October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Yes, there is a “Pastor Appreciation Month!” I’m so glad there is! This is a month to practice what we need to be doing everyday throughout the year: saying thank you to the soul shepherds who serve us.

But how can you bless your pastor(s)? What you can do to make a positive difference for them?

All of us can do something to appreciate and encourage the men and women in ministry who care for us. (If you’re a pastor I’m talking to you too! I hope you have someone you look to for pastoral care.)

Here are five practical ideas for Pastor Appreciation Month that you may not have thought of:

1. Take the Pressure Off Your Pastor

We may expect our pastor to give a message that inspires us or lead us in worship in a way that makes us feel close to God. But actually, what we receive a church service is mostly about what we put into it. Even in a “boring” sermon I can learn something from the Bible on how to better follow Jesus. Even in “flat” worship times or when the style of music is not to my taste I can join the angels and sing praise to the Triune God from my heart.

(“The Best Way to Support Your Pastor” will help you attend church as a disciple of Jesus rather than as a consumer Christian.)

2. Don’t Criticize Your Pastor

To help you benefit from attending church make a rule that you never critique the pastor’s performance (even as being “great”), but instead ask yourself and others questions like, “How did you experience God in church today?”, “What did you learn from the sermon?”, or “How were you encouraged in the church service today?” Kristi and I do this every Sunday.

(“Pastors Under Pressure” features a surprising re-alignment of how you engage with a church service, identifying God’s role, your pastor’s role, and your role. Are you to be the Prompter, Performer, or Critic?)

3. Thank Your Pastor

If you attend church ready to worship God and learn from your Lord (as the first two tips above describe) then you’ll always have something to be grateful for, not only on Sundays, but everyday of the week. Then it’ll be easy to offer a word of thanks to your pastor. You could drop a short note (you might include a gift card to a nice restaurant or to Amazon!):

  • “As you led us in worship this morning I was drawn to the lovingkindness of God. Thank you!”
  • “I really appreciate how friendly you are — it helps me feel welcome and cared for.”
  • “Thank you for teaching me about ___________.”
  • “I thank God for the way that you ____________.”

4. Bless Your Pastor to Rest

With the best of intentions most pastors overwork. They work long hours, minister on the evenings and weekends, and carry heavy burdens. Often they don’t keep a regular Sabbath day for spiritual rest, play, enjoying family, and personal worship. They may have never taken a Sabbatical. (Every seven years a pastor needs a Sabbatical of about three months.) Ask your elders to encourage and provide resources for your pastor to rest. (These “Pastor Stress Statistics” demonstrate the great need pastors have to receive soul care. For help planning a sabbatical, check out Soul Shepherding’s Sabbatical Guide.)

5. Pray For Your Pastor (This is the Most Important!)

One night a pastor was so discouraged that he was ready to quit till he found Soul Shepherding online and received my prayer: “The Smile of the Father: A Prayer for Pastors.” This short prayer is a medley of Scripture affirmations for pastors that helps them to be filled to overflowing with God’s love, joy, peace, and power.

You could participate in Pastor Appreciation Month right now by offering this prayer for your pastor! Each Biblical phrase is so rich and spot on with what pastors need that you could use a different one each day as a prayer prompt. You also could send this prayer to your pastor(s) as encouragement.

Then plan to go to church on Sunday, ready to learn and ready to appreciate your pastor(s)!

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