October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and rightly so, as these devoted servants do so much for their flocks and bear so much more than most of us would be willing to take on, their being the ones directly responsible to God for the spiritual health of their congregations, but I can’t help noticing that there is no such thing as Minister of Music Appreciation Month, Youth Minister Appreciation Month, Children’s Minister Appreciation Month, Custodian Appreciation Month, etc.
It bothers me more than a little bit, as those who serve alongside the pastor are often those who do the most to bring the pastor’s vision and the church’s programming to fruition, serving behind the scenes, often without the same kind of recognition, encouragement, reward, and thanks that the pastor receives as the one behind the pulpit, the one whose name is on the sign out front.
This being so, I encourage you to consider October Church Staff Appreciation Month. Express your appreciation and thanks to your pastor, but don’t stop there. Take a peek over his shoulder, consider those who make up his dedicated team, and express your appreciation and thanks to them as well. If your church has a large ministerial staff—I think ours is up in the mid-teens now—focus on those who lead the ministry area where you serve or where your family is served.
Not sure what’s expected of you? The answer is “nothing.” Those who serve on church staff do so to please the Lord, not to win the approval of men. That’s precisely what makes blessing these selfless people so much fun! So, get involved. Make this October a month your pastor and the rest of your church staff will always remember.
Here are a few ideas:
- Tell them how you feel. Eye to eye. Face to face. Start with “I’m so thankful for you” or “Thank you for all you do,” but don’t leave it there. Prove that you’ve given their service some real thought by finishing sentences like “I want you to know that I see how you…,” “You are really good at…,” “I am challenged by your…,” or “I will never forget the time that you….” This may feel a little awkward—for you AND for them—but they will be touched, whether or not they respond the way that you hope they will.Remember, these folks don’t do what they do to receive recognition or praise, and many of them don’t know what to say back. They don’t want to take credit for what God has done through them or come across as being conceited, so they stammer, over-explain, or argue with you. It took my mother and me about ten years to teach my husband just to smile and say “Thank you” to people who compliment him.
- Pat a back, shake a hand, or hug a neck. Unless the church staff member you want to thank is a touch-me-not (and that’s okay!), express your appreciation through appropriate touch, as touch is the primary love language of some folks, and you don’t want to leave them out. Not sure what is appropriate? Generally, you should only offer hugs to people of your same gender. If you happen to be very good friends, side hugs are appropriate. When in doubt, go with a back pat or a handshake.
- Do something nice for them. Help them cross items off their to-do lists by taking on tasks that you can shoulder for them, whether that be in the office or around the house. If you prefer to help in the office, you might offer to do mail-outs, make phone calls, organize, clean up, set up, decorate, unlock, lock up, transport, etc. If you prefer to help around the house, you might offer to mow, pull weeds, babysit, dog walk, window wash, decorate, cook, bake, clean, wash or fold laundry, or iron. If your offer to help is declined, don’t take it personally, as the reasons for their declining probably have nothing at all to do with you. Know that your offer is appreciated whether or not you get the chance to follow through.
- Spend time with them. Of all of the suggestions given, this may be the most difficult to do, as most of us are busy these days and the demands on your church staff members’ time are likely already more than they can manage with so many people depending on them. Still, letting them know that your interest in them goes beyond their service to you as a church member is invaluable. Invite them to attend a social activity with you, offer to take them to dinner, or treat them to a cup of coffee at their convenience. Should they accept, spend that time getting to know them as an individual and, no matter how much veer back to their conversational default, don’t let them “talk shop.” Leave church chatter for a later time!Again, be sensitive to social propriety here. Only spend time alone with church staff members of your same gender. If the church staff member you want to thank is of the opposite gender and you are unmarried, bring a friend with you, ride in separate vehicles, and remain in the public eye for accountability reasons. If the church staff member you want to thank is of the opposite gender and you are married, let your spouse do the inviting and make sure your spouse is present at all times.
- Give them a gift. Cost isn’t important. Spend as much or as little as you are comfortable spending, as it truly is the thought that counts. If you don’t know what they like, ask around so you can give something they will actually use/enjoy. If you don’t know whom to ask or want to make sure that your gift is not misinterpreted, go with something universally appealing like movie passes, candles, restaurant gift cards, or gas cards. Even better than a gift of monetary value—although you don’t have to forgo one to give the other!—is a card full of words that show thought and careful consideration in the selection, words that they can share with a spouse and/or children and reread when they most need it. Resist the urge to simply sign your name to a prewritten verse. Take the time to include hand-written sentiments specific to your experience with the person you are writing the card to. Not sure what to say? Look back at the sentence starters in idea #1 in this list.
- Most importantly, pray! Thank God for these individuals and ask Him to bless them for their faithful service. Pray for their marriages and their family members one by one, putting yourself in their shoes and considering what their needs might be right now. Ask God to strengthen them and protect them from an Enemy that would love to see them fail publicly. Ask God to refresh them daily as they pour themselves out for the Kingdom and to restore to them the joy of their salvation even as they grow in their faith and challenge others to do the same. Just imagine! If we all prayed faithfully for our church staff for an entire month, they would have to feel it, wouldn’t they? And wouldn’t that be the greatest blessing of all?
Happy Church Staff Appreciation Month, everyone! Let’s let them know they’re loved.