October has long been recognized worldwide as Pastor Appreciation Month, or Clergy Appreciation Month. The call to honor our church leaders’ contributions can be traced back to St. Paul. In establishing the first Christian churches, St. Paul advised the congregation to give “double honor” to the elders of the church who managed the affairs of the church well, “especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).
St. Paul further urged Christian communities to acknowledge those “who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you,” holding these spiritual leaders “in the highest regard in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
In 1994, the American Christian organization Focus on the Family began promoting Clergy Appreciation Month as a national month of observance. In highlighting Clergy Appreciation Month, Focus on the Family sought to encourage the faithful to outwardly show their appreciation for religious leaders on a national level.
When Is Pastor Appreciation Day?
From Pastor Appreciation Month grew the idea of emphasizing one specific day to nationally pay tribute to our clergy. This day became known as Pastor Appreciation Day. Also referred to as Clergy Appreciation Day, this day of showing national gratitude for clergy members is celebrated on the second Sunday in October. In 2022, Pastor Appreciation Day will be Sunday, October 9th.
Why It’s Important to Celebrate Pastors and Clergy Members
As of mid-2018, there are approximately 51,000 people in the United States who are officially employed as clergy. When we consider all that religious leaders do, it becomes clear how important it is to celebrate and uplift our hardworking clergy.
Reason 1: Pastors and clergy serve the church daily. On a daily basis, clergy members prepare weekly messages, manage the maintenance and financial obligations of their church, and, most importantly, nurture the spiritual well-being of their congregants.
Reason 2. Pastors and clergy serve the church and community during major life moments. Aside from these daily duties, clergy members participate in the highs and lows of the lives of their church-goers and other members of the community.
Clergy members lead mourners during funerals, pray over the sick, and minister to the imprisoned and abandoned. Moreover, clergy members bear the emotional pressure heaped upon them by disgruntled congregants and also absorb the hostile criticism of an increasingly anti-religious society.
Our clergy members also oversee our most joyous occasions. The clergy play a vital role in marriages, baptisms, Holy First Communions, and requests for special blessings. Religious workers also uphold the institution of marriage by counseling struggling couples to hold fast to their marital vows and guide the Lord’s flock by giving clarity to those with a fractured sense of faith.
Reason 3. Missionaries sacrifice their comfort and safety for the gospel. Last, it’s important to note that clergy members often risk their physical well-being for the sake of doing God’s Work. Clergy serve as missionaries in hostile areas worldwide, cares for people with contagious diseases, and literally stands at the front lines of social justice movements.
7 Ways to Celebrate and Honor Your Pastors and Clergy
Given everything that the people who serve pastorally do, we should take time to appreciate and encourage them and their staff members. Whether you choose to honor your spiritual leaders and their staff during Pastor Appreciation Month or another time of year, here are 7 ways to show your gratitude for their service and sacrifice:
1. Send your religious leader a clergy appreciation greeting card or a hand-written note with a message of gratitude for him or her.
2. Ask your children to draw a picture or create other artwork for a clergy member or Sunday school leader.
3. Lend your pastor a hand by volunteering at the organization where he or she ministers, such as a hospital or nursing home.
4. Take a group photo with fellow church-goers in front of the church or other organization where the clergy member works. Present the photo as an already-framed gift.
5. Give your religious leader a “thank you basket” filled with his or her favorite brand of coffee, favorite snack, or hard-to-find allergy-friendly food items.
6. Create a photo calendar with a picture of saints or inspiring Bible passages for each month of the year.
7. Request contributions from your congregation to update your clergy member’s office with ergonomic chairs and keyboards, new software, new artwork, or other furnishings.
A Prayer for Pastor Appreciation Day
Dear God, We pray for our pastors to be encouraged. We ask that you would minister to them and give them a deeper sense of hope. Send laborers into their lives to extend needed help, support, and friendship. We pray that they and their families would be protected and covered by the precious blood of Jesus. May our pastors be restored and refreshed during this time.
We pray, Lord, that our pastors would not be discouraged, or afraid, or grow weary. But instead that you would uplift their spirits, encourage them in their trials, and recharge them when they are feeling overwhelmed. We ask that you would help them to put their hope in you and that you would in return renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). We thank you for our pastors, Lord, and all the work they do for your kingdom.
We pray for our pastors to have motivation and vision, that ministries would continue to launch and thrive, and that pastors would not lose one opportunity to serve and minister. We ask that you would help our pastors have a greater reach and that our churches would be a beacon of light and hope throughout the world. We pray that pastors would have perseverance and come through this season with new insights and more inspiration.
We pray that their faith would increase and that they would be drawn closer to you, Lord. We pray for our pastors to be on guard, to stand firm in the faith, to be courageous, and to be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). May you, oh God, satisfy their thirst for you and fill them up so that they are ready at all times to do the good work you have called them to.
We thank you for calling our pastors to their ministries. We thank you for equipping them with the spiritual gifts, talents, and skills for such a time as this. We pray over our pastors, Lord, that you would help them to lead with courage and strength. Send the right deacons, elders, and volunteers to lead alongside them, that they would not carry the weight alone. Help them to be leaders marked by humility, compassion, and wisdom.
Let their congregations support them, submit to their leadership, and grow in respect and love toward their pastors. You did not give our pastors a spirit of timidity, so we pray that you would inspire our pastors to walk in power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) as they demonstrate courageous leadership. We thank you for them and pray for your blessings and protection on them. Amen. (excerpts from Pamela Palmer, Prayers for Pastors)
Holinesstoday.org, “October Designated Clergy Appreciation Month.”
Christianitytoday.com, “Died: Focus on the Family’s H.B. London, Who Inspired Pastor Appreciation,” October 23, 2018, Kate Shellnutt.
United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018.
USAToday.com, “Clergy march for racial justice on anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,’” August 28, 2017, Bart Jansen.
Dolores Smyth writes about faith and families. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. You can follow her work on Twitter @LolaWordSmyth.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Marc Scaturro