Published in the Rains County Leader on November 19, 2019:
Pastor Appreciation Day was last month, and I pretty much let it slide by. I told myself that I let Pastor Jason know on a regular basis how much I appreciate him, but something happened on Sunday that I couldn’t let pass without notice.
Last weekend, Pastor Jason and his wife Stacy took some much deserved personal time. Believers’ Baptist is blessed with people who can step in to fill the pulpit and play the keyboard when the Rolens are gone, but it’s always nice to have the family back together. Sunday was extra special because we were celebrating the Lord’s Supper after the worship service.
After Stacy finished the prelude, Pastor Jason went through the announcements, read a passage of Scripture as a call to worship, and lead us in the opening prayer. Before he began, he mentioned how much he and Stacy had enjoyed their weekend, especially Sunday morning. The church they visited was celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and for the first time in their 20+ years of marriage, they were able to sit in the pew together and take Communion as a couple. That’s just one of many things they give up to minister to their church family.
Although I’ve not experienced this aspect of ministry personally, my brother and my daughter-in-law are both ministers, so I’ve heard the stories. One thing ministers give up is control over their own schedule. There are the uncontrollable disruptions like accidents, illnesses, or deaths of church members, their families, or friends and neighbors. There are also the many church and community meetings that are often scheduled without consulting the minister’s calendar. And then there are the drop-ins – those well-meaning friends who have a few minutes to kill and stop by to chat. Don’t get me wrong, ministers are people oriented and service minded, so they don’t always see these interruptions as negatives, but if you drive by the church on a Saturday evening and see the lights still on in the Pastor’s study, don’t think it’s because he or she didn’t manage their time well.
Another comment I’ve heard from several ministers is that socializing becomes an exercise in diplomacy. Although they love everyone, it’s only human to be drawn to certain people more than others. Still, it’s important to avoid any appearance of favoritism to prevent cries of “Pastor’s Pet!” The result is that the pastor’s social life generally consists of church potlucks, elders meetings, and family birthday parties.
Holidays are also difficult for those in the ministry. Most churches have special services and events around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. It’s hard to have the family for dinner at the same time you’re juggling the children’s pageant, the youth caroling night, and the adult cantata. And it’s equally difficult to make it to Grandma’s for Christmas breakfast after the Christmas Eve midnight service.
In spite of moments when they imagine running away to join the circus, most pastors wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. My brother has retired several times, but he’s always been available when another church needed him. Several other minister friends have retired or taken a long sabbatical only to return to the pulpit when the call to serve overcomes the sacrifices required. Being a pastor is a divine calling, but it’s not easy. So let your pastors know how much you love and appreciate their devotion to the church. Maybe not a plate of cookies unless you’re sure there are no health issues, but a hug or a note of affirmation or appreciation will go a long way toward reminding your pastor of why he gives up all he does.