The role of the clergy has been vital to churches and their communities throughout the history of America, and there is a long record of churches supporting their pastors and clergy. Through various means, congregations have found ways to encourage their leaders.
The history of honoring those ordained by God goes back to biblical times. The Apostle Paul wrote that “elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). In 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13, he said “those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you … hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.”
In 1992 this idea became known as Pastor Appreciation Month, to honor pastors and religious personnel. In 1994, Focus on the Family chose October as Pastor Appreciation Month for the purpose of church members financially supporting their minister. Pastor Appreciation Day is celebrated the second Sunday in October and Pastor Appreciation Month throughout the month.
According to LifewayResearch.com, there are 314,000 protestant churches in the United States. Each has leaders who commit themselves to the local church body, and each has faced an enormous task in the past couple of years especially, said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
“I urge churches to understand the difficult challenge pastors have faced since March 2020,” Floyd said. “I encourage them to honor both the pastor and his wife publicly, present them a special ‘thank you’ gift, and focus a prayer time for them. Individually, the members might honor their pastor with a personal note or a personal ‘thank you’ verbally.
“A special gift each pastor needs is the gift of prayer. This could be given by 31 men, each who would promise to pray for the pastor with great intentionality on their assigned day during the month of October.”
Terry C. Terry, a former pastor and a contract worker for Lifeway Worship, echoed Floyd’s encouragement.
“Pastors need to be appreciated,” Terry said. “Not only does being recognized for their service help the pastor, but the church benefits in finding ways to express gratitude.
“For example, I would suggest that individuals write a letter to their pastor. Has he been there for you during a health crisis of a family member? Did he perform a wedding celebration? Did he minister to you when a family member passed from this Earth into their eternal home? Think of how your pastor has supported you and your family. Express your thoughts through a personal letter.”
Terry also suggested church members meet and pray over their pastor — for wisdom, rest, a deeper understanding of scripture.
Suggestions for honoring ministers, staff, families
Church members should plan ahead. Start early in the calendar year to build a team so financial goals can be met. If using the second weekend in October, plan a special Sunday service to recognize the entire church staff.
A minister’s family is a big part of his success. Pastors with children may have to skip sporting events, piano recitals and other things to meet church responsibilities.
The wife of a retired minister recalled a family event her pastor husband couldn’t go to: “Our son was playing in a Little League baseball tournament, and my husband had an associational meeting he had to attend. The score was tied and our son came up to bat. He hit a home run, and his team won the game. His dad missed that important event in the life of our boy.”
As you recognize the pastor, include the pastor’s family in Pastor Appreciation Month. Here are some ideas:
- Write a personal note. If each family in the congregation wrote a brief letter, telling the pastor and his family how much they are loved and needed in the church, think what it would mean to them. Start early and organize a team to contact families. Offer tips on what they might say. Set a date to have letters returned to the church. Present them along with a financial gift during Pastor Appreciation Day.
- Promote your church in the community. Place an ad in the local newspaper or on the radio that includes a photo and the name of the staff (often a paper will provide this as a courtesy; if not, ask for sponsors in the congregation). Include the name of the church, address, website and service times. Promote your church in the community while honoring the staff.
- Involve children in honoring the pastor. In advance, give each child in preschool and elementary Sunday School a sheet of paper that says: “I LOVE MY PASTOR BECAUSE _________.” Collect these and place each in a plastic sleeve to put in a three-ring binder. Let the children make this a surprise presentation during Pastor Appreciation Day, a reminder of how they love their minister.
- Have a “text day.” Sunday School teachers can promote text day by asking everyone to send a brief text message on the same day. Include one way the pastor has been supportive during a time of joy or hardship.
- Give a family trip. Often the pastor’s salary doesn’t allow for vacations and trips. Collect donations to provide a time away, even airfare if it’s some distance. Or does a member have a vacation house available for a few days? What about a time-share condo?
Let the pastor’s family know how much you appreciate them!