Last week at my son’s soccer game, during half-time I overheard two little girls talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. One wanted to be a princess who drives a fire truck for the army. The other one said she hoped to be a deacon’s wife someday.
A deacon’s wife.
Do you get that? She wants to grow up to marry a Christian man, who’s faith is confirmed by his diligence in the Scriptures and in serving the church, who has been ordained to the office of deacon.
When was the last time you heard any little girl hoping to grow up to marry a leader in the church? When I was a girl, I actually said the one thing I would NEVER do was be a pastor’s wife. Oh the irony! (Pro-tip: Don’t ever tell God, “NEVER!”)
And what about little boys? How often do little boys say they want to grow up to be a pastor? Usually they want to be firemen. I don’t think they realize how similar the jobs are – putting out fires and rescuing people from certain death. But pastor’s don’t drive shiny, red, ladder trucks and wear really cool (hot, actually) suits and hats. The life of a pastor is a little less glamorous. It seems a little less heroic.
I’m not sure most people realize how intensely heroic the life of a pastor is, in an everyday hero kind of way.
Pastoring is a lot like parenting – one of the most time-consuming, all-encompassing, round-the-clock, thankless jobs around. And yet one so vitally important it can’t be done without.
Which brings me to this point: October is Pastor Appreciation Month.
This season of appreciation was started by Focus on the Family in 1994 as a way to remind churches to appreciate their leaders year round, by calling for intentional expression of appreciation for an entire month.
From the Focus on the Family website:
Clergy Appreciation Month recognizes the call of God in the lives of men, women and couples to full-time Christian service…. It is to call to the attention of the American public the contribution their spiritual leaders make in our society. Our world would be a much darker place if it were not for their faithfulness and Christlike example.
— H.B. London, Jr., vice president of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family.
The people who are ordained to lead your church are just that – people. They lose family members, fight cancer, fight with their spouses, yell at their kids, eat too much, get frustrated with selfish drivers, and get down right testy at times. They all have full lives outside of the church – just like you. They also sin – and repent of sin. They step on toes, and seek forgiveness. They are growing in their faith, their spirits groan when they don’t know what to pray, they hurt, they love, they have great joy. They are just people, like you and me.
But they have also accepted the call to lead in the church. To intercede on your behalf. To attend to the spiritual matters of the church members, which often includes counseling, visiting, praying with, and teaching others. They meet together to study God’s word, to pray for the church as a whole and to pray for you in particular. They weep with you in your grief, grieve over your sin, ache for the brokenness you experience in body, mind, and relationships. They encourage you to have fellowship with other believers by coming to church, bible study, small groups, and picnics. They host a lot of these things – and their wives are right there with them, serving because their husband has been called.
I think this is why Paul tells Timothy, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.'” (1 Timothy 5:17-18) And why the author of Hebrews teaches, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith…. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:7, 17, but you should really read the whole passage – Hebrews 13:7-18.) And why scripture teaches in Thessalonians, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
This is what Pastor Appreciation Month is all about, not just about tangible gifts. Grocery gift cards and the nights of babysitting or the extra weekend away all bless and encourage us – and we’ve been encouraged by the ways our own church has expressed appreciation in tangible ways!
So, maybe October should be something more like, “Restart Acts of Appreciation for your Pastor Month.”
Maybe October is the time to celebrate your everyday hero, while you plan everyday ways to encourage him throughout the year.
At Cultivate Grace, Fridays in October this year are going to be dedicated to re-thinking Pastor Appreciation Month. I know this may seem self-serving – my husband is a pastor. But he’s also my pastor. And the thing is, if you express appreciation and encouragement for your pastor, you are the one who stands to gain something. (Remember, Hebrews 13:17.)