You may or may not know that October is more than the most beautiful month of the year. It's also Pastor Appreciation Month. For many congregations it carries the same weight as Arbor Day. It means very little, if anything, to most churches.
Many people bristle at the idea of showing anyone extra appreciation or honor if they're being paid for doing their job. I once asked a Deacon if they were doing anything special for their pastor in October and he replied, "Yep, we're giving him a paycheck!" And he wasn't being cute. He was being serious. That attitude is completely opposite of what we are commanded to do in scripture.
How can we honor and respect those God has called and equipped to lead us? How can we avoid worshiping a personality while simultaneously loving and blessing our pastors and setting them up to win and succeed in serving us? Here are 5 practical places to start...
1. Obey The Bible
The pastors (elders) who lead the affairs of the church well are worthy of DOUBLE HONOR, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. I Timothy 5:17
This is a hard verse to argue with. I can choose to pick that verse apart by finding examples of bad pastors that I don't think deserve it, or I can submit myself to God's authority and begin to give double (generous, gracious) honor to my leaders. Don't refuse to honor your pastor because you're afraid it will go to his head and cause him to be arrogant. How foolish! Honor and encouragement foster humility, not pride.
2. Verbally Affirm Them
Dear brothers, honor those who lead you. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love. I Thessalonians 5:12
Not only should I use my mouth to encourage pastors, I should also use my hands. I can write a card, send a gift certificate, compose an encouraging email, or post on Facebook and Twitter how much I love and appreciate those who lead the church. I can brag on them in public and pray for them in private.
3. Consistently Defend Them
Do not listen to an accusation against a pastor (elder) unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. I Timothy 5:19
At some point, people won't like something our leaders say or do, and they will talk about it. When we hear these comments, we should quote this verse and explain to the gossiper and anyone else who is listening that we won't put up with that kind of harmful slander against our pastor. I did this once in a restaurant when someone was berating a good friend of mine. I warned him twice to stop. He refused. And I caused a scene when I rebuked him for his cowardice (anyone can talk smack about a leader when the leader isn't there). You wouldn't let someone talk about your kids or spouse in front of you. Get your pastor's back!
Being the spouse or the child of a minister is akin to being married to soldier who is perpetually deployed. They are on a mission and family can get overlooked. Everyone else wants and needs something from the pastor, and their families often get the leftovers. Try to understand the fishbowl that they live in and reach out to them with gifts, cards, words of encouragement and offers to help with small tasks. Invite the pastor and his wife out for coffee or lunch. Have them in your home. Have their kids over on a Saturday to play so he can rest and prepare for Sunday. Babysit so they can go on a date. Trust me...if you want to appreciate your pastor, love on his wife and kids.
5. Faithfully Bless Them
For the scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while he is treading out the grain" and "The worker deserves his wages." I Timothy 5:18
Generosity is a biblical principle. So is blessing and taking care of those who lead us spiritually. Find out what your leaders enjoy and pray about giving it to them as a gift. This is above and beyond their salary. Here are some ideas...
*a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or shop
*an iTunes gift card
*an overnight trip to their favorite getaway
*a surprise party on their wedding anniversary or the pastor's anniversary at the church
*tickets to see their favorite team, musical, play or concert
*an invitation to use your beach house or mountain house as a getaway when they need time alone
All my best friends are pastors. I am a pastor. I love pastors. And I know that the more we honor and care for our leaders, the better they will love and shepherd and serve us. They win and we win, and ultimately God is glorified and His church is advanced. Let's follow God's instruction by loving on our leaders. Pastor Appreciation month is a great place to start.