by Ron Preast | 6 October 2023 |
October has been named by someone as Pastor Appreciation Month. It isn’t that people shouldn’t always appreciate their pastor, but this is the month when they’re encouraged to say it.
Usually congregations will usually take a few minutes during one of the church services for that. Since the month is just getting started, perhaps I can help you out by reminding you of a few seldom-articulated things the people of the church appreciate about their pastor.
(Any sarcasm is purely incidental.)
- Members appreciate the pastor’s sermons. Their homilies are so thought-provoking that they leave some members wondering what was learned during those hermeneutic classes at seminary. Anyway, if it weren’t for the pastor’s sermons there would be nothing to talk about during potluck other than the weather, making discussions boring and awkward. Some members appreciate the pastor for providing another heretical or irrelevant sermon that aids in their small group discussions.
Statistics say 45% of pastors spend 10-15 hours per week preparing the sermon, but maybe they should be spending 20-35 hours.
(All the statistics I cite are from Barna Research and can be found here.)
- Members appreciate the pastor’s spouse. They work full time and still are expected to make it to all the church services, programs, and meetings. Of course, if the pastor expects the members to attend these meetings, it’s only right for their spouse to be present! (Sick children at home are no excuse for not attending, since any church member would gladly care for their children during these important assemblies, right?)
Out of respect, members seldom express their disappointment in the pastor’s spouse for not heading up the women’s or men’s group, along with teaching children’s Sabbath School. Members also appreciate how it is automatically assumed the pastor’s spouse will know how to play the piano. Some churches don’t even have a pianist, so knowing how to play is essential for the church to survive. Research states that 22% of pastors’ spouses believe the ministry places undue expectations on their family. 84% of pastors’ spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their roles with the church.
But most congregations love the pastor’s spouse and know these statistics don’t apply to them.
- Members appreciate the pastor’s children. These precious ones are role models for how children are to behave and conduct themselves. They are expected to know all the answers to Bible questions in Sabbath School and in Bible classes at school. When raised properly, they are wholesome kids who never say a foul word, watch inappropriate movies, or rebel in any way.
If the pastor’s children do not meet up to the members’ expectations, they will kindly and gently, out of concern for their salvation, inform the pastor of their disappointment. After all, the Bible does teach that “A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise” (Proverbs 15:12 NIV).
So you might wonder why 80% of pastors believe the ministry has negatively affected their families, resulting in many pastors’ children growing up to never attend church again. Most members don’t know why that is, since they love their pastor and want the best for them and their family. Even though 35% of pastors feel that the demands of the church deny them from spending time with their family and 24% of pastors resent the church and its effect on their family, that sounds more like a spiritual problem and has nothing to do with the church members.
- Members appreciate that the pastor is an outgoing, charismatic, people-loving loner. People in the church have friends and groups which often get together and share common interests. They would include the pastor and his family, but fear others might think the pastor is showing favoritism. So in order to protect the reputation of the pastor, they often exclude them from these regular get-togethers.
Church-goers understand that 90% of pastors work 55-75 hours per week and wouldn’t want to take more of their time. Of course, if the pastor is invited to join for a night of fun and they don’t attend, it is assumed they are just distant and don’t want to be friends with their members.
It’s a shame (and surely not the church members’ fault) that 70% of pastors report they do not have someone they consider a close friend—but, hey, we all must make sacrifices for the Lord.
- Members appreciate the pastor’s economical thriftiness. The pastor drives a nice car, but not too nice. (Of course, a pastor driving a new car would bring into question their stewardship.) The pastor surely doesn’t need a new car, just one that gets them around town to visit members.
The pastor’s frugalness in growing their own garden is an example of eating healthfully and on a budget. 57% of pastors do not receive a livable wage and are unable to pay their bills, but we appreciate how the pastor knows the church is doing the best it can and understands that the Lord will provide.
Members appreciate how the pastor has devoted their entire life to the ministry. Most members look forward to retirement, but the pastor’s work is never finished.
Besides, only one out of ten pastors will retire as a pastor anyway.
- Members appreciate the pastor’s past and ongoing education. Most pastors continue studying, reading, and attending seminars throughout their career. Some go on to get doctorates in the ministry.
It seems a shame that after all that studying, 53% of pastors feel the seminary did not prepare them for ministry. The members don’t have all that training and education, but they know how to run a church—just ask them. If the church is growing, it is usually because of the friendliness of the members. If the church is dying or members are leaving, it is definitely the pastor’s fault.
The pastor probably needs more courses on how to preach better sermons, or classes on friendliness and how to get along with others. Most of the members are proficient in their fields of employment, and that qualifies them to inform the pastor of where they are falling short. It is the members’ God-given duty to set the pastor straight.
Statistics say that 90% of pastors say the ministry is completely different from what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry. With this in mind, members are happy to give their pastor a good dose of reality.
- Members appreciate the pastor’s calmness during a crisis. Some church board meetings can be challenging, but that is because the participants care for the church and its beliefs. If something is wrong with the way the pastor is leading the congregation, it is the board members’ spiritual duty to keep the church on the straight and narrow.
So when the pastor is being shouted at and being accused of heresy, it is appreciated if they just sit there and take it. After all it wouldn’t be very godly for a pastor to lose their temper. The pastor knows that deep down inside, most church members are a very loving, understanding, and accepting group—just ask them.
Members don’t understand why 80% of pastors expect conflict within their church and 40% of pastors report having a serious conflict with a member within the last year. This surely has nothing to do with the members; it’s just the devil trying to hinder the Lord’s work.
- Members appreciate how the pastor is always available. It shows when 84% of pastors feel they should be on call 24/7. Want to know if there is a potluck next week or need someone’s phone number, just call the pastor. Need counseling, the pastor will immediately drop everything and come right over at any time of the day or night. Pastors are always on call because they have learned to serve one another in love. Members certainly appreciate how the pastor is there for them and always put others before themselves.
We pastors know you church members are appreciative of us—you graciously take one day a year in the month of October to tell us. So it’s incomprehensible why 42% of pastors are thinking of quitting the ministry, and over 1,500 left ministry every month last year.
When was the last time you took the opportunity to let your pastor know you appreciate him or her? I can guarantee you from experience that for every compliment a pastor receives they will receive ten complaints about what they are doing wrong.
The perfect pastor is out there somewhere, but a person can spend a lifetime trying to find one.
I did read of one perfect pastor, but His congregation crucified Him.
So let me close by sharing with you the job description of the ideal pastor. If you follow the instructions at the end of this, I’m sure you’ll eventually find that elusive, picture-perfect pastor.
The perfect pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes. He condemns sin roundly but never hurts anyone’s feelings. He works from 8am until midnight and is also the church janitor. The perfect pastor makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, drives a good car, buys good books, and donates $30 a week to the church. He is 29 years old and has 40 years’ experience. Above all, he is handsome. The perfect pastor has a burning desire to work with teenagers, and he spends most of his time with the senior citizens. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his church. He makes 15 home visits a day and is always in his office to be handy when needed. The perfect pastor always has time for church council and all of its committees. He never misses the meeting of any church organization and is always busy evangelizing the unchurched. The perfect pastor is always in the next church over! If your pastor does not measure up, simply send this notice to six other churches that are tired of their pastor, too. Then bundle up your pastor and send him to the church at the top of the list. If everyone cooperates, in one week you will receive 1,643 pastors. One of them should be perfect!
Ron Preast served the Seventh-day Adventist Church 44 years as pastor and conference evangelist. He is now retired, living in Arlington, WA.