By Andrea Johnson
I feel as if Pastor’s Appreciation Day can be a little bit like Mother’s Day, a time to sincerely honor people in our lives who are deserving of honor. It can also feel as if it is one more thing to cross off our “to-do” lists or ignore altogether. Yet I can attest to the fact that nearly everyone who has had to say goodbye to their mom until we meet her again in heaven wishes they could have one more time to express to her how much she meant to us.
A child has no idea whatsoever the sacrifice her parents make to keep her fed, clothed, and housed. And no matter how many luxuries her parents lavish on her above the necessities, she will still want more. Children have no clue how often parents worry about them and pray for them. They do not appreciate the hours a parent takes to teach them by words and by their own example how to do life. No parent is perfect. Many are dealing with their own baggage. But most parents don’t give a second thought to putting aside their own needs for their children.
The Apostle Paul compares pastoring to parenting when he says, “We were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too”
(1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, NLT).
I love to be remembered on Mother’s Day, but some methods are more meaningful than others. A card is appreciated, especially if the card carries a heartfelt, personal message. A phone call is always welcome if the child can’t be there in person. But I love it when my family gets to gather and enjoy each other’s company, quirks and all. What brings me the most joy though is to see my children living godly lives, being a blessing to those in their paths. This verse sums up my feelings: “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth” (3 John 1:4).
Most pastors are the same way. Gary Khan, pastor of Desert Streams Church of the Open Bible in Santa Clarita, California, paints a beautiful picture of a pastor’s heart for those whom he or she pastors (read article). Pastors consistently put aside their own needs and often those of their family to care for their congregation. Most of them are glad to do it because they care so much for their flock, but it would mean a ton if the people they care so much for would acknowledge their efforts.
Your pastor would never tell you this, but sometimes when he is spending the evening teaching a parenting class, he wonders deep down if he should instead be at home with his own children, hearing about their first day back at school. She may be hanging out with your middle schooler hoping someone back home is taking time to mentor her own younger siblings. He may be hearing you complain about yet another pet peeve for the umpteenth time knowing that time with you now will mean he needs to stay up even later to work on his sermon. Maybe when she’s giving you marriage counseling, she secretly reminds herself that her own husband has been neglected lately. Pastors truly do want to be “there” for you, but sometimes they feel that means they are not “there” for their own families. They can feel as if they are constantly either letting their family down or they are letting you down.
Their families carry a huge load as well. They are often expected to support all the ministries of the church whether it’s in their wheelhouse or not. Kids feel extra pressure to be the “model” child. And when a pastor’s family member needs a pastor, to whom do they turn?
I asked pastors some of the most meaningful ways people have honored them for Pastor’s Appreciation Day. Several loved it when their families were included in the process. Others mentioned they appreciate knowing they are being prayed for. But it seems one of the most precious gifts is knowing that their efforts make a difference, that a person’s life has been changed. Sadly, some pastors have never had the honor of being celebrated at all.
October is Clergy Appreciation Month. I suggest you make sure to honor your pastor the best way you know how. It’s the right thing to do. (Click here for some great ways to do that.) Even more, support your pastor. Let him or her know by the way you live your life that their sacrifice has been worth it!