10.28.2022 – In Praise of Appreciation

It’s almost over, so probably a good time to say something about it. October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Like many pastors, I have had a love-hate relationship with Pastor Appreciation Month. Mostly hate.

What? You didn’t know it was Pastor Appreciation Month, and now you find out with only a few days and one Sunday until it expires? Apparently, you are not alone. Just a couple of weeks ago I said something about this festive month to a younger colleague, and he knew nothing about it. He didn’t know that he was supposed to be appreciated and wasn’t slightly embarrassed by the way his congregation was (or was not) observing this most important of all designated months.

Unfortunately, we pastors have to share our special month with squirrels and pit bulls. I don’t know if there is a connection.

In 1994 Focus on the Family, which at the time had a huge daily Christian radio audience, launched Pastor Appreciation Month. Since churches love nothing more than a tradition, it soon became a tradition. Focus on the Family still offers a manual on how to show appreciation to your pastor. Both Hallmark Cards and American Greetings have designated Pastor Appreciation pages on their website and American Greetings even has a helpful “what to write on your card” section for those who bought a card but don’t know what to say. I did not check to see if they have a “what to write” section on their squirrel and bit pull pages.  (“Thanks for scurrying out of the way after I swerved to avoid hitting you,” “Thanks for your bark being worse than your bite.”)

You may have guessed that I am a bit cynical about Pastor Appreciation Month. Both temperament and experience incline me so.

But even old cynics sometimes change their ways.

I am serving as a “Transitional Coach” at a church not too far from us and was completely taken off guard earlier this Pastor Appreciation Month when one of the deacons went to the microphone during announcement time and began to say appreciative things about my service and Becky’s and my presence in the congregation these past several months.  Her words were more than appreciative, they were sincere and well spoken. We felt not just appreciated but known and thanked.

In fact, and with a shoutout to the congregation at Ossian Presbyterian Church, it isn’t the card and the kind token enclosed that I appreciate so much.  I appreciate being appreciated.  I don’t know about any Pastor Appreciation Month traditions at OPC.  Maybe they’ve always done something like this.  What I do know is that in addition to the deacon’s kind words earlier this month, I leave every Sunday worship service, every Session meeting, having been told directly or indirectly that my work is appreciated, that Becky’s friendliness and support is noticed.  I appreciate being appreciated.

Pastoral ministry is not a good place to go if all you seek is appreciation. It’s sometimes in short supply.  And, yes, in the end, there’s only one “Well done, good and faithful servant” that counts.  But in the meantime…

Two closing thoughts.  First, you don’t have to buy a card, but let your pastors know they’re appreciated. And don’t limit your demonstration of appreciation to October or special events.  Even if your pastor tends to be squirrely or pit bull-like.  Second, if you know a pastor who is willing to work hard with some wonderful people, tell them about Ossian Presbyterian Church.  The CIF is up, and I’d love to talk to them.