Now that there’s a cool nip in the air and leaves are beginning to change, you immediately know what time of year it is. Yes, it’s “Clergy Appreciation” Month. Every October, we’re encouraged to take a little extra time to recognize the leaders of our local churches. As best as I can tell from searching the internet, “Clergy Day” began in 1992. Some churches celebrate all month long, and some celebrate on the second Sunday in October. This is a great time of the year to provide uplifting prayer, encouragement and to show our appreciation to all church staff.
As with moms, you don’t have to wait until Mother’s Day to write encouraging words or provide gift cards for a nice meal or movie… and like Father’s Day, when dads may get another tie, your pastor may not desire a gift of molded praying hands, or another Bible. Chances are they already have one or more of each.
The pastors and clergy I talk to, like written words of encouragement and when times are tough, they refer back to these notes to remind themselves they’re making a difference. A difference with eternal consequences. The Bible says, “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thes 5:10-12). We all need encouragement, especially our church leaders.
Clergy and their families live under a spotlight, with members of the congregation and community watching with extra scrutiny. Truth be told, clergy struggle walking-the-walk and guiding others through real and contrived crises involving “church politics,” personality conflicts, and the rumor mill. Counseling sessions, hospital visits, funerals, and various social obligations often take precedence over their personal time. They are “supposed to” always have a loving spirit, and have the right thing to say. Their kids can never get into trouble, and they can’t show frustration while driving, shopping, if their pipes freeze, or the bills pile higher than the bank balance. We’re surprised and disappointed when they’re sick, overwhelmed, lacking in enthusiasm, or otherwise showing human tendencies.
I believe the staff at most churches would echo what Paul told the Romans. “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Rom 1:11-12).
Let your church leaders know how they have strengthened your faith, how they have helped your family members or community. Think of something special you can do, so they know you care. Spread this encouragement throughout the year. Your church leader might even appreciate something as simple as volunteering to write a newspaper article for them, so they have one less thing on their plate. I’m sure that you can be even more creative than I.
Jim Peckham is FISH Executive Director.