“Clergy Appreciation Day “ is always the second Sunday in October” according to www.hallmark.com. This year, October 14, 2012, is the official date to honor pastors, priests, and ministers for their selfless commitment. Yet the entire month is dedicated to celebrating our clergy with this remembrance first being established in 1992. There’s even a Biblical reminder to honor those who care for our spiritual needs, “Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness….”
Of course, pastors and their spouses aren’t perfect. But neither are any of us. However, they do have a special job, since the word pastor can be interchanged with the Old Testament title, “shepherd,” and congregants are analogous to sheep. An experienced farmer and Bible teacher once told me that sheep can be incredibly stupid animals, which need a shepherd to lead them. Apparently, if a sheep gets turned upside down in a ditch filled with shallow water, they’ll drown simply because they don’t know enough to turn over. Sheep can also be prey for an attacking predator. Due to their inability to protect themselves, they could be easily killed without a shepherd’s protection.
Therefore, “why” congregations celebrate Clergy Appreciation Month can be explained by the countless stories of pastors who have acted as a protector and a rescuer. Maybe, it was a midnight vigil at the bedside of an ill parishioner, walking alongside a family experiencing the loss of a loved one, or listening as a hurting couple tries to rekindle the smoldering embers of a broken marriage. However, needy congregants can forget that their busy minister often has a marriage of his or her own with flames that also need stoking.
It’s commendable that many pastors are willing to selflessly visit the sick in the hospital, offer endless hours of support to grieving people, or to respond to a church emergency when the phone rings unexpectedly at 3.a.m. However, these sacrificial tasks can result in their absence at the family dinner table or their children’s school or sports events. In addition, minister’s hectic schedules can necessitate their mates to shoulder the majority of the household responsibilities alone.
Rev. Jane Madden, president of Ohio’s Shelby County Ministerial Association agrees that those married to clergy sacrifice a great deal. “So often our spouses give up time with us, so we can do what God has called to do,” she said. Rev. Madden is the associate pastor of nurture and care at the SidneyFirstUnitedMethodistChurch. She is also an organist there. The 69-year-old retired elementary music teacher went into the ministry as a second calling joining the Sidney First UMC staff in 2007.
As for concrete ways of showing clergy appreciation, Rev. Madden suggests, “Taking them out to lunch, [or if a congregant has] a cabin on the lake or something like that, they could offer that to the pastor and their spouse [for a getaway.] Gift certificates [for a meal out] would be good.”
She believes a simple card would be appreciated, too. “I know in this day and age everything is texting or email, but a handwritten note means so much more,” said Madden. She also suggests showing your caring by insisting that your clergy take time off, “If the congregation would make sure their pastor is taking a day off and having a Sabbath rest at some point during the week.”
According to Jane Madden not only in October, but all year long, “For myself and the other pastors that I have spoken to, the best thing the church people can do is to attend church and to get involved in the mission program in church, and be committed to their spiritual journey.”
Pastor David Clem of Ohio’s Spring Creek Christian Church shares her opinion, “The greatest gift any pastor can receive is to see members of their flock maturing in faith and actively engaged in doing the Lord’s work.”
Like Pastors Madden and Clem, most clergy and their mates are compassionate educated men and women who care deeply about those they oversee. During October, let’s especially remember to show gratitude to these individuals who give so much of their lives to minister to others.
Another way to do this is simply by praying, because the president of the Ministerial Association says that pastors would greatly appreciate this gift all year long. She explained, “Prayers lift us up and encourage us …just encouraging to know that people are praying for you as you are doing God’s work.”
Christina Ryan Claypool is an award winning journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News on Oct. 6, 2012.