Living Loved When Living’s Hard | Day 10
Reading |1 Peter 5:1-7
“Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” 1 Peter 5:2-4 (HCSB)
I’ve spent my entire life immersed in the church culture. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to church leadership.
However, I’m not a pastor, so I’m not going to spend time delving into what a pastor should or shouldn’t be. What I do want to focus on is how we can appreciate those in leadership.
I recently enjoyed some killer ice cream with a couple friends. The three of us have similar jobs and the main similarity is that we work with people. We all love people (hence, why we work with them, I guess), but when we talked about the hardest part of our jobs, we agreed it was the people. I mean, people are messy. All of us are unique and we all carry baggage. It’s incredibly hard to lead a group of people, yet make sure each person feels like his or her individual needs are being met and that he or she is valued.
This is what pastors do 24/7, and they are called to so much more. Their responsibility is to shepherd the people of God. This is more than just leading! It’s an active commitment to protect and nurture those under their care. It’s making sure the church is a spiritually growing, unified front standing firm in the gospel. It’s gently leading and caring for their families by not letting their responsibilities at church keep them from being present in the lives of their children or loving their spouses.
Pastor Appreciation Month
It’s fitting that this section came up this week, as October is Pastor Appreciation month. My church is celebrating my pastor and his family this upcoming Sunday, so I’ve enjoyed having some time to focus on what exactly Pastor Appreciation Month is.
While I’m sure many pastors love their jobs, they aren’t necessarily immune from the stress and pressure of their calling. Anytime the well-being of multiple people is present, a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work, making the challenge of leading and serving a variety of personalities difficult. We can’t always make a pastor’s workload lighter, but we can show them they are appreciated and valued.
Where’d This Idea Come From?
In all reality, the idea of appreciating pastors isn’t a new idea. In his letters Paul called congregations to appreciate those who led them:
“Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 HCSB)
“The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17 HCSB)
Showing appreciation for our pastors has been done throughout history. I’ve spent most of my life inside the church, so I’ve seen the typical acknowledgment at the end of a service where pastors are handed cards collected for them on birthdays and such. However, I never realized there was an actual time set aside specifically for showing gratitude to pastors and their families.
In 1994, Focus on the Family implemented and began emphasizing Clergy Appreciation Month (the technical term). Their goal was and is to show pastors and their families, as well as others in church leadership, that they are appreciated and valued. Obviously, this should be and can be done at any time, but setting aside a specific month helps remind congregations to take time to appreciate and serve their leaders.
There’s a butt-load of resources full of ideas for how to show your pastor tangible ways you appreciate them (just search on Pinterest). Since these resources are so readily available, I wanted to focus on the one way you can appreciate your pastor all day erry day: prayer.
I could list ways that we could pray for pastors based on my experiences and assumptions, but I think it’d be more beneficial (and probably accurate) if I shared the words of actual people in church leadership. I spent some time last week talking to friends of mine who are (or were) active in leadership positions, and I asked them specific ways they wished churches prayed for them. This is what they had to say:
- “Pray that we are openly talking about Christ in our homes . . . It’s easy to leave Christ at church. My prayer is that Christ is commonly, openly, and unawkwardly talked about in my home.”
- “My biggest prayer (for working in youth ministry) is that parents understand they are the biggest influence in their teens’ lives.”
- “Probably the biggest one (prayer) for us was the need to be real with people. There can be unrealistic expectations to be someone that is impossible to be. This creates a pressure that can put a lot of stress on a marriage and family.”
- “The constant need for rest and refreshment. Serving people is a great joy and honor, but is exhausting as well.”
- “Preserving time and attention to the Word of God. Not only personally, but from a preaching standpoint. It truly is one of the biggest investments to the Church to protect the ministry of the Word by protecting the pastor’s time, energy, and family so he can do what God has called him to do.”
- “Prayers for my personal life outside of the ministry. In particular, my marriage. People ask about ministry, the church, students, and growth significantly more than how I am loving my wife.”
Pastors and their families live in a fishbowl. They are constantly on display. Some of us may have close, intimate relationships with those in leadership and their families, but that’s not possible for everyone. We may never truly understand the struggles our pastors may be facing. A friend told me:
“I don’t think people realize how discouraging ministry CAN be. People tell you that they are happy you are there, that you are doing well, their kids love your student ministry, etc., but the congregation doesn’t come around church leadership well. I think the church needs to be better at making sure the leadership is healthy, not over-worked, and feeling loved.”
We should always look for ways to serve and love those around us, but I urge you to take some time to reflect on ways you can do this for those in leadership. I guarantee your pastor loves you very much and cares about your spiritual well-being. Make sure he and his family are covered in prayer and know they are loved and valued.
✌️ – Tonya
For those of you who are in church leadership, what are some ways that your congregation can pray for you or serve you? For those of you who aren’t in church leadership, what are ways you can pray for and serve those in leadership?
I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below or send me a message here.
Focus on the Family is a great resource for this (since they kind of “invented” this idea of a designated time of appreciation). You can check out this website for more information about Clergy Appreciation Month.