It is virtuous, invigorating and biblical to set aside time each year to honor your pastoral staff and their families (such as Clergy Appreciation Month). It can be one of the most enjoyable and unifying times your congregation will experience. But it is also imperative that your appreciation of your pastor(s) is not confined to just one weekend or one month. It needs to occur throughout the entire year. In fact, it needs to be present throughout his or her entire ministry with your church.
There are a number of long-term ways your congregation can show its love and appreciation for your pastor(s) and demonstrate its respect for his or her divine calling among you. Here are a few very important things your church can do to provide the ongoing care God expects from you:
1. Establish a pastoral care team.
Select a handful of people from your congregation who will be charged with overseeing the welfare of your pastor and his family. They will be his advocates. As such, they will regularly monitor his or her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being; offer suggestions to congregational leaders that would improve the living conditions of the pastoral family; represent the pastor and his or her interests in any discussions on such matters; and ensure that the following entitlements are properly available.
2. Provide fair and adequate salary, compensation and retirement benefits.
The Bible says, "The worker deserves his wages" (Luke 10:7, NIV). A pastor should be compensated on a par with the people being served and with other ministers in the same community. Leadership in every church should be more concerned about the physical and fiscal well-being of the pastor than nearly any other area. The quality of such care is a reflection upon you as a congregation and is a witness to your community of Christ's love in action. Recognize your pastor as a uniquely trained professional with related education loans to repay, family-raising needs and expenses similar to your own and a right to a comfortable retirement. Make this support a priority. Review it and adjust it regularly. Give your pastor the freedom to minister instead of worry.
3. Allow time off for professional development.
Encourage your pastor to continually challenge and improve himself/herself by underwriting his/her participation in spiritual retreats, conferences, denominational functions and continuing education each year. Every church will be better served if its leader is filled with new insights and motivation.
4. Allow time off for relaxation and restoration.
All pastors need time away with their families, as well as time alone with God. Give your pastor at least one or two days off each week, and respect his or her privacy during those days. Set boundaries and make sure the members of the congregation respect them. Grant your pastor adequate vacation days, based on the total number of years he has been in full-time ministry, not his tenure at your church. Also, give him/her time off (replacement days) for holidays worked, and allow guilt-free time away for personal matters or bereavement.
5. Give freedom to dream and permission to lead.
Be open to new ideas. Your pastor has access to resources and new concepts from the world's greatest religious leaders. That means he/she will probably come to you with ideas and dreams for your congregation that may at first seem a bit grandiose or unrealistic. But stay open. Dreams are fragile. Work to keep your pastor dreaming and alive. Don't be afraid to let him/her fail occasionally. Follow his/her leadership rather than presenting constant opposition. Allow him/her to speak out honestly against sin and injustice. Let the Holy Spirit work.
6. Be willing to participate enthusiastically in shared ministry.
The most exhilarating moment a pastor can experience is to have a layperson say, "Pastor, I really want to make a difference in my world for Christ. I want to put on the whole armor of God and enter the fray. Will you help me? Will you train me? Will you pray for me?" Join your pastor in God's ministry.
7. Support your pastor with regular prayer, love and encouragement.
These are the most important things a church member can do for a pastor. Prayer empowers pastors to be the people God called them to be. It is difficult to pray for someone and be critical at the same time. Love your pastor(s) as Jesus loves them, and show it through regular, tangible acts of encouragement (such as simple cards or notes) all year long.
8. Create an atmosphere that minimizes ministry stress and unrealistic expectations.
Cherish your minister's Christlike character as a priceless asset for your church. Avoid grumbling, poisonous humor or a negative spirit. Be loyal. Come alongside him or her to facilitate personal renewal and restoration. Keep him/her accountable in avoiding an excessive schedule and maintaining healthy priorities.
9. Care for your pastor's family.
Don't expect his/her family to be any more perfect than your own. Recognize that every family is unique, and eliminate unrealistic expectations. Encourage your pastor to make his or her family a priority (even above ministry to you) and to give it the time, energy and effort required to keep it healthy. Recognize the tremendous sacrifices he/she makes on your behalf and offer massive affection and affirmation. Provide for their comfort, needs and preferences. Don't cut corners.
10. Support pastoral caregiving ministries.
Pastors do burn out. Even though you do everything within your power to care for them, statistics show that your pastor or his family may some day need unique caregiving assistance. There is no shame in it, neither for you nor them. Facilitate such care by financially supporting one of the special ministries or denominational programs that offer assistance to pastors and their families. If and when it becomes necessary, cover any costs associated with renewing your pastor to full strength and restoring his/her ministry.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.