Congregations across the country are encouraged to honor their pastors in celebration of Clergy Appreciation Month.
Every year, October is set aside to show gratitude for the hard work, sacrificial dedication and blessings provided year round by ministers and pastors.
"As a pastor myself for over three decades, I know firsthand both how difficult and how rewarding it can be to serve a congregation," said H.B. London, vice president of church and clergy ministries at Focus on the Family. "I've discovered that one of the most important things a pastor needs is encouragement and affirmation from his congregation."
Pastors and their families live under constant pressure especially as their congregation watch their every move and expect them to be close-to-perfect people. Clergy are expected to always be available, on call 24/7 with all the answers and never down.
"Those are unrealistic expectations to place on anyone, yet most of us are disappointed when a pastor becomes overwhelmed, seems depressed, lets us down or completely burns out," according to The Parsonage, the pastoral ministries of Focus on the Family.
Clergy Appreciation Month calls congregants to recognize their pastors – leaders who have been entrusted to tend to the spiritual well-being of believers.
"You will never know how much it means to them and what a difference you're making," said London. "Your entire church will reap the benefits of having a pastor and a staff who's appreciated."
Expressing love and appreciation is also the sign of a healthy church, according to Chaplain Paul L. Slater, a healthcare chaplain who created Pastor-appreciation.net after discovering that 1,500 pastors were reportedly leaving ministry each month.
Congregants are urged to personally honor their spiritual leaders with a simple card, invitation to lunch, a promise to pray for them or offer their services in some way.
Hallmark also recognizes Clergy Appreciation Month and offers 34 cards addressed to pastors, a pastor's wife, a youth pastor and others to mark the special occasion. Some cards feature the writings of well-known Christian author Max Lucado.
Congregants have also been encouraged to let pastors know about how they speak biblical truth on moral issues. This week, ahead of the presidential election year, a group of conservative Christian organizations – Focus on the Family, the Alliance Defense Fund, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and the James Madison Center for Free Speech – released an outline of what pastors can and can't do when getting involved in the political arena.
"American pastors have a long tradition of providing their congregations with a biblical perspective on current events," said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family, according to the organization's publication, CitizenLink. "From encouraging colonists to participate in the American Revolution to speaking out against the immorality of slavery, pastors have helped U.S. citizens navigate the waters of political issues."
The joint letter, titled "Constitutional Protections for Pastors," assures pastors and churches they have the constitutional rights to express their views on a broad range of social issues.
Clergy Appreciation Day is Oct. 14, the second Sunday of each October.