By Shawn McMullen
When I think about the sacrifices many ministers and their families make to serve Christ and the church, it seems reasonable that those who benefit from their work take time regularly to express their appreciation and encourage them in their calling.
Here are some suggestions (from www.parsonage.org) you and your congregation may want to consider when encouraging your ministry staff during Clergy Appreciation Month.
Host a card shower where members and friends present either purchased or homemade greeting cards to each minister’s family. Or distribute blank notes to be used for expressing appreciation. Encourage those who participate to be as specific as possible in their praise, revisiting favorite sermons or moments when the minister’s ministry made a difference.
Submit an open letter to your local newspaper to announce to the community your genuine appreciation for your ministers and their families.
Present your ministry families with significant gifts, including a card signed by as many people as possible. The cost of such a gift may be covered through your church budget or by asking for special donations. Consider simple gifts (a gift certificate to a local bookstore, restaurant, or car wash, or a magazine subscription), personal gifts (a new pair of shoes, a new suit or dress, a new set of tires), generous gifts (an all-expense-paid trip to a resort, bed and breakfast, or overnight railway trip) or even practical gifts (a cell phone, tablet reader, computer, or a conference or seminar for ministers).
Ask your Sunday school and other children’s groups to make creative appreciation messages for the staff using construction paper and bright colors. Have the minister visit them for their own ceremonies of gratitude. Then decorate staff offices with the children’s artwork.
Plant a tree or some shrubs in honor of your ministry staff. These can make long-lasting tributes and can form the basis for future conversations as you talk to your children and grandchildren about the value of their spiritual leaders.
Invite a guest speaker to conduct worship and give your ministry staff an extra paid day off.
Organize a “super text” event. Choose a day and have people text the minister hourly with a heartfelt message about how he has touched their lives.
Schedule special sessions to pray specifically for your ministers and their families. Make this a yearlong commitment and assign special categories to each month, such as good health for the minister’s family, financial stability, courage and freedom to dream, and the minister’s marriage.
Some may argue that others in the congregation also work hard and make sacrifices for Christ and the church. They may question the fairness of honoring only a select few in this way. I hope those who think this way would choose to act on their opinions and honor others at every opportunity. But I would also hope they would see the value of honoring those who have committed their lives to the vocational ministry. It’s the least we can do.