Clergy Appreciation Day in 2022 is October 9th and your minister is well aware of that. She appreciates it when your church recognizes the work she does. He feels terribly hurt when the church goes the whole month and forgets. Your pastor gets a pointed reminder when their ministry friends talk about the lovely things their congregants did for them, but nobody in your church even thought about it.
In my article, “Pastors are Quiet Quitting the Church,” I discussed the frustrations that many clergy members experience. Frequent disappointments make it more likely that your pastor might leave—or that they might give up even if they remain. So, make sure you do something to make your pastor feel appreciated on Clergy Appreciation Day. This goes not just for the lead pastor, but for all ministers on staff. Here are twenty-two ideas for your church to show you care.
Things the Church Can Do
Your church as a whole can make your pastor feel appreciated. These suggestions may take some official decisions by church boards, elders, deacons, etc. They are worth the conversation and voting necessary to turn them into reality.
- Make sure your church budgets for a generous Christmas bonus. Give it to your pastor at the beginning of December so she can afford her Christmas shopping. Don’t wait until the Christmas Eve service. Two churches did this by giving me the bonus at the beginning of December but publicly presenting me with a wrapped box or fancy envelope at the Christmas Eve service. As far as most people knew, that’s when I got my bonus. Only the finance committee knew otherwise.
- If your church doesn’t budget for a Christmas bonus, make sure to take up a love offering. I served a couple of churches that did that instead. Often the laity is more generous than the church would be organizationally, and the love offering is bigger than a budgeted bonus. Besides, it’s a good annual gauge for the pastor to know how the people are feeling about him.
- Include a gym membership for your pastoral family in the perks that the church offers. This shows that the congregation is interested in their health and well-being.
- Insist on your pastor taking all bank holidays for personal time. Chances are, your pastor takes few holidays, and works more hours than the average church member. Make sure you have systems in place for what to do when there is a crisis on a holiday, or when the pastor is on vacation. Create a reciprocal agreement with other churches in the area, so that pastors can cover for each other during crises that occur in their absence. Or, create a culture in your church where the membership accepts the ministry of deacons or elders during these times.
- Advocate for your church to purchase a company car so your minister doesn’t add wear and tear to their personal vehicle. This allows the pastoral family to need to own only one and it keeps your poor pastor from feeling embarrassed at the jalopy he must drive in funeral processions. Assign the task of vehicle maintenance to a member of the church who has the skill.
- Give your pastor a paid sabbatical every few years. This is not a vacation. This is an opportunity to study something that they have never been able to study before, or to take that long spiritual retreat that they desperately need, to work through the vicarious trauma and Complex Post Traumatic Disorder (CPTSD) often associated with ministry.
- Provide a generous amount of flex funds for your pastor to use in ministry. Make sure they are accountable by requiring receipts to be turned in to the treasurer. Flex funds keep your minister from having to use their own money when they occasionally put gas in someone’s car, take them out to coffee, or buy someone a bag of groceries. This is separate from your church’s benevolent fund which may be overseen by a committee. It is used for incidental Ministry expenses, and the church trusts the pastor’s discretion for its use. Trust me, if you don’t provide the funding, those items will still be purchased, but your pastor will foot the bill himself.
- Encourage your pastor to use work time to attend local clergy groups. Nobody understands the struggles of a pastor like another pastor. Clergy groups are an excellent place to express frustration, support one another, share joys and sorrows, and wrestle through difficult passages in the Bible when preparing Sunday sermons. Your church will benefit from the time your pastor spends with other ministers. It’s worth it to consider these groups as work time rather than personal time.
- Encourage your pastor to become active in your own denomination on whatever level they desire. Consider any denominational work they do as part of their Church work.
- Make sure that your pastor’s duties at church are exclusively pastoral in nature. Don’t expect your pastor to be the administrative assistant, groundskeeper, custodian, or cemetery manager. Unless your pastor has contractually agreed to multiple jobs, keep their duties to those typical of the clergy.
- Pay your pastor well. When your church determines a salary for a full-time lead pastor, find out what the local school principal gets paid and pay your Minister that amount.
- Insist that your pastor takes vacation time, and don’t let the church violate it. Whether your minister stays home or goes away, the church will expect no pastoral duties. Create a policy where the church will not even inform the pastor of crises within the congregation, to keep her from worrying or feeling guilty if she doesn’t respond. She can find out about these things when she returns. Let her have her rest and relaxation, and she’ll be a better pastor for it.
- Expect nothing more of your pastor’s spouse than you would expect from any other member of the church. You are not getting a 2-for-1 deal when you hire a married minister. Unless you pay them for their services, the pastor’s spouse is not a de facto pianist, choir director, secretary, or Sunday school teacher.
- Suspend your church’s expectations of your minister’s marital status. This means it’s okay for your pastor to be single, engaged, divorced, married, widowed, or anything in-between. Give your church’s blessing to remain out of your pastor’s bedroom, and make sure your pastor knows that you consider their business to be their
- Expect nothing more from your pastor’s children than you would expect from any other children in the church. Do not call on them to pray in public. Do not make them automatic youth group leaders. Do not expect them to attend every evening service for each night of revival. Do not expect them to behave better than any other kid in church. Do not expect them to get along with everybody in their youth group. Do not expect them to call every adult “Ma’am” or “Sir.” In essence, let them be kids.
- Pay for your pastoral family’s medical insurance. Make sure that insurance covers mental health counseling. Provide a fund to offset the cost of copays so that counseling is essentially free.
- If your pastoral family lives in a parsonage, make sure that the building is maintained regularly. Nothing tells a pastor that the church doesn’t care, more than a building and grounds committee that doesn’t maintain the parsonage. Make repairs promptly. Make improvements often. Consider special projects like fencing in the yard for the family pet, or putting in a swing set for the kids.
- Give your blessing to the pastor to rearrange the office and educational space in the church. Your Sunday school class doesn’t own the room where you meet. As long as there’s enough space for everyone, you could meet anywhere. Find out where the pastor wants his office to be, rather than telling him where the office will be.
- It’s an old-fashioned thing, but many employers used to provide Easter hams and Christmas turkeys for their employees. It would be a nice touch if your church did that for your pastoral families.
- Your church must provide all the equipment the pastor needs to do her job. She should not spend a dollar of her own on a cell phone, laptop, briefcase, books, and church related software.
- Preparing clergy taxes is its own unique level of hell. Your church can help by paying for clergy tax preparation.
- Recognize your pastor publicly on Clergy Appreciation Day, or on any Sunday in October. Present the pastor with a small token of the church’s appreciation. More important than the token is the fact that your pastor’s handful of detractors will see that he has the respect and appreciation of the church at large. This will help him feel secure in his calling to your church. It will make his detractors think twice before busting his chops.
These are things that your church can do to make your minister feel appreciated on October 9. If it’s a little too late for your church to make decisions, don’t worry. The whole month of October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Your church still has time to put these ideas into place by the end of the month.
If you would like ideas for how you as an individual, or as a family, can make life easier for your pastor, I hope you’ll join me for my next article, “19 More Ideas for Pastor Appreciation Month.”