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Clergy Appreciation Month: 3 Thoughts on Honoring Pastors

honoring your pastor

October has a special designation in the life of the church. It’s the time for celebrating and honoring pastors during Clergy Appreciation Month. October is also known more specifically as Pastor Appreciation Month in many circles.

Why are we giving honor, love, and appreciation to pastors? For many reasons, but here are two:

  • The last few years have been incredibly hard, but God has been good. We are finally able to now begin seeing the other side of this global pandemic.
  • The pandemic, more than ever, has truly revealed the key roles pastors and clergy play in our churches and also our communities.

Several key studies have all highlighted this expansive role of pastors and faith leaders. Givelify’s Giving in Faith report highlights their importance. “Faith leaders hold multifaceted roles and are pivotal in driving engagement and community,” the report said.

In the “Trends in the Black Church” report, Barna Research – in collaboration with Black Millennial Café and others – discuss how essential the pastor’s role is in the view of the congregation and those visiting the church.

Likewise, Lifeway Research released its “Greatest Needs of Pastors” study. Not surprisingly, pastors list their need for support, as well as developing leaders to support the ministry, as primary concerns.

Combining the key takeaways of these studies with my experience in ministry, here are my thoughts on ways that your church can go about honoring pastors and clergy this month.

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#1: Provide a special offering to bi-vocational pastors

It’s important to understand that many pastors are bi-vocational, meaning they have another job outside of serving as the pastor or clergy for your congregation. This is often necessary because the average church size is around 100 people or less.

The 2020 Faith Communities Today study of more than 15,000 U.S. religious congregations revealed that 7 in 10 U.S. churches have 100 or fewer weekly worship service attendees.

Meanwhile, seven in 10 U.S. churchgoers attend a church with more than 250 each week. Half of all churches have fewer than 65 people in their weekly worship service.

Serving a smaller church often makes it difficult for pastors to work full-time at the church and support their families, often not having a staff to help bear some of the weight of ministry.

As a result, during this month, and prayerfully at other times throughout the year, making the weight financially easier for your pastor would be a great support.

Your congregation or church leadership should consider taking up a special offering, (outside of the tithe and offering used to support the church) to be a blessing to your pastor and their family.

Yes, you can invite them to lunch or provide restaurant gift cards, or even purchase some much-needed supplies for them. But I also believe that giving them some financial support that they can use in the way that they see fit, is the best way to show appreciation.

You don’t know what other financial commitments they have or what they might like to do for their families that they haven’t been able to do for months or even years.

Many of us know that working one job is hard enough. Yet working a day job and pastoring a church – sometimes with limited support – can be difficult to manage.

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#2: Provide an opportunity for your pastor to enjoy time away

A few months ago, I wrote about the importance of rest for pastors and church leaders. Of course, we can’t discuss rest and sabbatical for pastors without delving into why it’s so important.

Pastors and faith leaders struggle with burnout, the financial struggles of taking time off, and the stress of carrying the ministry load of pastoring without a break.

During this month of clergy appreciation, I challenge your ministry teams to think about and plan for ways to give your pastor and clergy some rest.

Have a guest preacher come in on one or two Sundays. This gives your pastor much-needed rest from having to prepare a sermon those weeks.

Plan for them to take a trip in a few months that will allow them to have a mental health break from the planning and preparation that happens weekly for both in-person and online worship.

Everyone needs a break. Imagine if you didn’t have weekends or whatever two days you normally have off from your job. Now, imagine if you didn’t get a vacation. How tired or worn would you feel?

This is the reality for many pastors and clergy persons as the demands of ministry life never seem to stop. Moments of intentional rest are key for everyone, including your pastor.

#3: Celebrate your pastor’s family

During this month, while it’s important to celebrate the pastor and clergy who serve our churches and communities week in and week out, it’s also important to celebrate their families.

These are the ones who support them in ministry. And honestly, they often have to make sacrifices and do without them sometimes because pastors and clergy persons are serving the church even when it means they have to miss special moments in the life of their family.

That can be taxing on the family. None of us can count the number of times our pastors are at the hospital with us or at our homes to pray or at a school function to support our children and youth.

Each time they are with us, please be mindful that they aren’t with their families. They are making sacrifices and oftentimes having to juggle picking up their kids and missing dinner with their family so that they can support their congregation.

In addition to Recommendation #1 above, I also suggest offering some level of gift or support for the spouse and/or the children to express your church’s thanks for their willingness to share their loved ones with the congregation and the community throughout the year.

Loving your pastor also means loving their families.

Make giving to your pastor simple with an online and mobile app solution

To make giving to your pastor simple and joyful, your church can also add a custom giving envelope within Givelify that tags gifts to go into a certain fund.

When your church uses Givelify’s custom giving envelopes feature, members can then direct their giving as they are so moved, or when you make specific appeals – for Clergy Appreciation Month, for example.

At offering time, your church can direct congregants to make their offering directly to the Clergy Appreciation envelope. Members can even add a thank you note when giving to express gratitude for their pastor and other church leaders.

Additionally, a custom giving envelope for Clergy Appreciation Month can last for any time frame you choose. Envelopes can be set to automatically hide on November 1. To create a custom envelope, visit the Givelify Support Center for detailed instructions.

Honoring pastors year-round

My prayer is that you support your pastor or clergy this month. At the same time, I encourage you to make pastor appreciation a year-round practice as they continue to commit and sacrifice so much for so many of us.

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About the Author

Russell St. Bernard is the director for ministry operations at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church in Maryland, and the founder of After the Music Stops, a full-service youth ministry company as well as founder of Ministry Pivot, a company dedicated to assisting leaders and churches seize opportunities for growth.

Russell St. Bernard