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Pastoring isn’t easy, and its challenges have many pastors daydreaming about other jobs. So, I’m a huge advocate of appreciating the people who serve us, and if that requires specific time set aside (Pastor’s appreciation month—October) to ensure it happens, I can get behind it.

One of the funny things I’ve noticed about pastor’s appreciation month is that churches who remember to do it are generally churches who do a good job appreciating their clergy all year around. These congregations will often take offerings for the pastor’s birthday, anniversary, and other special occasions.

There’s just one thing I think we all need to remember as we say “thank you” to our ministers in October: they’re not the only ones holding the church together.

Remembering our volunteers

Because larger churches get a lot of media attention, we have an idea that the average church size is about 5,000 people. It’s not. If you’re in a church of 95 people, your congregation is above average. Most of the churches I’ve served in have averaged about 100–200 people.

You quickly find in most smaller congregations that the regular work is being done by volunteers—often ones who are serving outside of their gifts. We’re talking about nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, kids’ and youth ministry leaders, worship teams, etc.

These are people who sacrifice their time week in and week out, year after year, to prepare for and implement the ministries and work of the church. If they’re leading these ministries, they’re also dealing with other volunteers and many of the same frustrations and indignities that pastors experience.

It’s human nature when things are running smoothly to forget about the effort poured into it. We kind of expect things to run without a hitch, so we don’t think twice about it when it does—and we don’t even see the hands that are doing the work.

What makes it even worse is that people are quick to criticize elements of these ministries that aren’t going the way they’d like. This means that the feedback these volunteers get isn’t, “thank you,” it’s “why aren’t you doing it this way?” This is often criticism from people who benefit from these ministries, but aren’t volunteering themselves.

The trouble with pastor appreciation

The difficulty with pastor’s appreciation is that many churches are pouring energy, time, money, and attention to the organization’s one employee—and forgetting the people who are working hard out of devotion. This doesn’t mean that pastors don’t deserve appreciation—they do. It’s just important that we don’t forget the workers pouring their hearts into the church, and the people in it.

Of course no one should be serving for recognition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it. Ideally, everyone serves from the pure desire to serve God, and then we cheer them on and show appreciation when they do.

Remember to appreciate your pastor, but not at the expense of others who serve. Remember to show your gratitude on them as well—it can mean the difference between meaningful ministry or burnout.