By an Anonymous Minister
Psst . . . you! Yes, you! I’ve got some inside information for you. “What kind of information?” you ask. Let me give you all the dirt on what ministers really want for Pastor Appreciation Month.
I know, I know, you’re asking yourself, “Who is this character? How could he possibly know any of this? Why would I even want to know this super-secret info?” Although I can’t divulge my identity, I’ll clue you in on what you need to know: I’m a 10-year ministry veteran, 6 ½ years full-time, 3 ½ years part-time. During this time, in the various positions in which I’ve served, I have picked up some insight into the kinds of things that make a minister feel appreciated, and the kinds of things that, well . . . don’t.
The reason you might want this kind of intel comes down to a simple question: Do you appreciate your minister? Ministry can be wonderful, but it can also be difficult. So I will simply say it’s nice to feel appreciated.
Some churches make a big deal out of October being Pastor Appreciation Month, and some don’t. But even if your church doesn’t do anything in particular, you can still show your appreciation. Chances are, your minister loves the people he leads. Chances are, you appreciate him and what he does. Take the opportunity to tell him so.
So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bless, encourage, and thank your minister. And here is the inside information you will need to get the job done.
The Gift of Food
You could go so many directions here, and they would probably all be acceptable. Here are a few suggestions:
Some may think gift cards lack a personal touch, but a gift card to a favorite restaurant or a family entertainment venue can be a fantastic gift. You may choose to give your minister a gift card to a local grocery store. I know of one congregation that gives a side of beef from the local packing plant each year.
A plate full of baked goods can be cost-effective and delicious. Invite your minister and his family over for a meal or take them out to a restaurant just to say, “We appreciate you!”
Take your minister to lunch. Don’t bring any agenda to the meal other than to bless and invest.
Guidelines for Giving Books
When you give a leadership, ministry, or Christian living book to your minister as a gift, there is a possibility it might come across as an assignment or an insult. It may leave him guessing, “What are they trying to say by this?”
If you feel like books are the best way to go, and you want to show your appreciation that way, consider these options:
If you know your minister well enough, a book from one of his favorite authors would be kind, thoughtful, and well-received.
Ask for a list of books he would like to read or add to his library and make the list available so members of the church can purchase them for him. If he has a hard time making a list, encourage him to ask mentors and colleagues to recommend three to five “must have” books for ministry.
The Gift of Time
Time is a precious commodity and ministry doesn’t always happen from nine to five, Monday through Friday. So give the gift of time.
Approach your church board about giving your minister extra vacation days. If your congregation has particularly deep pockets, send the minister and his family on vacation.
Make sure he gets an extra Sunday off to go along with his extra vacation days. Time off during the week, while still being required to preach the following Sunday, is rarely restful. It can actually create additional stress, and doesn’t allow the minister to spend quality time with his family. He would still have a message to prepare.
If there is a Christian college in the vicinity, check with them about sending a professor or student to preach in your minister’s absence. Perhaps a large church nearby could send a staff member to preach. A local Gideons chapter would be glad to send a member to preach and talk about their ministry one Sunday.
Another way to give the gift of time is by giving your own time. If you’re a handyman, perhaps there are projects around the minister’s house he could use help with.
Invite the minister and his family to spend an evening in your home. Share a meal, play games, talk, or watch sports or movies together. Invite them into your family’s life. Take time to get to know, invest in, and encourage your minister.
Remember His Family
While the minister is the one on the church payroll, his family often is expected to be around for most ministry functions as well. That can fill up a family’s schedule quickly, and add lots of stress. If the minister has children at home, give the family a gift they can enjoy together, like tickets to a nearby zoo, amusement park, or movie theater.
Something as simple as a gift certificate for the minister’s wife to get a massage or manicure could go a long way. Or give the minister and his wife a date night. Give them a gift card to a local movie theater or sports event. If they have children, offer to watch them for the evening or include extra money to pay for a babysitter.
If money is tight and you can’t afford a gift, a card with a handwritten note of encouragement will go farther than you might think. Share a specific memory or a particular lesson he taught that was meaningful to you. It will mean more than you know.
These may become his most treasured gifts. I keep the cards and notes I have received in my desk, and they’re a great encouragement through hard and stressful times.
If you can, throw a little cash or a gift card in there as well.
Nothing says, “I have no idea what to do here” than when you give a gift while saying, “I have no idea what to do here.” So be thoughtful with your gift.
Don’t give gifts based on your own preferences. And don’t be afraid to do a little reconnaissance if you need insight about likes and dislikes. When in doubt, ask the family.
The Gift of Prayer
Pray regularly for your minister and his family. Ask, “Is there anything specific I can pray for?” Let the family know that you’re praying for them. And take time to pray with them.
The Gift of Continual Appreciation
It’s great to do something for your minister during Pastor Appreciation Month, but don’t stop showing appreciation when October is over. Explore ways to show your appreciation all year long.
You don’t have to be lavish, but regular words of encouragement, a note from time to time, and general kindness will speak volumes.
This is your mission. It may not be dangerous, but it’s very worthwhile. A successful mission means your minister will find himself feeling appreciated and encouraged.