By Peter Burfeind (The Federalist, 06 October 2017)
Because it’s not really a job, but a 24/7 calling, there are demands on pastors that people in regular jobs don’t experience.
Imagine a job that demands the following: public speaking, teaching, scholarly research, counseling, home visitation and hospital care, office administration, financial management, event coordination, fundraising, sales skills, marketing, secret
ary work, and occasional janitor and maintenance duties. This is your pastor.
Don’t get me wrong, being a pastor is a joy on so many levels. Simply as a job there’s a lot of upside—dealing with ultimate questions, caring for people, using your creativity, making your own schedule, the double deduction for housing on our taxes—but in the end, because it’s not really a job, but a 24/7 calling, there are demands on pastors that people in regular jobs don’t experience.
For Pastor Appreciation Day this Sunday, here are ten ways you can show appreciation for your pastor. They’re fitting not only this weekend, but throughout the year.
1. Go to Church
Nothing is more depressing to a pastor than to see flagging attendance at church. Nothing. When it happens, he’s tempted to take it personally. If he’s being faithful, he shouldn’t, but on a deeper level, he’s sad for what it means culturally. People are putting other things above Jesus Christ.
Keep in mind, the whole “spiritual but not religious” thing is a direct slap in the face to clergy. It’s a manifestation of the Gnostic virus in our society, that God has immediate access within you so you don’t really need a go-between, like the pastor. But the pastor is a servant and instrument of the Lord, his church, his doctrine, and his sacraments. To habitually skip church is a rejection of the Lord’s gifts.
Church is one hour on Sunday morning. Pastors devote many hours to making that one hour a blessing and gift for you. People will go through hell and high water to get their children to whatever athletic practice they think will make them the next superstar. They’ll endure all sorts of hardship to keep their marriages pure in keeping with the Sixth Commandment.
Why not do the same for the Third Commandment? Is the call to remember the Sabbath any less a truth than the call not to cheat on your spouse or murder your neighbor? Or do you stay faithful or not kill your neighbor only when “you get something out of” them, to use the expression people so often use about their motivation for going to church?
Make your pastor’s day. Go to church.
2. Avoid Church Politics on Sunday
There are few greater gut-sinking terrors for a pastor than to get through a service, enjoying the high of sharing God’s gifts with his flock, only to have a member come and say, “Pastor, when do you have time this week to talk about some grave concerns I have?”
You’ve just ruined his day and his family’s day, the very day which is to be dedicated to the Lord. Give him a break one day a week from politics. I know it’s important to you, but remember, the pastor is a person too. He deserves a break from church politics at least once a week. Encourage the church leadership to make that a congregation-wide policy.
3. Ask Him about Things in His Sermon
As you leave the church and shake your pastor’s hand, refer to something in the sermon and either ask about it or show appreciation for it. “I liked your point about X; I’d never heard that before. Thank you!”
Trust me, after several hours immersed in the text he preached on, he has more to say and would love to share it. As the Psalmist says, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme.” Imagine a woman cooking a huge dinner but everyone only nibbling at bits and pieces of it. The same effect happens for your pastor when parishioners don’t engage with what he’s worked so hard to serve them. Enjoy the feast of God’s Word he’s prepared for you.
4. Stay Up to Date on COLIs
Nothing says to a pastor “Just about everything in our lives is more important than you and the message you bring” like not giving him a stinking cost of living increase (COLI). For that matter, strive to get his income package up to whatever standards your church body set.
Yes, this is all relative to the cost of living in your given area, but you don’t begrudge doctors and lawyers in your community their pay, do you? Keep in mind, the pastor has the intellect and education to be in a field like law or medicine that pays way more than what you give him, yet he chose to be your pastor out of love for his calling. Jesus says, “A laborer is worthy of his wages” and Saint Paul says, “You sow what you reap.”
Very true. Failing to give at least a COLI for the pastor will sow seeds of hurt and make his job that much more a burden than a joy, and this will be reflected in his ministry as he increasingly feels unwanted. You sow what you reap.
5. Get Over Perceived Slights
There is a chance your pastor is reserved, an introvert, and perhaps lacks some social skills. He missed the memo from the 1980s that ministry is all about being relationally relational and building relationships, because relationships. He was more the studious, meditative type. He’s more likely to pray for you than to have small talk with you. Let me re-translate that last sentence: he’s more likely to refer your spiritual upkeep to the Lord than to build his ministry on his bubbly personality.
Because of his lack of social skills, he may have turned a cold shoulder to you, or looked at you cock-eyed, or said something a bit curtly, or whatever. Get over it and thank him for the work he does behind the scenes. When you’re in the valley of the shadow of death, would you rather have a pastor who can tell a good joke, or one who has been praying for you and who’s been immersed in the Word of God, so can truly minister to you?
