If someone were to ask what is the toughest job in the world, what answer would you give them?
Right away, one can find several of the most common answers that we would think of. Firefighter, police officer, crab fisherman (thank you, “Deadliest Catch”), or oil rig worker, for instance, tops the list.
The Toughest Vocation of All
What if I suggested a vocation that may be as tough – if not tougher – than the list above? The job that I’m referring to is that of a pastor.
Really, a pastor? Absolutely! I would imagine that after making such a bold assertion, the average reaction that I would get might be scoffing, and possibly even laughter. However, this is one profession that is just as tough and as messy as the jobs listed above, and the number one reason why is because it involves dealing with the toughest, yet most priceless, product of all: people.
(Related: What vocation are you interested in? Here are some jobs of the future.)
What Do Pastors Deal With?
In the April 2008 edition of Willow Magazine, Christian researcher George Barna and his team published some staggering statistics that peeled back the veil of the minds and hearts of many pastors. It asked them to honestly and objectively answer questions dealing with many of the toughest issues that they face. Obviously, the results generated are merely black and white facts on a page.
As you read each statistic, allow yourself the freedom to think about your own pastor or anyone in your life that you know who may have affected your life in some way, big or small, by remaining faithful to the ministry to which God has called them to. In fact, maybe for the first time ever, put yourself in their place as you read what they have revealed. You might just find the following data hitting uncomfortably close to home:
- 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or conflict in their church.
- 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours per week.
- 81% suffer marriage problems due to insufficient time with their wives.
- 80% of seminary and Bible college graduates will leave ministry within the first 5 years;
- 80% of pastors believe their ministry affected their families negatively;
- 70% of pastors don’t have someone whom they consider a close friend – someone they can confide in.
- 60% of pastors’ wives hold full-time jobs or are involved in careers to meet family needs.
- 50% of pastors would leave if they believed they could make a living doing something else.
- 33% believed ministry was a hazard to their family.
In the face of all of these statistics, the question that begs to be asked is, “Why would anyone enter into a vocation with so much adversity against them from the start?”
The answer is clear: it’s their calling. It’s their passion. Seeing lives changed because of Jesus Christ’s redeeming work on the Cross drives them to persevere another day. And at night, most pastors don’t lay their head on their pillows and ask themselves, “Was today too difficult?” Instead they ask, “Was it worth it . . . was one more life changed today?” The resounding “yes” is what keeps them going. Although some may classify it as a tough, thankless job, most pastors would undeniably admit that it is definitely the most rewarding.
So, with over 450,000 churches throughout the United States alone, one question remains: how do you adequately say “thank you” to someone who gives so much of themselves, laying aside their own lives for the sake of serving and caring for the spiritual health of others? Depending on the level of forethought and creativity, there are many ways to thank a pastor!
Before diving into the list below, take a few minutes to watch this video that talks about an awesome new movement called Bless Your Pastor – I pray it encourages you!
20 Ways To Thank Your Pastor
- Simply Say “Thank You” – While blatantly obvious, sometimes weeks go by for a pastor without someone verbally saying thank you.
- Provide a Vacation – Without a doubt, there is one thing that every single pastor absolutely needs no matter who they are: rest. Whether this is a dubbed a vacation, trip, or sabbatical, all of the above allow for your pastor to break away from life for a set amount of time for the purpose of rest, relaxation, and recovery. Consequently, this period usually serves to restore fresh passion and vision as well, decreasing the likelihood of pastoral “burnout.”
- Handwritten Notes – These are always special to receive, especially if you highlight something that “struck you” from a recent message or sermon.
- Photo Book – This is an inexpensive way to show your appreciation by gathering photos and notes from members that showcase special moments in the history of your church.
- Prayer – This may not seem like much of a thank you, but there is no greater way to support your pastor and encourage or appreciate them than forming a prayer group that prays regularly for him and his family. This can also be done as a group during a prayer meeting/breakfast or a special night of prayer involving the entire congregation.
- Gift Certificates – This can range anywhere from restaurants to bookstores to movie tickets. The possibilities are endless and the pastor usually gets to include his wife on this one as an added bonus!
- Lawn Care – This is a unique gift where you can arrange for free lawn care, whether you do it yourself or arrange to pay a service to do it.
- Special Acts of Service – You can ask families in the church to do something creative or special, such as provide a meal with dessert, wash their cars, etc . . .
