October is generally recognized as Pastor Appreciation Month by many churches in the Tennessee Baptist Convention as well as the larger Southern Baptist Convention family where churches select a Sunday in the month to honor their pastors and, oftentimes, other staff ministers.
You may read the headline and automatically assume I am opposed to churches paying tribute to their ministers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Pastors and staff ministers need a special time of recognition and so there is nothing wrong with planning a special celebration and giving your ministers a gift card or whatever you choose. In fact, some churches probably have already held such an event.
My point is that we, as Southern Baptists and more importantly, as Christians, have an obligation to show our appreciation, support and respect to our ministers every week of the year. We don’t have to have a major celebration or give gifts weekly. We just need to show our pastor and staff ministers that we love and support them year-round.
I Timothy 5:17, NIV, reminds us, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
We also are reminded in I Thessalonians 5:12-13, NIV, “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”
If all Christians, including Southern Baptists, heeded those admonitions of Scripture in the New Testament, I predict we would have much fewer instances of pastors under stress and those who are considering leaving the ministry.
In April of last year, Barna Research reported that as of March 2022, 42 percent of pastors were considering quitting the ministry, an increase of 13 percent over January of 2021.
According to Barna, the top three reasons given by pastors for wanting to quit were stress, loneliness and political division.
The Barna Research article noted that “over half of pastors who have considered quitting full-time ministry (56 percent) say ‘the immense stress of the job’ has factored into their thoughts on leaving.”
I fear too many well-meaning Christians place their pastor on a pedestal and think they have to be Superman to be effective. Regardless of all the movies and television, there has only been one “super man” in recorded history and his name was Jesus Christ.
Our pastors are not “Superman.” They are mere humans, just like everyone who sits in their pews on Sunday.
But, consider this. While you only have to worry about yourself and your family, a pastor also has to do that while at the same time, shepherding and caring for dozens or potentially hundreds of individuals and families, depending on the size of the congregation.
As lay leaders in our churches, we are not the ones who get the calls at 2 a.m. in the morning that a teenage child has been arrested or killed in an accident. We don’t get the calls from seemingly “perfect” families who are one step away from divorce or their seemingly “perfect” children may have drug and alcohol addictions.
We don’t understand that pastors and their spouses and children are under a microscope 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Our ministers are just like us. They have their “warts” but they have been called by God to minister to us — and believe it or not, we have our “warts” too.
So, when you get “put out” with your pastor or staff minister, consider the times that God may be “put out” with you and extend the same grace and mercy to your pastor that God bestows on us daily.
As for the question in the headline — “Do we really need a Pastor Appreciation Day?” — the answer is yes.
Honor your pastor with a special day, but show your appreciation as well throughout the year with a simple note or just saying “thank you” when leaving the service on Sunday morning. That will mean more to him than you will ever know. B&R