October 5, 2023

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!


By Nate Dreesmann, Executive Director of Ecclesiastical Support 

The other day I was scrolling on my phone and a clip from the television show The Voice came on. The Voice has four judges who aren’t facing the performer as they sing, but instead their chairs face the audience and the judges can only rely on the voice of the performer to determine if they want them on their team. In the clip, the contestant stepped on to the stage to sing “Climb Every Mountain,” from the movie and play The Sound of Music. She sang it beautifully and every judge hit their button, thus turning their chairs around which lets a performer know that the judge wants them on their team. When the woman finished her song, the judges asked her for her name and where she was from. She shared that her name was Julianne and stopped and said, “I need to tell you that I’m blind, and I don’t know if any of you turned your chair for me.” One of the judges explained that all four of the judges turned around for her.  She stopped and said,  “Oh really?” which ensued excitement and tears from some of the judges, the audience, and herself.  

It got me thinking about how many of us, like Julianne, could be knocking it out of the park in our lives and vocations, but do not see how the gifts we are sharing are recognized by others who are cheering us on. This led me to think about Pastor Appreciation Month.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting with an elder sharing about the opportunity to appreciate the pastor, and the elder said, “No one celebrates me in my work and I work hard. Why do we need to celebrate the pastor?” My response to this elder (while somewhat annoyed) wasn’t angry, but it was pastoral, “Sadly, I’m not the Executive Director of your industry, but wouldn’t you prefer to work in an environment where we celebrated and thank the Lord for you, your gifts, your family, and the way God continues to work in and through you?” 

Each October, congregations and church plants have the opportunity to celebrate their pastors and to offer meaningful expressions of appreciation. We don’t appreciate pastors in October every year because they are more worthy to be celebrated than everyone else, rather we do so because the church should lead the way in modeling how we ought to be with one another.  

During the pandemic, it seems like many people got angry, and that  anger boiled over into spaces where it impacted many whose desire was to do good, but instead was met with hostility, anger, and rage. The church was sadly no exception to this. Coming out of the pandemic, congregations have lost people and many more are in decline than there were before the pandemic. Pastors have felt this deeply across the country. I know many, including me, who have studied the early church again or reread the pastoral epistles for encouragement and guidance, and have been on their knees in prayer seeking Christ’s guidance, discerning the Holy Spirit, and attempting to lead and pastor in a rapidly changing country. Today, pastors are retiring and leaving the ministry in numbers never seen before and while the issues are complicated, the trend is continuing. How can we in the church turn this tide?
Perhaps our pastors, much like Julianne the blind contestant on The Voice, who did not know the judges all wanted her on their team, cannot always see that the gifts and talents they bring are making a “chair-turning impact” on you as well. My hope and prayer for each of us is that we can make sure that our pastors feel a deep sense of appreciation this month for who they are, the gifts God has given them, and for their service to your congregation.

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