Pastors, I get it. You're exhausted. This year has presented so many unique challenges it's hard to even remember where to start. On top of it all is an election we all knew was coming and the fallout ahead of it. It's been hard. And there's no guarantee that on November 3rd we'll have any resolution. It could make the 2000 decision look simple. Where's that giant meteor that everyone was talking about?
In the home stretch with less than 2 weeks until the Election, can I give you a few suggestions for your own sake and for the sake of the church you lead?
1) Unplug for a day, or two, or more - You gotta give your soul a break from seeing the constant flood on social media, the endless talking heads on cable news, the full email inbox from politicians. We were not made to consume the sheer amount we are. So unplug. Delete Twitter from your phone for a day or two (or longer). Disengage on social media. The internet is a breeding ground and amplifier for toxicity.
2) Love people - I didn't put a qualifier there. There's no need. Love people. There are people in your church who are nervous about another 4 years of Trump, and there are others who cannot imagine a Biden/Harris administration. However they vote or respond or pester you about things, you love them. Jesus did. And does.
3) Keep perspective - It's really easy during the cycle to get sucked into the vortex of "this is the most important thing in our lifetime." The cynic hears that and remembers hearing it 4, 8, 12, 16 years before. The fanatic hears that and jumps in wholeheartedly. Reality is in the middle. The message to share with your church and your own heart is this: elections are important and have consequences, but they are not binding on eternity.
4) Pray and let God worry - The posture of a Christian during tumultuous times is prayer. The posture of a Christian during good times is prayer. The posture of a Christian when facing national crisis is prayer. The posture of a Christian in every circumstance is prayer. God is the one who raises up princes and leaders, who brings about all the events above the fold and on Buzzfeed to pass. Nothing is beyond His authority. And He, not you, is the one who's holding the fabric of the universe together.
I know a lot of people who read this are serving in ministry. This article isn't for you. This article is for those who read who are members and attenders of churches. I want to give you some advice on what you can do this year for your pastor for Pastor Appreciation Month. October is traditionally the month where churches recognize and appreciate the work that pastors do. Paul talks about blessing God's ministers with a "double honor" which is a good thing to do. Pastors labor behind the scenes and carry the weight of the church on their shoulders. Compound that with the toxic political climate and the pandemic, 2020 is a year to really honor the work pastors do.
The first thing I'll say is not to get your pastor a Bible. Or a tie. But especially not a Bible. It's not that a gift Bible isn't a gracious thing to consider. But your pastor has (or at least should have) a number of Bibles. They might even have some very nice ones. Another Bible, no matter how well intentioned, is likely to end up on a shelf and won't be as fully appreciated as you'd like.
But what can you get or do for your pastor this month? I want to suggest a few options.
1) A gift card - Surely your pastor has a favorite restaurant, coffee place, or home improvement store. They can certainly use that card for a treat, an upcoming project, or to feed their coffee needs.
2) Remember their spouse - Ministry spouses are many times forgotten. It's not intentional. They're just not usually the ones in the public eye. They're taking care of the kids, they're working in their job during the week, and they may not be comfortable being in front of everyone. Like the gift card, find out what they like and see if you can do something to care for them.
3) Getaway - Some churches are blessed with having people who own vacation property or have access to a beach house or something like that. Consider giving your pastor and their spouse a weekend away at that property. Get their Sunday responsibility covered so they don't have that on them while they're away. Let them recharge, rest, and reconnect with one another.
4) Date Night - Sponsor a date night for your pastor and spouse. One of the hardest things for pastors with families to do is arrange childcare. Babysitters can be cost prohibitive for some couples. Take care of that for them so they can have an evening out.
5) Day trip - COVID has really messed up a lot of family plans. Many had to cancel vacation plans this summer, and with kids doing NTI and remote learning the fall break calendar is messed up. Consider gifting your pastor and family a day trip. It could be an amusement park, zoo, state park, or some other attraction. Most of us live close enough to something neat like that that a day trip is possible.
6) Extra vacation - Finances in your church may be tough. COVID hit some churches hard and really limited their budget. You might not be able to financially give anything to your pastor this year. Giving an extra week of vacation is another way of appreciating their work and thanking them for what they've done.
7) A conference - Conferences can be a really helpful thing for a pastor to recharge, fellowship, grow, and be sharpened for ministry. Whenever we can have them again, consider this as a possibility for your pastor. Several years ago this was a gift someone in a church did for me, and it was so encouraging to get away and grow. If possible, see if you can arrange to send their spouse as well.
Whatever you do, I hope you'll do something. Don't do what some churches do to their pastors and send them a note that says "Appreciate that you have a job." (This has really happened) Ministry is hard. Doing something to show your appreciation for your pastor can be a boost for them, and encourage them in a year where things have been even harder than normal.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.