- Remember Special Dates – Everyone, no matter who they are, loves to be appreciated. Show your pastor how much you love him by remembering special anniversaries, such as his birthday, the date that he came to this church, or his wedding anniversary.
- Lessons/Gifts For a Hobby – Many pastors love to golf. Some like to read while others like to fish. No matter what their hobby is, you can always find a way to appreciate him by paying for lessons or going along with him to “play” and not talk about church!
- Plant a Tree – This is a great way to say thank you in honor of your pastor.
- Video Interview – Be creative! You can record video interviews from members of the church sharing how they have been blessed by his ministry to them.
- Cards/Crafts – Ask members of the church to send cards or gifts that they’ve made to his home. Remember to include the pastor’s wife and her supportive role!
- Special Service – Hold a special celebration service to pray and thank God for the lives of your pastors and their families.
- Kid’s “Thank You’s” – Have the kids design and create posters with their handprints/footprints and hang them around the church.
- Money – Many pastors take a pay cut to serve in this role. The gift of money, given by members during a special appreciation event, can help to pay for car repairs or any other financial burdens that are unexpected.
- Gym/Health Club Membership – This is always a great investment for your pastor!
- Free Repairs – Organize a group that is willing to say thanks by helping the pastor take care of any repairs around the church or their personal home or car.
- Child Care – If your pastor is younger, you can offer to say thank you by helping to watch their children while they have a night out or go to a Bed and Breakfast for the weekend.
- Thank the Pastor’s Wife – Remember the statistic: 60% of pastor’s wives work full time to support the home. Thanking your pastor’s wife for all that she does to support her husband and God’s church can be an incredible lift to her spirit and, consequently, your pastor’s spirit as well.
Although the list above is not exhaustive, it’s a great start to some innovative ways to thank your pastor! My personal favorites include any ideas that help the pastor to get time away in order to get refreshed and refocused and also any ideas that show sincere appreciation to the pastor’s wife.
Do you have another creative way to say “thank you?” Meet me right now in the comment section by sharing any additional ideas and insights that you have for thanking our pastors!
Don’t forget that not all Pastors are Men! Our Pastor is a woman and is awesome! Her husband (and family) have given up quite a bit in his career to support his wife in her calling. The whole family deserves our love and support for the love and support they provide to each of us.
Adam Simon says
You make a great point, Karen, and I actually struggled a bit with that fact as I wrote it. Funny that you mentioned it! I’ve met many women pastors and leaders who do a phenomenal job and are just as in need of thanks as their fellow male pastors. Thanks for your perspective!
Adam Simon says
Nicely put, Chris! Glad you agree and thanks for reading!
Jim Gawne says
Adam – This is a great list, with the exception of your last point. While there are many churches who do not ordain women to ministry, a great number do. You could easily change that last point to read “spouses” and drop the statistic about the percentage of pastors wives that work outside the home. It could possibly be changed to read:
20.Thank the Pastor’s Spouse – Thanking your pastor’s spouse for all that he or she does to support the pastor and God’s church can be an incredible lift to both of their spirits.
I am sure that you would get negative comments any which way that you choose to go on this, so let me close by saying again – “THANK YOU” for this well written article
I don’t want to create a firestorm here, but…. It seems to me that if “50% of Pastors would leave the ministry if they believed they could make a living doing something else”, they are there by default, not calling. That is shameful. Secondly, looking at all these sickening statistics, could there be, possibly, a lack of “reformation” from the reformation. I mean Ephesians says that God gave some to be (in this order) prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors. Where are all the other offices and why do most churches run like a corporation where the “pastor” is the CEO? Take the pressure off and spread the responsibility around. Let’s be really candid…. most “churches” are a one man show. No wonder the pressure is too much! Many of my friends are pastors, but the system just seems to not allow for transparency.
John Frainee says
Yes I understand that is a sad thing that so many pastors would do something else. Scary stuff. But remember, just because someone holds the “pastor” label doesn’t mean they are following the Bible. We have to start with ourselves, follow Christ, and let the Holy Spirit give us direction when choosing a pastor.
Adam Simon says
Hi Jim! See my comment to Karen above :). Thanks for reading and for sharing your insight!
