October is Pastor Appreciation Month. How do we show our appreciation to our pastors? Yes, I know, it’s the end of the month. I should have published this piece earlier. Having said that, appreciating your pastor need not be limited to October, right?

In several places, if you do a search on Google, offers can be found about gifts and special things to do for your pastor. As a pastor, I feel privileged to be able to serve a small church here in Vancouver. Many people have been gracious and encouraging to me and my family. As October comes to a close, I would like to offer my thoughts about how best to show your appreciation to your pastor. I’ll call them the seven habits of highly appreciative congregation members:

#1 – Encourage your pastor

The biggest challenge of any ministry worker is discouragement. This is something that WILL happen. The basic question is “when?” Many things a pastor does remains confidential to the general congregation. It is a sacred trust that pastors have to ensure that privacy and confidentiality is maintained. This is a very heavy burden to carry—knowing the need and not being able to share the burden with someone else less they break confidence. Prayer is often the only way to find comfort and solace. This also means that there needs to be a high level of trust between pastor and the rest of the church. Encouragement can come in many ways. In our electronic day and age, a short and simple email can often work magic in the world of encouragement. Think of special quotes or bible verses to share with your pastor once in a while. I can tell you, they will be most encouraged.

#2 – Show restraint when praising your pastor

From my interactions with people, it’s common to hear individuals praising their pastors in front of others, especially guests. Sometimes it can make the pastor uncomfortable. Not only will the praising give the hearers unnecessarily high expectations, the pastor can be tempted in two ways. First, he may start to think erroneously how great he is. Second, he may be tempted to take the credit and the glory that rightly belongs to God. You can praise your pastor, but do it gently and show restraint. Better still, speak with your pastor one on one if you are intending to praise.

#3 – Send a brief note/feedback after the sermon

Too many people think that delivering sermons is the pastor’s responsibility. Not necessarily. The pulpit ministry can be a multi-directional ministry. Hearers can provide feedback. Preachers can listen. God can speak. Pastors who preach regularly can also feel a sense of fatigue. While preaching the Word of God is a calling and also a privilege, pastors are human too. Sometimes, they will preach mediocre sermons despite their best efforts. If there’s cooperation, to see the pulpit ministry as a community activity, it can be life-giving. Preachers speak the Word of God from the pulpit. Congregation members can provide thoughts about the sermon. The goal is to help the whole Church grow as they feed on the preaching of the Word. Congregation members, you are critical to the success of every Sunday service.

#4 – Don’t give lavish gifts

Receiving expensive gifts will make most pastors feel very uncomfortable. Keep the gift very small. Gift cards of a small value will suffice. Make sure it is very small. A $5 coffee card is one example if you know your pastor loves coffee. If you feel you need to buy something more, I recommend a good book. Personally I am biased toward books. However, since I am a frequent book reviewer, many publishers send me their new books for free. If you’re afraid that the book you buy may be something your pastor already owns, one good strategy is this: Don’t write anything in the new book. Attach a simple card to it so that if your pastor already has that book, he can give it away to someone else.

#5 – Volunteer without being asked

One of the biggest encouragements members of the congregation can contribute is to volunteer without being asked. Doing ministry in the church is a marathon. Volunteers come and go. When the need is there, and if there is no one else to volunteer, very often, the paid staff of the church will have to double-up or work long hours to take up the slack. This leads to staff often doing many things at one time, at the expense of quality. Sometimes, staff can become so fixated on getting things done that they can be deemed impersonal, as they have no time to interact with people. Give them a break. Help them out. Volunteer. With church services being held at least once a week, 52 times a year, the demands are great. Week in, week out, there will be needs for people to fill in the empty slots of all ministries in the church. From refreshments to Sunday school, from ushering to organizing the worship teams, there are lots of opportunities to encourage your pastor. Volunteer with a cheerful heart. In blessing others, do not be surprised to find yourself being blessed too.

#6 – Grow and demonstrate a desire to disciple

There’s no greater joy than to see the flock demonstrating a desire to grow. It makes all the preaching, all the teaching, all the caring, and all the sharing, totally worth it. Pastors are most encouraged when they see fruit in the growth of church members. Personally, when I see people taking initiative to learn, to grow, and to challenge one another to become more like Jesus, I become super-charged!

#7 – Pray for your pastor

Last but not least, pray for your pastor. They need God’s help more than any other. They need the anointing of the Holy Spirit. They need the grace and love of God to continue in their spiritual marathon. Prayer is food for the soul, fuel for the ministry, and fodder for overcoming the daily challenges of people, relationships, and programs.

Practice these seven habit throughout the year. Remember, church ministry belongs you—not just to your pastor. You have a big role to play!  —submitted by Conrade Yap, Canada