In today’s post, Jaime Hlavin kicks off a series of four blogs focused on Pastor Appreciation Month. We are taking a bit of a different slant on the subject, focusing on how pastors can lead and serve in such a way that honor is due them. Enjoy ~ John.
It was our second Pastor Appreciation Sunday as Lead Pastors. I stood uncomfortably on stage alongside the rest of our staff and their spouses as the Deacon Board member holding the microphone began reading from the small slip of paper in his hand.
I tried not to think of the awkwardness of the previous year and silently prayed it would be better this time. Last year, my husband and I, along with the two other couples that comprised our staff stood in a line as the Deacon Board member who drew the short straw read blandly from a notecard. That information included each of our names, “what we did” at the church followed by one short, generic statement of “appreciation” for. We received stiff hugs from the Deacon board member as he presented each one of us with a card and then walked off the stage.
I didn’t think I could feel more ill at ease than I did that day. I was wrong. On this particular Pastor Appreciation Sunday, we stood beside individuals who were new to our team within that year. So, take the discomfort of the previous year’s presentation and add mispronunciation of names, forgetting the spouse’s name, and complete unawareness of what the team member’s role was within the church.
On the ride home, I looked at my husband, Aaron, and said, “That was awful.” He agreed.
My husband does not love being the focus of attention when it comes to kudos and public displays of gratitude. And then for him, if it feels like a formality, he’d rather forgo it altogether. After that cringeworthy event, Aaron decided to call it quits on future Pastor Appreciation Sundays. He asked the Board to cancel any presentations going forward since “our work was unto the Lord and we didn’t need the public accolades.” So, we never did one again.
Aaron and I didn’t think about it too much about it throughout our time there. Each October, we would receive exactly one card from the same precious woman in our congregation and we’d say, “Oh yeah . . . it’s Pastor Appreciation.”
Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely loved our time at our church. The people were amazing; we never felt underappreciated or devalued. They were kind, grace-filled, Jesus-loving, hardworking people who were like family. After we moved from the pastorate and settled into our new ministry role (we no longer lead pastor), the concept of Pastor Appreciation became a distant memory. But last October, we experienced something that made us rethink everything.
Our new home church scheduled Aaron to guest speak on Pastor Appreciation Sunday. The message was to be one honoring the pastoral staff. (While Aaron does not love being in the “honor spotlight” himself, he excels at celebrating others, and he did an outstanding job blessing our church’s pastoral staff and their spouses that day.)
Then, a Deacon Board member took the stage and invited the entire staff and their spouses to come stand in front of the congregation. He spoke very meaningful words about each person as he explained not only their role within the church, but how much impact they’ve had on him and the people he loves. There was then a very meaningful prayer time.
After that, the staff was instructed to exit the Worship Center and create a “receiving line” in the foyer. The congregation spilled into the foyer, delivered cards and meaningful gifts to a table designated for each staff member and then proceeded to stand in line for well over an hour to lavish each person with kind words, exhortations, and encouragement. Tears and hugs abounded.
But wait! There’s more! The Deacon Board then took the staff, their families (and the guest speaker and his family) out to a fine lunch at nice Italian restaurant. It was a spectacular time. We experienced the complete opposite end of the spectrum–granted the end we were used to was of our own making.
Our drive home was quiet until our daughter spoke up, “Why did we never do anything like that at our old church? Were you not appreciated?”
We fumbled over an answer and assured her we were appreciated, loved, and valued. She said, “Okay. But that was pretty cool.”
Yeah. It was. Had we modeled something unhealthy to a younger generation? While yes, we were very good at celebrating the people in our church—Aaron loves Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” But as I said previously, he doesn’t love when people dote on him.
If you follow anything we produce here at Converge Coaching, you can already recite the stats about pastoral loneliness, burn out, and pressure so I won’t bombard you to bolster my point. Setting aside some time to celebrate and honor your pastors can do so much to fill their encouragement “tanks” and help propel them into renewed strength.
Taking time during the month set aside to celebrate hardworking, caring pastors and leaders helps them to know they are seen, heard, and appreciated. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or over-the-top–just a thoughtful gesture or reminder their work is meaningful to you.
And Romans 12:10 goes both ways: “outdo one another in showing honor.”
Pastors do realize they aren’t in this for the accolades and awards, but rather they are answering the call. But at the end of the day, pastors and leaders are still human and amid the deeply spiritual and emotional work they are doing, it can be encouraging to know they are making a difference from time to time.
Conversely, we are keenly aware there are some leaders who do not lead well and have taken advantage of or have created abusive situations. Church hurt is real, and we are not suggesting you ignore it, stay in an unhealthy situation, or blindly honor leaders who have caused damage.
This month we intend to focus on ways pastors can become worthy of the honor bestowed. Romans 13:7 talks about giving honor to whom honor is due. Sometimes we want to focus just on the giving honor part, and not on the “to whom honor is due. So, stay tuned throughout the month for more on that.
But in the meantime, consider sending a card, a kind text, or other meaningful tokens of appreciation this month to let your pastor know you appreciate them!
Rooting and praying for you,