During an offering appeal, I once asked the church members, “What secular holiday is in our faces all through the month of October?” There were some children sitting near the front. Their immediate and energetic response was, “Halloween!” Their suppressed giggles and the delight in their eyes was, of course, much less about their understanding of the paganism behind this ritual, than it was about the candy and treats they might receive at a “Fall Festival” — a stash to last all year.
I wanted the children (and members) to engage in a different kind of day that occurs in October — Clergy Appreciation Day. While churches use the second weekend of October to celebrate this day, the entire month of October is now National Clergy Month in the U.S.
Some claim that in 1992, Hallmark Cards started “Clergy Appreciation Day.” After all, giving us a reason to buy a card is good for business. Others state, however, that the concept of clergy appreciation began way back in AD 65-66* when the Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim.5:17, NKJV). While Hallmark may have helped us focus our appreciation by buying cards and gifts from their stores during October, Paul reminds us that it is biblical to honor and care for our pastors.
Making a List
I recently asked Olivia, my 26-year-old daughter who grew up as an MD — Minister’s Daughter (a.k.a. Pastor’s Kid — PK), if she would take five minutes to make a list of what she understands to be the work of a pastor. She told me that the timer stopped her while she still had much more to write. Livvy’s list reminded me that it takes a lot of commitment and energy for pastors to serve from their hearts as they lead, guide, mentor, plan, equip, listen, study, and preach.
During this time of COVID-19 when many churches remain closed, the work of our pastors has shifted and increased as they have developed new skills and have become increasingly creative in the way they serve their members and their communities. Pastors have been kept busy as they check in on members through phone calls, Zoom sessions, and home visits (from the sidewalk). Pastors have delivered meals, Sabbath School Bible Study Guides, and hope. They have organized the members to be intentional about caring for one another and their neighbors. Our pastors have very keenly felt the isolation. So, this year, it is especially important to have a Sabbath — or even an entire month in October — set aside to shower our pastor(s) with tangible evidences of our appreciation, love, and care for them.
20 Ways to Show Your Pastor Appreciation
To help us celebrate Clergy Appreciation Month, I gathered a few ideas (see below) that I hope will be a springboard for your own personalized expressions of appreciation. You know your pastor best; and if you have more than one pastor on your church staff, be sure do something special for each of them. The “appreciation coordinator” for each pastor should be someone from the primary group whom the pastor serves. For example, a parent-child team could coordinate the appreciation for the children’s pastor.
- Send a message of appreciation by card, text, email, and/or “snail mail.” Recall a specific way that you have been blessed by the ministry of your pastor.
- A gift card from Amazon, Visa, Master Card, American Express. (This gives the pastor the freedom to shop at their favorite store and buy what they need, including a new suit.)
- Group gift of an envelope stuffed with cash ($5 and $10 bills).
- Dinner at their favorite restaurant (provide childcare if needed).
- Show up at prayer meeting (in person or online).
- Support your local church financially on a systematic basis, maybe with an extra gift to a ministry that is extra special to your pastor and is in great need.
- Love your pastor’s children and find appropriate ways to demonstrate this. (Do not expect more of them than you do of your own children.)
- Do not wait to be asked to fill a position in the church that needs your gifts — volunteer.
- Share with the pastor one way your life has been benefitted by his/her ministry.
- Post something nice about your pastor on social media — and tag them.
- Mow their lawn.
- Rake their leaves.
- Deliver potted chrysanthemums to their house. (Can you imagine what it would be like for a pastor to come home to a yard spotted with the brilliant colors of these mums?)
- Provide Sabbath lunch for the family. Let them enjoy the meal alone.
- Live as a disciple of Jesus. (This will bless your pastor as you grow more like Jesus every day.)
- Pray for your pastor and his/her family every day in October and let each family member know.
- If you have a church school, arrange for the children to make a special presentation.
- Have the children’s Sabbath School classes make cards to present to the pastor.
- As a group, each take a different day in the month of October and do something special for the pastor on that day.
- Have a surprise recognition for your pastor(s) during the church service.
Here is some guidance regarding number 20: A surprise is best because it is awkward for pastors to agree to have time set aside in the service so you can “honor” them. They may even ask you not to do anything, so don’t ask. If the pastor finds out that something is afoot, and expresses discomfort with the idea, with a smile, remind them that “Clergy Appreciation Month” is not just about the pastor. It is about giving the congregation the opportunity to fulfil the biblical imperative to honor those who serve. “Pastor, I don’t think you want to discourage the members from doing something that God has asked us to do.” Keep smiling and keep moving forward with your plan.
Indeed, Clergy Appreciation Month goes beyond showing appreciation for the pastor. It includes demonstrating to our children how to care for others. It is about seeing delight in the eyes of our children as they see the delight in someone else’s eyes because of what they (the children) have given, not received. The “treat” that you give your pastors this October will be their stash — the memory of which can sustain them all year. It will lead to the delight we will see in our Heavenly Father’s eyes when He opens the door and welcomes us into His kingdom, which, of course, will be the greatest “treat” of all — because the sweetness will last throughout eternity.
* Date taken from Andrews Study Bible, NKJV, p. 1579.
— Esther Ramharacksingh Knott is an associate director of the North American Division Ministerial Association and director of the MA in Pastoral Ministry program at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. She has served as a parish pastor for 26 years, and for the last seven years she has been a pastor to pastors across the NAD, seeking to affirm them all year long. She is also a volunteer pastor at her home church — Berrien Springs Village Church in Michigan. This article was updated on Sept. 30, 2020, at 10:30 a.m. ET.