This blog is shared in celebration of Pastor Appreciation Month.
Joe Hackman is the director of development and partner engagement for MennoMedia. Prior to his current role, he served as lead pastor of Salford Mennonite Church in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, from 2011-2019. He currently lives with his wife, Angela, and two children in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
When I was a young pastor in southeastern Pennsylvania, my congregation showed me multiple forms of generosity and appreciation. One of the times I felt most appreciated was when a 90-year-old member rolled up to church on a Wednesday morning in his brand-new Toyota Camry. He knocked on my office door and asked if I wanted to go for a ride. Clyde and I made the four-mile loop that circled around the rolling hills of our town, while he cranked opera music through the radio. When we got back to the church, I thanked him for showing me his new car and for the music. He smiled, said “Thank you for taking a ride,” and drove off.
Clyde was a man of few words and wasn’t going to verbalize his appreciation of my ministry, but inviting me into the highs and low of his everyday life meant the world to me. It showed me that our relationship mattered and that he valued my presence as his pastor.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month.
With the high amount of stress that pastors have been experiencing through navigating the pandemic, a divided culture and changing church patterns, this month presents a wonderful opportunity to show pastors that we notice them and the ministry they provide.
Here are 10 ways pastors have told me, in their own words, about the times when they felt appreciation from their congregation:
- I love receiving notes of gratitude and encouragement. There’s nothing better. I keep a file of thank-you cards and emails that I can refer to when ministry gets rough.
- It means a lot when someone grabs my arm to tell me they are praying for me. That person doesn’t need to know every detail taking place in my life, but I love to know I’m being held in prayer by individuals.
- I feel most appreciated when they invite me to have coffee or lunch without any “agenda.” They just enjoy being with me to share life’s ups and downs.
- I felt cared for when my church mandated sabbaticals every five years. It took the responsibility out of my hands to advocate for a sabbatical, and it showed that the church honored my vocation. I realize it’s a sacrifice for the congregation, and I appreciate their commitment to it on my behalf.
- I feel appreciated when there is public recognition of our pastoral team’s ministry through organizing activities around Pastor Appreciation Month.
- I feel valued when they verbalize their appreciation of my gifts. It doesn’t need to be much, but it is powerful to hear people verbalize what they notice in you.
- I felt appreciated when the congregation invested in my education. It showed that they believed in my gifts and cared about my family’s future.
- I feel appreciated when individuals acknowledge the toll that ministry can take on a family. It means a lot when they remember my spouse.
- I feel appreciated when members have advocated for pastor salaries and benefits in budget conversations. (Another pastor: I feel appreciated and valued when the congregation provides the rare, but welcomed, financial bonus.)
- I felt cared for when my church council saw the importance of giving me a generous vacation package.
What’s one thing you might do this month to communicate that your pastor is making a difference?
Need more ideas for this month? Donate any amount to MennoMedia during the month of October and have your pastor entered to win a $250 gift certificate to Herald Press. You can also purchase an E3 Book Club membership for your pastor. Your pastor will receive 12 new, compelling titles, delivered in four installments over the next 12 months, with each title specifically curated to enrich, empower and equip your pastor’s ministry.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.