Faith Matters: It’s pastor appreciation month. Is that even a real thing?

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

Let’s be honest, it’s a Hallmark holiday. There’s no evidence of Pastor Appreciation Month in the Bible.

No matter how hard Moses tried, he spent more time than any one person deserves listening to people complain.

Compared to some of the New Testament pastors, who literally lost their lives in service to the church, he had it pretty easy.

And speaking of easy, nowadays when you see celebrity preachers living in million dollar mansions and flying around in private jets, it would be easy to assume that’s how all of us live — that it’s a pretty sweet deal to be a pastor.

After all, isn’t the assumption that we only work for an hour each week anyway?

The heart of being a pastor is ministry. And ministry is rooted in servanthood.

I don’t know all that many servants who are walking around with millions in their pockets. What I do know is that clergy often struggle with health.

They are so busy serving the needs of others that they often neglect their own physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being until it hits a crisis point. It would be very easy to turn that into a righteous act of “suffering,” but the truth is more that it’s about pride.

Hope Lee.jpg
The Rev. Dr. Hope Lee

We don’t want to miss a meeting, a visitation, a Sunday morning, because we want to fight back against the ridiculous stereotype that we don’t do anything all week long. And, to some extent, show the world how “busy” we can be.

When my husband (also a pastor) and I were young parents for the first time, his uncle (also a pastor) sat us down at the dinner table and with deep sadness and regret in his eyes, said to us, “always make your family a priority. Don’t lose your family because you think you are going to save the church.”

As we have watched far too many of our clergy friends end their marriages in divorce, alienate themselves from their children, and desperately seek to salvage their health, I have come to appreciate his words all the more.

Every time I leave a meeting, a visit, a class, or a worship service, I am reminded that there are three special someones who do not call me “pastor.” They call me “mom.” And one day, hopefully many, many years from now, when there is no one calling me “pastor,” my prayer is that there will still be three special someones who still call me “mom.”

While it’s never a bad thing to send your pastor a “Pastor Appreciation” card, there are some really wonderful and concrete things that you can do to support your pastor all year long. Make sure they take vacation.

The patience of the wonderful saints of my own congregation has worn thin over the years with my continual excuses as to why vacation isn’t going to happen. It’s not that they want to get rid of me. In fact, quite the contrary. They don’t want me to burn out and then they’d lose me anyway.

Respect your pastor’s family. Again, I am exceedingly grateful that I serve a church that totally gets this. They don’t expect perfection from my kids. They understand that I will move heaven and earth, and sometimes the finance meeting, to be there for awards ceremonies, plays, sporting events, and concerts.

A congregation that appreciates their pastor does not begrudge their pastor’s family. Finally, make sure that your pastor has something good to eat every now and again.

This summer, my husband was off on a mission trip and I was running the day camp back at the church. One of our members was concerned that this did not leave time for cooking and so she just informed me that she’d be making dinner one night. Talk about appreciation! I appreciated that gesture more than she will ever know.

We have some really amazing pastors here in Bradenton. Most of us don’t drive fancy cars and live in extravagant homes. Many of us are still doing math homework on Monday nights and football games on Fridays and preaching the Good News on Sunday mornings.

We show up in hospitals, in homes, at events, every day because we love you and you are our mission and ministry. We wouldn’t change that for the world. I hope you can appreciate that and know how thankful we are to share in life and ministry with you.

The Rev. Dr. Hope Lee, lead pastor of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church and The Well, can be reached at 941-794-6229, or Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.