Did you miss it? Yesterday was Clergy Appreciation Day. If the day passed you by, don’t feel too bad because you probably also missed:
- International Day of Older Persons October 1
- National Custodian’s Day October 2
- Change a Light Day & Alternative Fuel Day October 3
- Blessing of the Fishing Fleet Day October 4
- Improve Your Office Day October 5
- World Sight Day October 8
- Universal Music Day October 10
I have never put much stock in days that promote special causes, even if they are worthy. I even recoil from Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It’s not that I don’t love my parents. I just don’t want to be manipulated by businesses and organizations that stand to profit from money I might spend recognizing loved ones that I should be honoring every day, not just one day a year.
The Sept./Oct. 1996 issue of the Saturday Evening Post related the origins of Clergy Appreciation Day. “In 1992, layperson Jerry Frear, Jr., was brainstorming with church colleagues about how they might be of help to their minister when he glanced at a calendar and noticed that it was almost Groundhog Day. ‘I thought, if they have a day for groundhogs, there ought to be a day for the 375,000 clergy people inAmerica.’ Frear says. So…for the last seven years the second Sunday in October has been set aside to show appreciation for our clergy.”
All comparisons between groundhogs and pastors aside, some churches do have a tradition of honoring their clergy in October. In fact, the New Testament contains a number of references to honoring pastoral leaders.
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you;
consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor,
especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” I Timothy 5:17
Focus on the Family even has part of a website devoted to Clergy Appreciation Month (CAM), www.parsonage.org, complete with an extensive CAM Planning Guide. The Guide includes a sample press release, suggestions around ordering an inscribed trophy for your pastor, hints on inviting local dignitaries to the event, designing a “memorial scrapbook” for your pastor and details for ordering “We Love Our Pastor” bumper stickers.
Like most pastors, Gary and I have been the beneficiaries of numerous thoughtful gifts from parishioners over the years. I will admit that we re-gifted the fruitcake and have had a difficult time finding places to display pastor mugs, pastor pen sets, pastor angels and all manner of crosses. However, it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the many expressions of love that have sustained us over the years. Hundreds of Monday night meals brought to our house, gift certificates to restaurants, invitations to get away for a few days at a parishioner’s cottage, Christmas cookies and fudge, offers of child care, and even financial gifts when our family was deep in crisis. We didn’t deserve any of it, but we have been deeply appreciative.
There are four extraordinary gifts, however, that I have treasured the most over 28 years of ministry, and they have nothing to do with things.
- I treasure the gift of verbal and written expressions of gratitude. I keep them all. Nothing is more encouraging, inspiring or affirming than knowing that you have had a positive impact on some else’s life. Why is it that something as easy as saying “thank you” happens so seldom? I no longer buy gifts for my parents for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Instead, on those holidays I have written them letters for many years, thanking my parents for raising me in a Christian home, modeling unconditional love and going to church as a family every Sunday without fail. Why don’t you take a few minutes this week to thank someone, including your pastor?
- I treasure the gift of honest, gentle feedback. Each one of our lives is a journey of growth in grace, spiritual depth, self-awareness and skills. Like all people, pastors feel good when they are affirmed. But it’s equally as helpful for our personal and professional development when lay persons feel comfortable challenging us as well. I am grateful to everyone who has, in a grace-filled way, identified areas of growth in my life.
- I treasure the gift of being invited into the most significant events of a person’s life. Births, deaths, baptisms, weddings, confirmations, funerals, graduations, and crises of all sorts: what a humbling privilege it is to be entrusted with pastoral care and represent Christ. Even when pastors cannot offer answers to life’s most difficult questions, we can offer the simple presence of a hug, a tear or a prayer.
- The greatest gift I have ever received from church members is their openness to be trained, equipped, shaped, nurtured and empowered for ministry and leadership.
This is the ultimate gift:
- Seeing people who never grew up in the church develop a deep faith through Disciple Bible Study
- Hearing children, youth and adults pray in public for the first time
- Observing the excitement of church members as they discover their spiritual gifts
- Watching people grow in confidence as they visit in homes and hospitals
- Identifying future leaders, providing tools for their faith development, nurturing their skills and then releasing them to lead
- Walking alongside lay people who literally give their lives away in service
- Hearing the words, “I think God is calling me into the professional ministry.”
- Sitting in a Bible study and seeing incredible spiritual depth well up from the group
- Witnessing the miracle of a life transformed by an encounter with Jesus Christ
There’s still time left to appreciate your pastor if you missed it yesterday because October is also Clergy Appreciation Month. You could even combine your celebration with:
- National Grouch Day October 15
- National Chocolate Cupcake Day October 18
- National Mole Day October 23
- Cranky Co-Worker’s Day October 27
- National Frankenstein Day October 29
My only advice: Skip the fruitcake, hold back the fudge (we’re still carrying the extra pounds), and go make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Every day is Pastor Appreciation Day when you remember who you are and whose you are. Thank you for loving and supporting your pastor.