By Shawn McMullen
Although October is a month away, it will be here before we know it and along with it, National Clergy Appreciation Month. Each year the second Sunday in October (October 13 this year) is set aside as National Clergy Appreciation Sunday. On this day and throughout the month, congregations are encouraged to express their appreciation and lend their support to their ministers and their families.
Why not put together a team of encouragement-minded folks in your congregation and begin planning ways to honor your minister(s) next month? Focus on the Family provides an excellent resource for this—a downloadable planning guide for Clergy Appreciation Month. (Go to www.thrivingpastor.org and type “Clergy Appreciation” in the search box.) The guide provides both short-term and long-term suggestions for encouraging and supporting your minister.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Determine an appropriate level of involvement. On a larger scale some churches have planned elaborate recognition events with banquets, special ceremonies, and church-wide family reunions of present and former members. However some ministers may feel embarrassed by such an approach and would prefer a more quiet and casual recognition—perhaps at the conclusion of a worship service.
Host a card shower. Designate a day for church members and friends to bring cards of appreciation as gifts to your minister. Or provide blank thank-you notes to the congregation and ask everyone to write a simple, heart-felt expression of gratitude.
Plan an evening celebration. Gather as a church family and share a meal together with unity as your theme. Talk about some of the positive things you have experienced in the past year as a congregation, being careful to identify the vital role your minister and his family have played in the life of the church. Make this a time of bonding and recommitment for the entire congregation.
Submit an open letter to your local newspaper. Let your community know how much your minister is loved and appreciated by the church he serves. This can also be an effective outreach tool. Someone said, “People love to go to church where people love to go to church.”
Present your minister with a significant gift. The gift may be covered by your general budget or by special contributions from members. Your preacher will appreciate simple gifts like a magazine subscription or a gift certificate to a local bookstore, restaurant, theater, or car wash. A gift card from a shoe or clothing store, or even a new set of tires would be welcome. Some churches have taken the next step and surprised their minister and his family with an all-expense-paid trip to a resort or a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast. Others have presented their minister with a new laptop, a GPS, or provided a trip to a conference.
The size of the gift is not important. What matters is that you do something meaningful to express your appreciation and support to the family or families that serve you in ministry.
Perhaps you’ll take the lead and organize a special event this year to help your church honor your minister during Clergy Appreciation Month. It would be a great opportunity to put into practice Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27).
This article is adapted from one that first appeared in The Lookout on July 29, 2007.