6. Insist He Has Time to Pray and Study
The first thing to go as a pastor grows in his career is prayer time and study. He simply gets busy with visitations, administrative stuff, classes, and whatnot. But at some point, he needs to get new material. We expect that from our comedians, don’t we? Well, the pastor gets his new material from prayer, time in the Word, habitual study in biblical exegesis, theological books and journals, research at the library, going to conferences, and so on.
If you’re wondering why the pastor’s sermons are repetitive and routine, it’s likely because he’s not spending enough time in prayer and study. Remind him of the importance of both and assure him your congregation doesn’t see this as a waste of time.
7. Don’t Grumble Because He’s Not Joel Osteen
Did you really think you can buy a Joel Osteen with that ten dollars you put in the plate every week? Well, thank God you can’t. The widow’s mite funding a ho-hum personality whose minimization of self amplifies God’s operation is precisely what God works with. Meanwhile, Osteen is exactly the sort of ear-tickling wolf Jesus warns about.
Nevertheless, parishioners still grumble about lackluster sermons. Recall that the power of God’s Word is not in the power of the pastor’s personality, but in its divine content. Moses had some sort of speech impediment and Saint Paul spoke of his own weak presence. God uses earthen vessels to hold the treasures of his kingdom. Don’t grumble because your pastor actually behaves like an earthen vessel and isn’t polished beautifully. That’s a good thing by God’s standards.
8. Give Him Some Help with Evangelism
A repeated complaint is “Where are all the young people?” A lot of people blame their pastor. But keep in mind that loss of young people at church is a culture-wide problem. A deeper question is this: Have you outsourced your evangelistic job as a parent to your pastor?
What have you done to catechize your children not to leave the church as soon as they turn 18? Do you let them go to the local rock n’ roll church under the justification “at least they’re going to church,” and thus tacitly approve of them leaving your faith? Are your adult children going to church? Do you allow your children to skip church because you want them to “make their own choices”? Did you “be fruitful and multiply” or do “smart,” modernistic family planning?
Don’t blame your poor pastor for the lack of young people in your church if you haven’t done your job as a parent, as defined by scripture. You would truly show appreciation by helping him out a bit and supporting his task of evangelism, and that begins at the home. Your home.
On the positive side, ask your pastor to come visit your home and lead a prayer service like vespers with your family. Invite him to bring his family as well. Ask him to come and answer some questions about the faith. He’d love it.
9. Get Him an Amazon Gift Card and Scotch
If there’s one thing a pastor never has enough of, it’s books. Feed the beast. This will help out with No. 6, encouraging him to study. This will also allow him to purchase books like, oh, I don’t know, “Gnostic America,” a book on the rise of Gnosticism in America that will help him understand why his job is becoming obsolete so he can tackle the problem (see point No. 1).
A close second would be a good single-malt Scotch. I don’t know what it is about pastors and single-malt Scotches, but I’ve rarely met a pastor who didn’t like single-malt Scotch. I think the buzz accords nicely with theology. And not the blended garbage, but a good 12-, 15-, or18-year Scotch, like Lagavulin. My mouth waters just typing the word and imagining that smoky nose followed by a rich peat and oak palate. Warm fire crackling while discussing the finer mysteries of the hypostatic union. Bach cantata playing in the background. Someone pinch me.
10. Babysit So He and His Wife Can Have a Date
A big frustration for clergy families is there’s no beginning or end to the work day. A divine call is 24/7. It’s not unusual for a pastor’s family to get cozy for a Friday movie night, only to get that call because someone’s in the hospital. Meetings and classes will pop up routinely in the middle of the week, taking away from precious family time. Very often the wife in particular suffers.
Yes, doctors and other professionals have the same stresses, and that’s why society accepts the salaries given them. On their off time, they can take their families on exotic jaunts. Pastors, not so much. A few members stepping up to give the pastor and his wife some time off is a great gift.
Let’s Put It All in One Place
So here’s what you should do this Sunday. Go to church, and be alert and responsive during the pastor’s sermon. After church, with Amazon gift card and Scotch in hand, thank the pastor for his sermon and ask if you can pick his brain a bit more on what he preached. Then offer to watch his kids so he and his wife can have a date night.
Oh, and then announce that you and your spouse are pregnant with triplets, and that you’ve just yanked your son from that league that has the gall to have games on Sunday morning, and that you’ve told your adult children they’re written out of the will until they start going to church.
After your time with your pastor, go to the leadership of the congregation and say, “I have some grave concerns affecting the future of our congregation I need to talk to you about. Are you free next month?” At that meeting, ask about COLIs.
Your pastor will invite you over for Scotch and heavenly conversation.
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