With one week left in Pastor Appreciation Month, you may be wondering how to appreciate your pastor. What does he need? Or want?
Not a Bible. He has many Bibles on his shelves, and hundreds more on his phone.
Not a painting of Jesus, and certainly not on black velvet.
Maybe a suit, if only for funerals, but let him pick his own.
Not a trip. As a church member, I once gave a pastor and his family a gift certificate for a getaway weekend. The smile on his face said, “I’d rather have cash.”
As a pastor, the remembrances that blessed me most (in addition to the occasional love offering) were handwritten cards and letters. Once while I was on vacation, a deacon had the congregation fill a three-ring binder with thank-you notes. And another time, as the children’s classes presented me with a three-foot tall card they had drawn, a young woman in the choir loft exclaimed, “He’s gonna cry!” I did.
Ted Traylor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, told a story that still chokes me up. Many years ago during a stormy season in his ministry, Traylor arrived home one night to find three deacons sitting on the curb. “Oh, no,” he thought. “Here it comes.”
“Pastor, remember when you preached on the mighty men of David?” one of them said, “How when David longed for water from home, they snuck across the battle lines and brought it to him?”
“Well, we went to your hometown today and we talked with your parents.” It was a twelve-hour round trip.
The pastor was astonished to learn they had brought him a sapling native to North Alabama to remind him of home, even as he served hundreds of miles away. They fetched a jar of water from the clear mountain springs to remind him of the living water of Christ. And they delivered two large stones from the hillside ledge where as a teenager Traylor was called by God to the ministry. The men instructed him to place the rocks in his own garden and whenever he felt unsure of himself or his calling, to stand on them as a reminder that he stands on the Rock.
And the three mighty men pledged their personal support of their pastor and his ministry, whenever and wherever he needed them, “unless you do something illegal, immoral, or unethical—then we’ll take you out ourselves,” he remembered, smiling.
That’s what pastors want.
Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist and IBSA’s associate executive director, Church Communications team.