No matter how humble or unassuming they may be, most people get a warm glow inside when someone says “thank you” for what they’ve done or expresses appreciation simply for who they are. Clergy and others who fill pastoral roles are no exception.
October is Pastor (or Clergy) Appreciation Month with the second Sunday designated as Pastor Appreciation Day. It is a time to say “thank you” to the people who may be most visible as preachers and teachers, but who, in reality, are on-call 24/7 standing with congregants and others to offer spiritual and other support in times of confusion and transition, times of heart-wrenching sorrow and times of overwhelming joy. They laugh, cry and pray with those whom they shepherd and serve.
Established as a worldwide recognition time in 1992, the call to honor the contributions of pastoral leaders can be traced back to Paul, who advised congregations to give “double honor” to the elders who managed the affairs of the church well, “especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17, NIV).
Some staff-parish relations committees or other groups in the congregation plan ways to honor or recognize their pastors during October. Whether or not the congregation does so together, individuals can say “thank you.”
Here are some ways to extend appreciation to pastors or other clergy. And, remember, these suggestions are also good for birthdays, celebrating a reappointment and other times when the congregation or individuals want to say “thank you.”
1. Send a hand-written note or greeting card (check for appropriate pronouns!) with a message of gratitude. (If there’s time, have people who you know will follow through commit to sending their note on a particular day so they are received throughout the month.)
2. Have children draw pictures or create other artwork for a clergy member or Sunday school leader.
3. Pray for your pastors – and let them know you do so (ask them what you might specifically pray for).
4. Lend your pastor a hand by volunteering with an organization where he or she ministers, such as a hospital or nursing home.
5. Give a “thank you basket” filled with his or her favorite brand of coffee, favorite snack or hard-to-find allergy-friendly food items.
6. Provide a meal via a gift card to the pastor’s favorite restaurant or a home-cooked or takeout meal. Make a gift card large enough to include the spouse or other friend and consider offering free babysitting if needed. Deliver meals at a time convenient to the recipient.
7. Consider giving gift cards that encourage self-care (massage, movie theater, a favorite local restaurant or upscale espresso spot).
8. Provide tickets to a sporting or cultural event or concert they will enjoy. Again, make it easy for them to take a spouse or other companion and be sure the dates will work.
9. Give a service that your pastors are unlikely to get for themselves but would appreciate (house cleaning, landscaping, tailoring, consulting or financial advising).
10. Give a group gift, from a group or to a group, such as an espresso machine.
11. Have the pastor schedule an extra Sunday off (not charged against vacation or other leave time and a substitute preacher is provided).
12. Provide a weekend getaway for the pastor and spouse and/or family.
13. Give Bible study software you know the pastor would enjoy but cannot afford.
14. Request contributions from the congregation to update the clergy member’s office with ergonomic chairs and keyboards, new software, new artwork, or other furnishings.
15. Take a group photo with fellow churchgoers and present the framed photo as a gift.
16. Create a photo calendar with inspiring Bible passages or photos of church events creating happy memories for the pastor.
Parts of this article were adapted from “7 ways to honor pastors and clergy," and "10 Killer Ideas for Pastor Appreciation Month.” Tithe.ly ChMS.
The Rev. Kathy Noble is a deacon serving at editorial manager with the leader communications team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. She works with the team producing ResourceUMC.org, The Source e-newsletter and other content to inspire and support lay and clergy leaders throughout the church.
More ideas and related articles:
“Clergy Faith and Wellness: Saying thank you”
“(More than) 10 ways to appreciate your pastor”
“15 ways to pray for your pastor”
What your pastor won’t tell you (but wishes you knew) about Pastor Appreciation Month