For many years, October has been widely recognized among Southern Baptists as a time to celebrate Minister Appreciation Month. I believe this is indeed an opportune time to exemplify a healthy relationship between pastor and people in the pews. Of course, that goes for the congregation’s relationship with other ministers on staff as well.
In recent years, I have been considering the notion that this kind of appreciation is a two-way street. Pastors and other ministry leaders ought to express appreciation for the people they serve in local churches.
Perhaps we should designate October as Minister and Church Appreciation Month. During this time, church members can affirm their ministry leaders in verbal and other tangible ways.
Let me list a few practical ideas. First, pray for your pastor and other ministers, and let them know you are doing it. Ministry leaders are human beings too. They have problems and challenges just like everyone else.
Second, praise them for something they have done and for the person they are as ministers. Affirmation is underrated. There is no one alive who does not need a word of praise.
Third, pen a note to your ministry leaders. I know that we live in the digital age. A text message, an email or a social media post are all good. However, a personal note, which seems so old fashioned, is one of the most heartwarming expressions of affirmation which can be offered in this seemingly depersonalized world.
Remember, appreciation needs to be reciprocated. As a pastor, I do not believe I expressed the kind of appreciation for the people I served like I should have. There were times when the occasion prompted it as an obvious action on my part.
But there were other times when I could have offered my heartfelt sense of gratitude to people.
You do not have to wait for a time when people say or do something for you to offer words of gratitude. Surprise your people by expressing your appreciation for them as individuals and as a congregation. Churches are essentially a group of dedicated lay volunteers. They need to be appreciated. It brings out the best in the minister and the people.
In my role as a state missionary who serves as executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, I try my best to pause and let people know that I appreciate them. This is not always easy for someone who lives in a world of a “to do list.” Yet when I am at my best is when I am most grateful for the people in my life.
We all know that we live in a divisive and chaotic world. The 24/7 news cycle bombards us with harsh and negative news in an unceasing fashion. One way to counteract that reality is to stop and express appreciation for people. It creates an atmosphere of genuine love which our Lord personified.
Paul the apostle illustrates this lifestyle of appreciation. His letters are filled with thankfulness and appreciation. Remember, he wrote, “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3, CSB).
Let us all follow his example. We all need it.