It’s clergy appreciation month and we have some ideas for you to express gratitude to the ministers, pastors, chaplains, and ministry professors in your life. Maybe you In this week’s episode, you will find:
5 questions to ask
4 studies to inform you
3 resources from the 3MMM shop
2 more gift ideas
1 big thank YOU
Five Questions to Ask that Grow the Habit of Appreciation
Maybe you are wondering how to understand and appreciate the pastors and ministers in your life more intentionally? Many people don’t really take time for this question. They simply trust that the chaplain in their workplace, congregational pastor, or church staff minister will be there! Let’s hope so, but we know that ministers are struggling right now as we all continue transitioning out of the past three years that gave birth to a new era of ministry.
So I’m encouraging you to use this month to dig in a little. Understand what is going on with the ministers in your life. Let these questions urge you toward a little more awareness and appreciation for the work of ministry. And the people who practice it everyday… including you, if that is your vocation.Clergy Appreciation Month (Download – PDF)
1) Are we paying all our ministers and staff equitably?
Understand how clergy are paid. It’s similar to many other professions, but not quite like any of them. If you are on the personnel committee, deacon board, leadership team, or church council, then you probably have financial responsibility in your congregation. Please understand how to structure church staff salaries and benefits. It’s not easy, but it’s important. And there are plenty of people around to help you.
In some denominations the structure is set. But in many free church traditions, it’s up to each church to figure out, So please take this seriously. Start by thinking what it would be like for you if you suddenly didn’t know how you were going to be paid! Or if you needed to do all the legwork yourself for your insurance and retirement.
Partner with the pastor and other ministers in your church and figuring out the best way to structure benefits and salary. Ask ministers what they need and be creative without skimping. Sometimes ministers need more vacation even more than additional pay. Or they need more continuing education money or a small benevolence fund. Ask so. Then you can work together to support the ministers who devote their lives to supporting you and your congregation.
2) Are our ministers getting time for rest and renewal?
Encourage your pastor to take time off weekly. That means not asking them to work on the designated days they takeoff. Of course there are emergencies and times when boundaries need to be loose. Especially in small congregations where there is only one pastoral staff person. One solution in smaller church with only one paid clergy person is to arrange for volunteers to assist and cover with pastoral care. Do you have deacons or a pastoral care team? One way to appreciate and support your pastor is to find ways to cover when your pastor is taking a (weekly!) day off or on vacation.
Find ways to give ministers longer stretches of time off for renewal like study leave (not just the denominational meeting), extended vacations, and sabbatical. The kind of intensity and creativities that ministry requires takes enormous energy, which means renewal is essential to sustain the work. The organization is better when the leaders are rested and renewed.
3) How are we choosing leaders that align with the work of ministry?
You want to support and appreciate your pastor and church staff? Then choose people for committees and volunteer leadership in the church who fully support the church and the ministers. Moderate and progressive congregations love to choose leaders that “represent“ various ideas and perspectives. Unfortunately this can turn quickly into giving voice and power to people who are unprepared to support the church or its ministers.
Hear me out. There is great value to giving voice to each person in a congregation. But don’t give naysayers leadership responsibilities. This is not about being Pollyanna in our approach to recruiting volunteers. It is about choosing leaders who are committed to the well-being of the church and the well-being of the ministers. When that basic trust and commitment is in place, then together churches and their leaders, lay and ordained, can work on addressing challenges. However, when a church member has already decided that their pastor as a problem or a liability, then creative resolutions to the challenges of church life are going to be impossible.
4) How is our congregation seeking renewal for our life together?
Right now the church in America is a numerical and financial decline in many places, But not universally! Churches always need renewal and even in times of upswing in the lifecycle of a church, seeking the spirits guidance and discernment for how to renew your life together it’s good for everyone. After three years of pandemic pastoring and congregational life, many churches need to pause and ask questions of renewal. We have a resource we comend to you. Finding our way helps to share findings from 108 light and clergy leaders as they navigated the pandemic. It presents questions and activities to help your congregation move forward in this new era of ministry.
5) In what ways are we cultivating habits of gratitude?
It cannot be overstated how far a simple thank you can go toward connection and appreciation. Say it over coffee. Say it with a thank you note. And say it at the back door on a Sunday morning. Say it by volunteering. Then say it privately and also say it publicly. Pastors do so much of their work in ways that are hidden from everyone because they involve confidentiality and the confidence of those who have sought out their care and guidance. So know that that is true and that some public thanks is more than deserved by most ministers and pastors for all the work they’re doing out of your line of sight.
In the #PandemicPastoring Report we asked to lay leaders what they wanted their pastors to know. I was pulled over by how many of them said I wanted my pastor to know how grateful I was for him and her, that I had her back to hundred percent. And that I didn’t say it often enough. Say it now. Too small words that make a huge difference. Thank you.
Ask what your pastors need in the way of support.
Recently I was presenting and a pastor mom started saying amyn from the back row — when I said clergy moms need more childcare and more support as parents. Dad‘s do, too. Parents of all genders and orientations need support if they are to do ministry well.
So do not assume you know what your pastor needs. Ask her. Sit down with him. Take time with them to lean in and just listen.
What conditions are necessary for the growth and flourishing of pastoral imagination? It took time for me to understand the significance of this question. After a couple of full rounds of interviewing, I shifted my focus from individual ministers on their own pathways, and I could see how much of a role local conditions play. People end up in circumstances that sometimes allow growth and flourishing. But they can also end up in circumstances that may not make room for much growth at all. In those poor conditions or toxic contexts, ministers may struggle simply to survive.
Campbell-Reed, Eileen R. Pastoral Imagination: Bringing the Practice of Ministry to Life (Fortress Press, 2021)
If you are reading this and you care about the flourishing of ministers you know and love, then you can contribute to their well being. You can ask them what they need. And you can pay attention to the conditions of flourishing in your ministry setting. Making appreciation a habit will definitely help to improve the conditions of ministry.
Four studies to inform you
1) Report: Learning Pastoral Imagination: A Five-Year Report on How New Ministers Learn in Practice (Campbell-Reed & Scharen)
2) Website: Flourishing in the First Five Years of Ministry (study of 52 ministers)
3) Article: “Mentoring for Flourishing in Ministry” (Campbell-Reed)
4) Website: Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations (EPIC)
Three Resources for Clergy Appreciation in the 3MMM Shop
We have three clergy appreciation gifts on sale in the shop this month! Each one is just $20 and includes shipping.
- Give your pastor a month of sermon writing at the Writing Table. Buy now, and the gift will last all the way through the month of November! Your pastor can join Eileen and other ministers, professors, and authors at the Writing Table any morning to support him in getting her weekly writing done!
- She doesn’t have the book Pastoral Imagination? Time to buy it! Eileen will even sign it! Shipping is free.
- Or share 10 permission slip cards that serve as reminders for giving oneself permission to do small things like laugh or cry or go outside, read a book or just say no, so that there is time, energy, and space in our lives for the big callings to which God has called us!
Use the code FREESHIPPING in the 3MMM Shop to purchase the signed book or cards. No shipping on the Writing Table membership!
Two More Gift Ideas
Shop at Conse*crate. We think their gifts are so fun! And wonderful for ministers.
Shop at Amber Simpson Art. Amber is the artist who created the artwork on the cover of Pastoral Imagination and she makes beautiful things that you pastor or clergy friend will love. You, too!
One BIG THANK YOU
For reading this far and caring about the ministers in your life – including yourself — we say THANK YOU!!