By Abigail Criner
One morning, I stood in the kitchen of our quaint, two-bedroom parsonage. My husband, Michael, had just started his first pastorate in a rural town.
After years of leading a college ministry in a thriving city setting, we found ourselves in the country, embracing new roles. Culture shock and loneliness had settled heavy on my young heart.
I was up to elbows in toddlers while my husband worked long, hard hours for the church we were growing to love. I stood at my counter, desperate for some ounce of encouragement.
Cooking and baking made me feel productive and purposeful. Therefore, I began to think of how wonderful it would be to bake lemon poppy seed bread for our little family.
Combing through my pantry, I found some unused poppyseed and other needed ingredients. But there was one thing missing—lemons.
Not a moment later, my doorbell rang, and there stood one of our elderly congregants. In one hand was her cane, and in the other hand, she held a bag of freshly picked lemons from her backyard.
Through this woman’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and her willing heart, I received more than just lemons that day. Right there, in my discouragement and loneliness, I was met with an overwhelming sense of God’s provision and care.
Small Blessings Go a Long Way
These final days of Pastor Appreciation Month are a good time to remember that even small blessings and acts of encouragement can impact pastors and their families in big ways.
Remember the lemons I received? Extravagance isn’t necessary. What’s key in appreciating pastors and their families well is intentionality and care.
After speaking with several other pastors’ wives, I’ve gathered seven budget-friendly and straightforward ways church members can celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month even as October winds down (or, better yet, throughout the year).
1. Pray for them specifically.
One may choose to do this in person or through a hand-written note. Express to your pastors what you prayed over them and ask them how you can continue to pray.
Don’t be surprised if your pastor is taken back by this gesture. It’s not often that congregants go beyond the statement, “I’m praying for you, pastor.”
2. Write a detailed thank you note.
Simply saying “thank you for your service” is kind, but try to relay specific ways God has used pastors in your life.
Perhaps even share a time or two when their leadership inspired you in your walk with the Lord. Maybe there was a moment you observed their kindness, boldness, servant attitude, and humility.
3. Invite them.
Take a moment to extend an invitation to your pastors and their families to do something with you that’s not a church activity. This could be a request for them to join you at dinner, game night, or an outing.
This effort shows pastors and their families you appreciate them for who they are, not just what they do.
4. Take Them a Meal.
A friend’s church decided to provide meals to their pastor as a way to connect families and express their gratitude. This was an immense blessing to the pastor and his family. It was a simple effort that provided a warm meal and personal connections.
5. Give them an extra day off.
The gift of even one extra day off of work is a great way the church body can say “thank you.” I can’t express it enough; caring for your pastors’ physical and emotional rest may be exactly what they need.
An extra day not having to be on-call can recharge pastors’ souls to tackle the mountains ahead.
6. Encourage their families.
Jot down an individual note to your pastor’s immediate family members. This is a way to express that you see and notice them amidst the busyness of church life.
It makes a big impact on a pastor’s family to know you’ve observed how they give of their time with the pastor to allow him to serve others.
When a pastor’s family feels appreciated, loved, and cared for, it becomes sewn into the tapestry of their homes and strengthens their love for the church.
7. Listen to the Holy Spirit.
This may seem like a very simple idea, but the Holy Spirit may prompt you to bring a pastor coffee the Monday after a stressful weekend worship gathering.
The Holy Spirt may lead you to supply bottles of water, mints, and a kind note by a pastor’s chair on a Sunday morning. The list of things you can do to show appreciation is endless, but the Holy Spirit knows the right time and ways in which your pastors need to feel appreciated.
Appreciation is always impactful
We all have a part to play in appreciating our pastors. No matter the size or grandness of the gift or act, it can provide the boost that pastors need to continue in the ministry, strengthened and supported.
Whether God prompts you to give a get-away trip or provide a much-needed word of encouragement and thanks, don’t forget that your act of appreciation is always impactful.
You never know when your pastor and family may only be needing a bag of lemons to keep them trucking along in the days ahead.
ABIGAIL CRINER (@abigailcriner) is the wife of Michael Criner and mother of three beautiful girls.