So here we are… it’s Pastor Appreciation Month. This is the time of year where some congregations take the time to express their gratitude to people serving in ministry. I think I’m supposed to appreciate this appreciation and to champion its cause but I’ll be honest: I almost hate this month’s focus. I can’t say I outright hate it, because that’ll probably get me in trouble with someone out there and the comment section of this blog will blow up. So I’m playing it safe here. I almost hate it. Maybe it’d be better if I said that I dislike the idea of Pastor Appreciation Month. Here are five reasons why I dislike Pastor Appreciation Month:
(1) October is only 31 days long.
This afternoon Able, Kenny, and myself were talking about the struggles of pastoral ministry. We were acknowledging that no one has a clue about the pains of ministry unless they have really been in it. I mean, being a human being is tough enough, right? We have relationship problems just like everyone else. Our kids go through difficulties just like everyone else. And on top of that, not only do pastors shoulder their own personal difficulties and the difficulties of their close loved ones, they shoulder the pain and sorrow and challenges that people in their church go through! Pastors share your life’s complexities on a regular basis. Rarely do they get 3am phone calls to inform them that someone’s won the lottery. They get 3am phone calls for deaths, sickness, or more. When Kenny voiced this, I think all three of us got emotional and had one of those silent bonding moments where we thought, “Wow, these guys get me.”
The writer of Hebrews reminded his readers that church leaders are called to keep watch over people’s souls (Heb. 13:17). Who would have thought that this included more than just laboring in preaching and teaching? It includes hours upon hours of mediation and training and meetings. Not to mention the hours of prayer and anxious reflection. So while your appreciation in the form of a card or a small gift is nice, you might want to remember how much they do for you throughout the year! Ministry is hard and stressful and people often have no clue about the stuff that pastors are dealing with because it’s confidential. Say thank you and show appreciation in May, okay? You should appreciate people who serve in ministry far more than once a year.
(2) Senior/Lead pastors don’t do all of the ministry.
Every year, there are thousands of senior/lead pastors who receive cards and gifts and other nice tokens of appreciation while tens of thousands of associate pastors, elders, worship leaders, and other pastoral church leaders are totally and completely overlooked. Why? Because they aren’t the “senior” pastor. Never mind the fact that I’m an advocate for the plurality of pastoral leaders (here), no effective pastor is doing it all on their own. He/She has a team of people who are praying alongside of them and who is shouldering a burden that most church members are unaware of.
For example, the other pastor of the church I serve is amazing. Don does more than anyone has any clue, except for his wife… and sometimes she probably doesn’t know everything either. Don doesn’t go around letting people know about the ministry and pastoral care he’s involved in. I find out about ways he’s been a blessing to people all of the time after the fact. And yet for years he has stood in the background of Pastor Appreciation Month. Sure, he’ll get an email or a card here and there, but who is thinking about giving him a financial gift or a steak dinner or a vacation?
You get my point? Be aware of the fact that ministry is often a thankless job and your gratitude throughout the year to everyone who seres you would be much appreciated!
(3) Appreciation from people who make life a living hell.
Need I say more? Okay, maybe I should.
A lot of pastors will receive cards and gifts this time of year from people who make that pastor’s life a living hell. Often these people make sure that these wonderful gifts are given in very public ways so that everyone in the church isn’t hip to the difficulties that person creates. For eleven months of the year, that person complains about everything under the sun: music is too loud, sermon is too long/short, and so and so recently sat in their seat. But once October rolls around: “Pastor, we love you and appreciate you sooooo much! Here’s a card and a gift basket we bought for you!”
How about you difficult people keep in mind that your pastor has a difficult job and you can either be a blessing to him or make his life more difficult. I’m not saying don’t avoid allowing him to serve you and to pastor you and to care for you. I’m just saying that constantly complaining about the drum volume or color scheme of the bulletin might seem a little silly when your pastor has spent the last three days trying to help a couple work through a marriage crisis.
(4) Appreciation from people who talk about you behind your back.
Yes, this is similar to #3, but it’s also unique enough to have it’s own category and since I’m standing on my soap box, I’ll just keep going.
If you are going to slander your pastor and totally and completely overlook the biblical process of peacemaking (think Matt. 18:15-20), please don’t give them a gift basking when you are done. Chances are, they already know that you’ve said things about them. Instead of helping your pastor grow or even giving them an opportunity to change, you decided to negatively influence other people towards your pastor and then gave them a gift. I’ll take “Betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” for two hundred!
(5) It makes me feel uncomfortable.
Perhaps this is more of a personal reason why I’m not big on Pastor Appreciation Month, but it’s awkward. This past Sunday our administrative assistant put something in the bulletin about it and then someone mentioned it during the announcements and all I could think was, “I wonder if people think I’m trying to get appreciation?”
Maybe that’s a dumb reason, but I often wonder if all this focus on appreciation pastors makes people who are less familiar with church culture a little uneasy. People already think that pastors don’t work much, despite the fact that research shows that pastors work, on average, more than 50 hours a week. Now people probably think that all this focus on appreciating the pastor was probably created by the pastor!
Anyway, those are five reasons why I’m not a huge fan of Pastor Appreciation Month. What reasons would you add? Or maybe you are of the opposite opinion and love it! Why?
And just so all of the readers know, this is supposed to be thought-provoking. I don’t really hate October or think it’s satanic in origin 🙂 I also realize that not all pastors are serving in positive ways, so don’t think I’m giving people in ministry a blank check either!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.