October is Clergy Appreciation Month, if you didn’t know!
Today I participated in the Clergy Appreciation Breakfast at St. Francis Hospital here in Monroe. This was a great event. Ministers in town were invited to come and get some routine health checks, have a breakfast, and be thanked for ministering in the halls and rooms of the hospital. I had my hearing checked, got a flu shot, gave blood for a cholesterol and psa panel, checked my blood sugar, and had my eyes checked for glaucoma. All of these tests were complimentary, which I appreciate. There was some gospel singing at the breakfast, the food was good and I sat by friends James Guy and Brad Turpin.
My first recognition of Clergy Appreciation Month was a text from my grand daughter. She was visiting her friend’s church and heard it mentioned. So she texted me, “Happy Preacher Month”. I’ll take that.
I’m sure not all churches appreciate their clergy, but we feel very appreciated at Forsythe. I suppose it’s Clergy Appreciation Year there. But Churches of Christ do not usually participate in this recognition because we have viewed the Scriptures as teaching that we are a part of a priesthood of believers. The only High Priest is Jesus Christ himself. Those serving in the ministry full time are not regarded as exalted above the rest of the congregation. As such, we do not have a clergy/laity system. At least, we do not call it that. Nor do we wear special titles like “pastor”, “father”, or “reverend” – we feel the Scriptures point us away from those titles. Sometimes just by nature of things, some people regard the minister differently than they do others. But ultimately, we all serve the same God in the same Kingdom, receiving the same grace and mercy needed by all.
Another reason why Churches of Christ do not participate in Clergy Appreciation Month (at least most do not) is that because the above paragraph, most of the congregation is not aware of this time of recognition. If they were, then the minister himself would have to let them know. And then it’s no fun. It’s kind of like saying “Hey, it’s my birthday” … and knowing that if you had not said that no one would have wished you a happy birthday!
I know in writing about this I have risked being misjudged. I’m not writing it for me … as I said … we are very blessed in the encouragement and appreciation department. I’m not hoping our members will write this down and observe it next year (unless they want to do what a church did for one of my friends – gave him a weekend in a cabin in the mountains!). No, this is not about me feeling underappreciated… it’s just not so.
But I happen to know a lot of preachers, being it’s my lot to know and hang out with that sort of person. I happen to know that many of them work tirelessly at the ministry. There are so many things that demand their attention. I know some of them struggle to maintain any family time because of the ongoing nature of ministry. I know that some of them sacrifice financially when they could go elsewhere and earn more. I know that some of them are always dealing with a conflict, complaint, or unkind commentary on their work. Ministry requires a lot of heart, and a lot of ministers give up because they just can’t give so much of themselves with so little to see in return.
And so for my preacher brothers and their families I would encourage individuals in congregations to occasionally do more than say ‘good sermon’ on the way out. If your preacher looks weary or downhearted, he doesn’t need a cabin for the weekend as much as he needs to know that what he is doing is important to you. He already knows it’s important to God. You don’t have to spend much money. A note of encouragement, an invitation to dinner, a kindness expressed to his wife, or even some words expressing why you appreciate him.
In one way I don’t know why there has to be a Clergy Appreciation Month … but knowing how some churches have treated some of my minister friends … I am assured that it is needed. So to my preaching friends, “happy preachers month” from me and my grand daughter Claire.
Thanks for reading,