Did you know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month?

Some time in the not so distant past, someone came up with the idea of a pastor’s appreciation month (P.A.M.). Seems to me it was something Focus on the Family ministry started? In any case, October became the designated month. It’s a good idea. Yet it’s sad that we would have to come up with such specific event and time in order for some churches to do so. However, I’d rather have P.A.M. than not.

Some churches don’t observe P.A.M. Other churches hate P.A.M. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask the leadership of a few of these churches why that is. Their reasons vary. Here’s a short list of what they’ve said:

  • “The pastor knows he’s appreciated.”  (Oh? Does he now? Have you asked? Has it been obvious you are  showing appreciation for him?)
  • “We show appreciation throughout the year.”  (Well, that’s fantastic!).
  • “We made a big deal when he first arrived.”   (That reminds me of the husband who explained why he never tells his wife he loved her was because he had told her on their wedding day, and he would let her know if there was any change).
  • “We don’t go for anniversaries like that.”   (Implying it’s too unspiritual or unbiblical. I’ll wager a dollar they celebrate birthdays).
  • “It would only spoil the pastor. We don’t want to contribute to his pride.”   (That’s old-school thinking. You know – keep the pastor humble and poor. But that’s such a ginormous pile of fufu! Thank God the Lord doesn’t treat us that way).
  • “The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to do that.”    (Uhhh…say what?)
  • “Our pastor is not worth appreciating.”     (Maybe that is the case. If he is not worthy of honor, then what is he doing in your church? If it’s a matter of your personal dislike then someone needs a major attitude adjustment).

P.A.M. was created out of an apparent need. Contrary to some opinions, pastors are people too. They need “attaboys” and “thank-yous,” and “we love yous,” just like other people do. It’s an uplift. It contributes to a sense of satisfaction and joy. And, it’s biblical! Of course the Bible doesn’t have an explicit chapter or verse about appreciating your pastor. There isn’t the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt appreciate your pastor.”  But there are commands to love others, and to respect, honor, and highly esteem your elder(s). In fact, Hebrews 13:17 tells us that we should bring joy to our pastor and elders, and tells us how we can make our pastor’s work a joy. It says the pastor(s) should be enjoying the ministry and not groaning because of it – – for our benefit!

The Apostle Paul of the New Testament is such a great example of how a church leader shows appreciation for the church he serves. Paul not only showed them by giving his all, and sacrificing his life for them, he came right out and told them. He sent them love letters. Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians are reservoirs of the love of Christ that cascades down through Paul and into the hearts of men, women, boys and girls. Paul thanked them for their demonstrations of love and appreciation for him. It’s a rather lengthy catalog when you read through those letters. He was so very thankful for how they provided for him, prayed for him, healed his wounds, gave him hospitality, listened to him, obeyed him, communicated their affection for him, supported others when he asked them to, treated him with respect, visited him when he was jailed, suffered with him when abused and persecuted, rescued him, and more.

Notice something here: they didn’t do these loving things only during a special month. They practiced pastor appreciation moments. Or, you could say, they practiced a good kind of S.P.A.M (Spontaneous Pastor Appreciation Moments)! By the way and no offense intended, but I am not one who likes Spam, whether of the email type or the food type (if indeed it really is food?)

While serving as a pastor in a church back in California, the precious folks surprised me on the first October my family and I were with them with a special P.A.M. event. But that was more like the sweet topping on the proverbial pie.  Those dear men and women were SPAMmers (of the good kind). One elder would often tell me how much he appreciated what I was doing. A middle-aged lady sent me a thank you card for my service. A teenager sent me a birthday card. From time to time another elder prayed out loud and praised God for my family and me. The music leader often asked how things were going or how I was doing, and would give me a big hug now and then. Deacons told me they were grateful I was at the church. One man signed his short info emails with “Love, _____”!  In his north Jersey accent, an elderly man often told me that how glad he was that I was his pastor. Women expressed thanks for how I was with their children. People interacted with the sermons. Children of all ages would converse with me or hug my neck when I stooped down or my knees when I didn’t. Some would even give a kiss or two. Couples or families had us over for supper. And on it went. Bring tears to my eyes just thinking about them. With Paul I will forever say, “I thank God in my remembrance of you!” (Phil 1:3-4).

I commend them for being an example of biblical love. They knew how to appreciate their pastor. I wish I could package such loving appreciation and send it off to churches where pastors need the same. These dear people don’t show appreciation merely because it’s a P.A.M. thing or because they have this duty-bound compulsion to do so. They didn’t stop after their first display of appreciation when my family and I arrived, showering us with baskets of essentials, food, and treasures. The obvious displays of genuine affection continued until, sadly, we had to move. (More tears to my eyes).

You know what else? They were not spoiling me. In fact, if anything their S.P.A.M. was humbling! Over the years I’ve been around too many who thought it was their God-ordained mission to humble me. What they did wasn’t humbling. It was humiliating, unkind, unloving, unbiblical and un-anything-good. The beloved at Cornerstone Community practiced methods of appreciation that were so much like Jesus: abundant, encouraging, gracious, merciful, gentle, and kind. I did not deserve any of it, but like Christ they showed mercy and grace any way. And that, my friends, was humbling.

Having served as a pastor for eighteen years in various churches, you can take it from me that people demonstrating spontaneous moments of appreciation was enriching, encouraging, refreshing, and boosts needed to continue the work.

I am happy to share with you how much I appreciate Pastor Ryan and Pastor Dan, and as I come to know the elders at South my deep appreciation goes out to them as well. It does not stop there as there is so much to be thankful for having such men as Aaron who ministers through music and more, and Chris who ministers to our youth. South is truly blessed and I am truly blessed by the ministry services of Eva, Janet and Nate!

No doubt many of you are SPAMmers too! Please keep it up. All year long! Our ministers not only need and desire the encouragement, but giving thanks for them and showing appreciation also blesses you and the rest of the church.

If you’re involved in South or reading this and are in another local church, take a cue from Scripture (Phil. 2:29; 1 Thess. 5:13; 1 Tim. 5:17; Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17; 3 John 1:8) and from the example of the people at Cornerstone Community in Cerritos, California. Make a conscious effort at showing spontaneous moments of appreciation for your pastors. And if the church does not have a special anniversary to formally appreciate your pastors, then start one. It does not have to be October. It could be on the month of your pastor’s arrival or birthday. It will make a big difference in his life, and more than that, you and your church will reap the residual blessings!

Here’s to S.P.A.M (the good kind)!