by Sam Doerksen
Do pastors and clergy need to be acknowledged for their efforts? Is there really a need to recognize the work that is being done week after week? After all, we are surrounded by people all the time. Surely there is enough encouragement to go around? We might even say that those in other positions don’t have a day of appreciation – so why should we get a whole month?
There are those that might even say, “I don’t need to be specifically appreciated.” “Don’t go out of your way to do anything for me.” “I can handle this.” While it may be true that many are able to handle what comes their way and don’t need a big show of appreciation, I have often heard pastors say that even though they are often surrounded by people, they can still feel quite lonely.
So what does it mean to appreciate our pastors? After all, they are the ones who study the Word of God and present it to us each Sunday. It seems that their work is to talk about the Bible as well as live it out. Not all pastors are the same; they have different gifts and abilities as well as challenges. But do we appreciate them only when they have done what we consider to be a good job? And how do we define “a good job”? When a carpenter builds a house you can see and test whether the workman has been faithful. You can see whether the house is built to stand or whether it is poor workmanship.
In the case of a pastor or ministry leader, however, it can be difficult to measure success. I’m not sure that this measurement is good for us anyway. Many times in the Old Testament the prophets were told to be faithful. Some were told that the people would not listen to them, but they should continue to be faithful – not much encouragement there.
Consider Paul as he writes in Romans 16. He is greeting all of the workers that he has come to know. Some can serve without recognition by others. They find their encouragement in the work that they do. No doubt some of the workers here said the same things I’ve already mentioned. Perhaps they even said, “Paul, you don’t have to mention my name.” But, in this passage, Paul is sincere in his appreciation of the work and the walk of faith of others. He recognizes the need to show appreciation for those in the ministry.
Is there a pride that can come from not wanting to be appreciated? Or acknowledged? These are some questions that have entered my mind over the years. At times I have felt that I didn’t need anyone to say something positive or encouraging. At other times I found myself in need of some encouragement or someone to talk to and be reminded of the good things that God was doing in our midst.
What are some practical ways people have shown appreciation to me as their pastor? I have had the privilege of being taken to an NHL hockey game, taken out for lunch, given a good book to read. Once, people even took our children so my wife and I could go out on a date, with a gift card to use at our discretion.
It has been so encouraging to us when people remember to pray for us as pastors, bless us, encourage us, and coming alongside us. We remember how a simple thank you can go a long way. An occasional note in the mailbox became a welcome reminder that people were thinking of us and praying for us. I hope you pastors out there can all point to similar experiences.
Allow me to encourage all of you pastors right now. You care for others with your thoughtful visits, prayers, messages and ministry of presence. You walk with people in their time of need as well as joy, allow others to encourage you in the work that you do and in who you are.
Larry Magnuson and Jimmy Dodd have written a book entitled Pastors are People Too. In it, the authors give insight into what it means to be in pastoral ministry and the need to be able to encourage the pastor in their work. As you read this, if you are the pastor, please know that all of us at Focus on the Family Canada see and appreciate all that you do and all that you give to your ministry. If you are not a pastor, we challenge you today not to let this month pass by without standing with your pastors and encouraging them in some tangible way in order to hold them up in the work and calling of the pastorate!
Sam Doerksen and his wife, Pauline, are the program directors at our Manitoba Kerith Retreats location. For more information about our retreats, visit Kerithretreats.ca
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