Origins of Pastor Appreciation Day and Clergy Appreciation Month
October has long been recognized worldwide as 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.
From Clergy 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.
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, care for people with contagious diseases, and literally stand at the front-lines of social justice movements.
7 Ways to Honor 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 Clergy 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 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.
Holinesstoday.org, “October Designated Clergy Appreciation Month.”
Biblestudytools.com, New International Version.
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