didn’t need any special recognition. And while I didn’t NEED the extra recognition, I think it’s fair to say that I secretly hoped for a nice note or a gift card or some little extra bit of validation.
Can you relate to this? I bet you or someone on your pastoral team can.
In a lot of churches, the pastors and staff are the primary, if not only communicators, which makes the whole “let’s take a month to appreciate our pastors” language feel a bit self-serving.
I think one of the big reasons for the discomfort around this particular topic is that as pastors and staff, we’re typically used to championing and driving forward a lot of the communication and challenges for our congregations. Normally, when we’re asking for things from the congregation, we’re not really asking for things for ourselves. We’re asking for people to give or volunteer with the intent of impacting our communities for the kingdom of God.
While keeping pastors healthy and avoiding burnout is an incredibly important part of doing ministry together, we intuitively know that we can’t be the only ones who champion ourselves, we need to be championed by others. So how do we do this?
Let non-staff members take the stage
This is the low hanging fruit. You probably already do this do a degree. Whether its an elder, board member, or some other layperson in a leadership role, communication about showing extra love and appreciation to the pastors and staff is best when it comes from someone who isn’t going to directly benefit from it.
Realistically this is already happening in many, if not most churches, so I don’t need to spend a lot of time on this, but if you’re in a position where this isn’t on your leadership team’s radar, its completely reasonable – maybe even important – to raise the issue with them.
If you’re a church planter or the only pastor of a small church, don’t make the mistake that this is only about you. Regardless of how you feel personally about the extra recognition for a few weeks each year, you can begin to lay the groundwork of a culture of appreciation and care that will impact future pastors and staff, and the longevity and health of their ministries.
Create a culture, not an event.
Pastor appreciation month or week or day? Regardless of how your church approaches it, we can all pretty much point to a single timeframe each year in which we talk about it. I think this is great. So many groups of people are intentionally recognized throughout the year, and having a regular, predictable time to talk about it is good to help us remember. Notes, gift cards, and other physical blessings are amazing and often are just the thing someone needs, but more important is creating a culture of care for you and your team all year round.
If you work on a staff with multiple pastors, be sure to champion your co-workers with the volunteers in their department. If you know that one of your co-workers is feeling stretched thin or is going through a rough time, let the church members that work with them know that they need some extra care and love. (In all things, make sure anything you’re sharing is appropriate and safe to share). If you know a pastor has a birthday coming up, check in with some of the team members in their ministry to see if they plan to acknowledge them.
It’s far too easy for pastors to feel like commodities in their work. Sundays just keep coming every week, and between preparing for services and helping church members navigate a variety of heavy life circumstances as they grow deeper in their faith and discipleship. It’s easy for a pastor to feel like there’s no time to stop and care for themselves.
The church was never intended to be an organization run by a few individuals for the benefit of the masses. Regular and intentional care is important for all believers to give and receive, pastors included.
So yes, celebrate pastor appreciation month. If you’re a pastor and this doesn’t happen at your church, don’t be afraid to ask your elder board to help get the ball rolling. As you celebrate next month, use this as time to help lead your church deeper into authentic community, giving care to those around you, and asking for care when you need it.
Happy Pastor Appreciation Month!
About the Author
Josh Tarp is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and worship leader from Minneapolis with over 15 years of experience in church & worship leadership. Josh serves as the Director of Marketing at Motion Worship, helping to write various blog posts, managing social media, designing graphics, and handling customer service.