October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and this Sunday, October 8, is Pastor Appreciation Day. I have no idea who came up with those observances and they have not made it onto the liturgical calendar. Still, appreciating your pastor is important, and we need the reminder. And go beyond appreciating him in the privacy of your mind by letting him know how much you appreciate him.
The Barna Research Group, in conjunction with Pepperdine University, has been studying pastors as they work to fulfill their vocation. The research shows just how difficult the job can be. Barna has already issued reports on pastors’ cultural credibility, their experiences and timing of the call to ministry, the aging of pastors and the health of pastors’ relationships.
But Barna’s latest report, on pastors’ general sense of well-being, is more encouraging.
A whopping 91% of pastors say that, overall, they are satisfied with the quality of their lives. This compares to 62% of American adults who feel such satisfaction.
Breaking it down, 88% of pastors say that their spiritual health is “excellent” or “good,” compared to 60% of all Americans; 85% say that of their emotional health, compared to 63% of the rest of us; and 67% say the same of their physical health, compared to 55% of the laity.
In other findings, 73% of pastors are motivated to becoming a better leader, compared to only 22% of all Americans. Among pastors, 60% are energized by their work, while only 24% of the laity feel that way. And, significantly, 68% of pastors feel well-supported by people close to them, compared to 43% of the rest of us.But being a pastor also has its crosses to bear.
Pastors are more likely than the rest of us to feel “inadequacy about their work or calling” (12% of pastors frequently feel that way, with 45% sometimes feeling that way; among the laity 8% feel inadequate to their callings frequently, with 22% feeling inadequate sometimes.)
And pastors are more likely than the rest of us to be plagued with mental or emotional exhaustion (12% “frequently” and 45% “sometimes”; compared with 23% and 32% for all U.S. adults).
So it’s good to be pastor, but it can take its toll.
What might we laypeople do to build up our pastors in their sense of vocation and in making their ministry to us less exhausting?
Are our congregations too busy? Are we devaluing Word and Sacrament ministry in favor of secondary activities that take up way too much time and energy? Are we so demanding of our pastors that they have too little time for their other vocations–as husband, father, and citizen–thus causing them problems at home?
What do you appreciate about your pastor?
In Australia, I was asked to speak to a seminary class on the topic of “what a writer and academic needs from a pastor.” The assumption seems to have been that we intellectual types need something special from our pastors. But I told the future pastors that all I need is what everyone else in their congregations will need. I need my pastor to bring me to repentance and to give me the Gospel; I need him to forgive my sins; and I need him to put Christ’s body and blood into my mouth. Anything else is just extra.
UPDATE: Here are some suggestions for how you can show your appreciation.
Photo of Pastor by weldert, Pixabay, CC0, Creative Commons