by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
Custer, SD – It’s October. The leaves have gone from green to gold to red to gone. Everything is now pumpkin-spice flavored. Oh, and it’s Pastor Appreciation Month. Much like International Buy A Priest A Beer Day, Pastor Appreciation Month is a time for people to thank their minister for the work that they do – which, contrary to popular belief, does take more than one hour per week.
Because most parishioners only see their pastor on Sunday mornings, it’s easy to forget everything they do. They lead worship, lead Bible studies, teach confirmation class, visit the sick, attend ministerial association meetings, church council meetings, denominational meetings, and on and on. When they aren’t doing these things, they’re preparing for them. And even though pastors have scheduled days off, most will drop everything to rush to a hospital bedside to pray with parishioners when called upon, no matter what day of the week it is.
But the real challenge of ministry is the isolation that many pastors feel. Although they spend most of their time with church members, pastors aren’t able to befriend their parishioners. This isn’t to say that pastors aren’t friendly, or that they don’t care deeply about their parishioners. It’s that pastors are called to be sources of emotional and spiritual support for their parishioners, and not the other way around. When a parishioner needs someone to talk to, they can call their pastor; when a pastor needs someone to talk to, they can’t call a parishioner.
That’s why most pastors that I know develop support networks in other places in their lives. They rely on fellow clergy, or on spiritual guides. They rely on friends who aren’t members of their congregation. And they rely heavily on their family.
But that doesn’t mean that parishioners can’t support their pastors, and it isn’t hard to do. Say “thank you.” Smile at them. Maybe send a quick note to your pastor letting them know that you appreciate the work they do. And show up to church functions! Ministry is one of the most rewarding occupations in the world, so long as minsters know that their efforts are making a difference in the lives of others.
So during the month of October, do something to show your pastor that he or she is appreciated. After all, the next International Buy A Priest A Beer Day is eleven months away!