Churchgoers have less than a week left to do something extra special for their ministers in recognition of Clergy Appreciation Month.
Though appreciation for church leaders should be expressed year round, Clergy Appreciation Month gives churchgoers a perfect chance to recognize the contribution their leader makes in their life and community, says H.B. London Jr., vice president of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family.
Clergy Appreciation Month "is not meant just to glamorize the position of a pastor or staff person, but it is to call to the attention of the American public the contribution their spiritual leaders make in our society," he told Focus on the Family's CitizenLink in a recent interview, 17 years after first presenting the idea that led to Clergy Appreciation observations nationwide.
"Can you imagine our nation without caring, loving clergy?" he asked.
Today, as London points out, there are many pastors who are under-compensated, and their ability to give full time to their assignment is often times complicated by financial stress.
According to statistics compiled by Life-Line For Pastors, a publication of Maranatha Life, 80 percent of North American pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors; 70 percent of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor; 90 percent say the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people; and hundreds of pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches.
Focus on the Family's London, meanwhile, says the greatest struggle remains one of management and balance.
"How does a busy, in-demand pastor give the proper time to his family and marriage and still meet the expectations of those who call him their pastor," he asked. "Some always struggle with this delicate balance."
In London's opinion, there are five needs in a particular that he would identify to be the greatest for pastors.
These needs include a united congregation that serves together, freedom to dream, prayer, time spent for leading rather than baby sitting or simply running errands, and personal conversation.
"Every pastor needs to be 'talked to' — not talked through or around, but given a chance to express his hopes without being unfairly judged," London said, regarding the last need.
With these in mind, London hopes churchgoers everywhere will find some way to show appreciation for their pastors, whether it be a written note, a word of thanks, a promise to pray for them, a gift card, or a donation.
"[W]hatever you do, be it a big event or just a casual recognition of your pastor's commitment to his call and your congregation, do something," exhorted London. "I promise you it will be a win-win situation. You will be blessed, and your pastor and church staff will feel motivated by your affirmation."
Clergy Appreciation Month started off as an idea that London had discussed on a radio broadcast in 1991. One year later, Under His Wing Ministries marked the first Pastor's Appreciation Day after pursuing a similar idea presented by its executive director, Jerry Frear, who lobbied for state declarations from 10 different states – 8 of which responded.
In 1994, Focus on the Family began to promote Clergy Appreciation Month in October, designating the second Sunday of the month a Clergy Appreciation Day for churches that preferred to celebrate on a specific day.