October is Clergy Appreciation Month. This is a great time for congregations to show their love, appreciation, and support to their pastors. Having been a pastor for over a decade, I’ve been on the receiving end of so many wonderful gifts: a handwritten note, a home-cooked meal, a gift card for a nice place to eat, a kind word after a hard week. In all of these gifts it was the sentiment and love behind them that really stayed with me and made me feel appreciated.
I asked a group of seasoned pastors to tell me stories of times when they felt most appreciated by their church, either during the month of October or at other times of the year. You may be surprised by how simple it is to convey your love and support. Here are some ideas for you based on the stories they shared.
- Contribute acts of service.
“The best gift I’ve ever been given by my congregation was the offer of free babysitting for our two young children!”
“One time a woman bought me a crock pot. Occasionally she will ask to ‘borrow’ it and return it later that day filled with a yummy roast and veggies ready to eat.”
“One year volunteers showed up to help us paint the interior of our home when they heard we were doing home improvements. It really made us feel loved.”
- Offer words of specific appreciation.
“They gave little cards to everyone in the congregation and asked people to write something they appreciated about me on a card. Then they had a potluck where they presented me with the cards and financial gifts people had collected. I sat and read with tears in my eyes all the memories people had written of times my ministry touched their lives.”
“I received a Bible with notes of affirmation written in the end-pages. I love that Bible.”
“I love it when people let me know specific thoughts from my sermons that touched them. Or if they tell me stories of how their kids go home and play pastor or serve communion to their dolls.”
- Know their tastes.
“One Sunday in church they presented me with flowers, as they know that I love them. I also find vases of flowers on my desk often that come from people’s gardens. It is always an unexpected affirmation and reminds me they know my heart.”
“Gift cards for local bookstores or the Cokesbury website are great since my congregation knows I’m a bookworm!”
“They knew Heifer International was my favorite charity and gave a water buffalo to a family in my name. I was so touched.”
- Remember their family.
Find ways to include their spouse and children in your acts of appreciation. Perhaps ask your pastor or their spouse if there are places they like to go as a family and offer gift cards or time away.
“One church member found out where my children take Tai Kwan Do lessons and paid for a year of lessons. That was a blessing to our family and affirmed my kids!”
“One family gave my husband and I a gift card to a nice restaurant and offered free babysitting so we could go out for a night together.”
- Don’t forget the rest of the staff.
No matter the size of the church, your pastor leads the church with a lot of help from a team of people. While it’s important for your pastor to feel appreciated, don’t forget the rest of the staff.
“Our SPRC Committee offered a big banquet-style lunch for our staff as an act of appreciation. They had also collected hand-written cards with words for each staff member sharing memories of how their ministry had touched people. Even the custodian.”
- Don’t underestimate the joy found in handmade gifts.
“One of the youth, a member of the Confirmation class, drew me an absolutely beautiful pencil sketch of an owl, with scripture verses about wings written all around it!”
“My favorite gift was a banner with one of my favorite verses: ‘See, I have you inscribed on the palm of my hands.’ The banner had the hand prints of all the children with their names.”
- Make your appreciation known throughout the year.
“My church pitched in and gave me a $100 Starbucks card for ministry. This is so helpful since I meet people often at Starbucks for visiting/counseling. I think of the church’s kindness every time I use the card.”
“Our church presented us with a card letting us know we’d be receiving a home-cooked dinner delivered to our house on the first Sunday of each month.”
Acts of kindness and appreciation, no matter how big or small, can make a big impact. Take a moment this month to send a card or an email, or get together with others at your church and plan a big surprise or gift. The gratitude and love you express will be appreciated more than you know.
Jessica LaGrone is Dean of the Chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary and an acclaimed pastor, teacher, author, and speaker who enjoys leading retreats and events at churches throughout the United States. She is the author of the Set Apart: Holy Habits of Prophets and Kings, Namesake: When God Rewrites Your Story, and Broken and Blessed: How God Changed the World Through One Imperfect Family Bible studies, author of the book Broken & Blessed God Changes the World One Person and One Family at a Time, and co-author of the Under Wraps: The Gift We Never Expected study. She and her husband, Jim, have two young children.
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