What do you think the average pastor gets more of—compliments or complaints?
Are you thinking about your answer?
Again, does the normal man or woman in the clergy get more affirmation or criticism?
Let’s make it more personal. Do you think your pastor receives more compliments or complaints?
Can the scope of questioning be narrowed even more? Are your words about your minister more positive or negative?
Do you recall talking recently with someone about your home church and its pastoral staff? Were your words affirming? Could it be they were not as constructive as they were destructive?
America is badly in need of another sweeping revival. When the Church, nationally speaking, is in decline, it is easy for people to get discouraged and to fall into negative speech patterns. This is certainly true in settings where a congregation is shrinking for one reason or another. Negative words are especially disadvantageous in such situations. They can even bring about a congregation’s early demise.
Were you aware that in the United States, October is National Clergy Appreciation Month?
“Since when did that come about?” you ask.
Since 1992. The stated reason was to uplift and encourage pastors, missionaries and religious workers.
“That’s nice. Who thought that up?” you inquire further.
It was the Hallmark Greeting Card Company.
Don’t laugh! Gospel for Asia(GFA) is not going to question their motivation.
Instead, we are in favor of any efforts to encourage ministers. We believe that most ministers have a strong sense of being called by the Holy Spirit to be a spokesperson on the Lord’s behalf. This is not something these ministers take lightly. To them, they did not choose this vocation. They truly believe God chose them to work on His behalf. We find this to be the case whether the given person ministers in North America or Asia—or in any of the world’s continents, for that matter.
But too many American pastors, both men and women, are leaving the profession. Lots of them report being “burned out.” Many believe people are no longer interested in spiritual matters, and as church leaders, they feel incapable of turning things around. They have tried repeatedly and failed repeatedly, and they feel like losers.
This is unlike what Gospel for Asia GFA is observing in Asia. There we find pastors delighting in the opportunities open to them. This is in spite of hardships they face. We see new congregations springing up. We discover a great level of commitment and sacrifice and optimism on the part of the Gospel for Asia-supported ministers. However, that doesn’t mean there is no need for parishioners to still consistently encourage their leaders with words of affirmation. Positive comments are always in order!
But what about church leaders in America? Would a well-spoken word of support be something you could be sure to give during this Clergy Appreciation Month? Has it been a while since you have gone out of your way to do that?
The truth is, most of us function best when we are appreciated and affirmed.
Has anyone gone out of their way to pay you a compliment lately?
• I haven’t had a meal that good in I don’t know how long.
• We wouldn’t have made our goal without your contribution to the team!
• That outfit looks good on you.
• The words to that song you sang touched me deeply.
• You deserved that award, and it made me so proud of you!
• Your card came at just the right time. Thank you so much.
• You are the best mom in the whole world.
• Were you aware that you are one of my most valued employees?
• Bless you for being so incredibly generous.
• That sermon spoke right into my life and current circumstances, and it helped me a great deal!
What might the Holy Spirit be prompting you to say during this special month of October to your pastor? Can you stop reading for a moment and just think about that question?
When you sense what might be an appropriate comment from you to your minister, the next question starts with “when.” When would be a good time to deliver that message? And do you do it by email? Say it over the phone? Write it by hand? Use Twitter? Speak it as you are leaving a church service? Maybe even buy a card and add a personal note?
“Are there not some pastors who are deserving of constructive criticism?” you ask. Of course, there are! But please underline in your mind that word “constructive.”
How many positive comments about you would it take to make up for one that was quite negative?
Actually, it’s amazing how much damage a negative remark can inflict. And that’s true in general for pastors as well. Some clergy are able to deflect criticism like they had rhino skin, but they are the rare exceptions. That is why in the New Testament we are regularly called on to “encourage one another, and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV).
Gospel for Asia has been around long enough to experience the pain of negative criticism. Hopefully, we have also learned the reverse lesson of choosing our own words much more carefully. We know only too well the incredible damage that tongues can inflict. So we are highly motivated to speak that which is affirming and heals and builds up and is Christ-like.
That certainly includes letting those serving our Lord in high positions of responsibility know they are appreciated and affirmed. We strongly believe that is when such individuals function at their very best, and we are confident this will be true regarding your minister as well.
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