by Todd Arnold
October is Pastor Appreciation Month, a time to say a simple yet sincere and well-deserved thank you to your pastor and his family.
Perhaps your pastor is well paid and is provided with a nice parsonage. Nevertheless, "...the undeniable truth is that pulpits across America are filled with pastors who would leave the ministry tomorrow if they only had the opportunity to do so and could do it with some sense of dignity. Discouragement and disappointment constantly seek to suffocate their joy in ministry. Financial pressures, family pressures, and performance and expectation pressures, eventually take their toll over time. ...Satan is out to destroy your pastor. Just like it was with Simon Peter, Satan desires to sift them as wheat!" (Mark Cravens, LinkedIn, September 17, 2018)
Sincere appreciation can impact others in ways that are far beyond anything you could ever imagine.
The Power of Appreciation
Who likes to make a difference in people's lives — to add value to them? I do. Did you know that expressing sincere appreciation can impact others in ways that are far beyond anything you could ever imagine?
John Maxwell shares the following story in his book, Becoming a Person of Influence:
Helen Mrosla told of her experience with Mark Eklund, a student she had taught in third grade and then again in junior high. “One Friday in the classroom things just didn’t feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were growing frustrated with themselves—and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then, I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.
As the students left the room, each one handed me their paper. That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and I listed what everyone else had said about that individual. On Monday I gave each student his or her list.
Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” I heard whispered. “I never knew that meant anything to anyone!” “I didn’t know others liked me so much!”
Several years later, after I had returned from a vacation, my parents met me at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked the usual questions about the trip. How the weather was, my experiences in general. There was a slight lull in the conversation. Mother gave Dad a sideways glance and simply said, “Dad?” My father cleared his throat. “The Eklunds called last night,” he began.
“Really?” I said. “I haven’t heard from them for several years. I wonder how Mark is.”
Dad responded quietly. “Mark was killed in Vietnam,” he said. “The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you could attend.”
At the conclusion of the graveside ceremony, those who loved Mark filed past the coffin one last time. I was the last one. As I stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as a pallbearer came up to me. “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin. “Mark talked about you a lot,” he said.
After the funeral most of Mark’s former classmates headed to Chuck’s farmhouse for lunch. Mark’s mother and father were there, waiting for me. “We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him. “Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”
Mark’s classmates started to gather around us, Chuck smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.” John’s wife said, “John asked me to put his in our wedding album.” “I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary.” Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times,” Vicky said without batting an eyelash. “I think we all saved our lists.”
Nobody realized the impact that their simple statements of sincere appreciation would have on the future of their classmates, but in time they all learned the same lesson. We never know how dark a person's valley is. As a single candle brightens a darkened room, a single word of appreciation may lighten the path of another.
Pastors Need Encouragement
Our pastors are no different than we are. They have dark moments in life too. Occasionally they hurt, they are disappointed, they are discouraged, they feel alone, and they may be ready to quit. An occasional expression of sincere appreciation might arrive at just the right time to be a difference maker in their lives.
As a single candle brightens a darkened room, a single word of appreciation may lighten the path of another.
"Wow!" you say. "I want to have that kind of impact on my pastor's life. Just what does it require of me?” Not much, really. It requires you to be intentional, to choose to find something specific about your pastor and his family that you appreciate and then to choose to communicate it to them in some way. It won't just happen. Dale Carnegie said, "If it is to be, it is up to me."
"But what do I say?" you ask. The song writer said, "Count your many blessings. Name them one by one." Contemplate how you have been blessed by your pastor and his family in recent times. Make a list. The more specific, the better.
"Then what?" you ask. Find a way to tell them at least one thing that's on your list.
"Oh my, how do I do that? I'm not good with words. I might get emotional." It's ok. It's all part of the human experience. Remember one thing: The blessings left on the list and never shared will not provide the positive impact you wish to make.
"But is it really that easy?" you ask. Oh yes, it's that easy. A little intentionality, a little courage and you'll be all set. Go ahead. Go make a difference in the life of your pastor.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Expressing appreciation does not require much of us—it just requires us to be intentional.
Here are a few examples for you to consider.
Pastor Bell, thank you for the passion you have to connect with young people. You make a special effort to speak directly to them, to make God's Word relevant to their lives, to communicate God's standard for right living in a way that is achievable yet uncompromising. You've built relationships with them. And, you live what you preach. The spiritual well-being of Erin and Drew are important to me and your impact on them is invaluable. Thank you!
Pastor Bell, thank you for consistently providing us with good truth. It's obvious that you invest a significant amount of time in preparation. Your messages are well organized. You make rationale arguments, logical presentations of the Word. I can readily grasp what you are saying. Your clear presentation of Bible principles is helpful to me in my quest to live a consistent Christian life. Thank you for helping me on this journey.
And don't forget the pastor's wife. She's an important part of the team.
Sister Bell, thank you for the effort you put into being well prepared. I sat in on one of your VBS sessions. It was packed with creative activities that kept the children engaged while they learned biblical principles. That doesn't happen without work. Drew benefited from your efforts. Thank you!
In his blog post, 40 Regrets You Don't Want to Have In 40 Years, Marc Chernoff writes, "This morning, like he has every morning for the last decade, my 86-year-old grandfather picked a fresh wild flower on his morning walk and took it to my grandmother. This morning I decided to go with him to see her. And as he placed the flower on her gravestone, he looked at me and said, ‘I just wish I had picked her a fresh flower every morning when she was alive. She would have loved that.’”
Every day is an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. Take advantage of the opportunity that today affords you, the opportunity to give our pastor and his family some well-deserved “flowers.” Identify something you sincerely appreciate about them and tell them. You never know the difference it might make in their lives.