Pastors do need to be appreciated and thanked. It encourages them and helps them to feel their efforts are worthwhile. However, where is this a biblical model, a poor overworked pastor? From my experience pastors need to set an example of not trying to do it all themselves. Delegate, delegate, delegate!!! It is not a strong Christian witness to have suffering family relationships because “ministry” demands too much of your time. Ministry starts at home, with your wife, and your children. There is nothing wrong with a marketplace minister. Paul was a tentmaker who could provide for himself as well as receive financial gifts to evangelize. Jesus’ relationships were not suffering because of time, he was not overworked, he was a carpenter who provided for his mother. We all need to look to the Master Pastor not to our earthly pastor to meet our spiritual needs. By the way, my three pastors are VERY WELL appreciated. Two of them do have marketplace occupations and the third is just stubborn at not slowing down, and delegating more responsibilites but still he is well provided for by the church body, his wife is also!
Brent Pittman says
Adam, great topic. I know pastors and the other staff members of churches don’t enter into the ministry for money, but what if they were paid a market value of their worth? Many could easily get a position as CEO or operations manager making $75K+ a year.
There is also an issue of student loans. Many ministers begin their low paid ministry with graduate school/seminary debt that forces them or their spouses into the workforce.
Adam, great job brother! This whole thought and article shows how much thanks and appreciation YOU have for your pastor(s). You made a lot of excellent points and your efforts to put it in the hearts of the congregation to recognize how important their jobs are is awesome. As you are not perfect, likewise your article(s) shouldn’t expect to be either. I think most of us can read between the lines and get the picture. Again, great thoughts!!
Craig Ford says
After a decade of working as a minister at churches and a missionary I’ve found that the best way to say thank you is by offering to help. Ask the question, “Is there anything I can do to be of service to this church, to your family, to Christ?” People with that Christlike attitude make ministry easier.
I’ve been in a bind a number of times and I idd not known who I should seek out. In the end, I usually seek support from those who have offered.
This goes along with number 2 in your list, (Provide a Vacation). We have a small cabin on a creek, and we have loaned it to young couples who don’t have the money for a big honeymoon. You have just reminded me that we could be offering it to our pastors and their families to use as a get-away. It sits there empty too often!
Jim Golden says
Please remember that pretty much anything given to the Pastor that has monetary value may have to be claimed by him as income. This includes special offerings and the like.
I’ve been on the bad side of the pastoral thing. Sadly, I never actually got paid for it! As a result we’ve taken a couple years off, but working on getting back in. This time, we are wanting to start a counseling ministry. One of the focuses is on helping out our local pastors with some of these stats!
Tyler Edwards says
Being a pastor is like wearing a great big target on your back. No matter what you say or do someone will disagree with you in a forceful way. The greatest hardship is when people attack you for trying to serve Jesus because they don’t agree with the way you do it. There are no shortages of divisions in the church. What we need are people who care more about the mission of Jesus than their own personal preferences. This way we can rejoice with those who are successful even when we would have done things differently. One of the best ways to thank your pastor is to help protect them from the criticism of others. Getting thanked is very rewarding. Being protected from the attacks of fellow Christians is priceless. As Christians we should focus more on love than our disagreements. But I suppose Being a Christian is not about walking a safe conservative line, it is about radically following Jesus regardless of how people will treat you in response
Mamma Marie says
Diddo!!!! I couldn’t be more proud of you.
As a grown pastor’s daughter (of a faithful and dedicated pastor), I appreciate this list. My childhood was shaped by the church. I am blessed because of it. While ministry is a calling, it requires so much! Our family always appreciated those occasionally gift certificates because eating out was a luxury on my Pastor Dad’s salary. Continue to pray for all pastors as well as their families and encourage them. Thank you for this article!
I am a pastor’s wife, and am thankful for articles like this. Over our years in the ministry, we have been sporadically blessed with several of the things you listed. Once a family worked together at giving us a gift – the parents supplied a gift card for a restaurant, and the teenage daughters babysit our children for free so we could use it:) A few years later, another family allowed us to use their time share for a week (and only asked us to pay the equivalent of 3 nights at a cheap hotel). Recently, we have had our vehicle picked up, serviced and cleaned. Another family gave my husband a gift certificate for a round of golf, and gave me a gift certificate for a craft store. That might sound like a lot, but there have been definite droughts of feeling unappreciated and ineffective in our 19 years of ministry.
Creating a Church Budget says
Those percentages are so sad!! They have dedicated their lives to something they love, and they want to share their faith with like-minded people, and they deserve to be thanked for that. You listed some great ways to help pastors feel more appreciated.
Jennifer May says
Here in Arizona, a group of people recognized the need for helping pastors in need and created a retreat called Shepard’s Canyon. I hope all states – or at least all geographical areas – have places like this for members of the clergy to get help they need. The world – especially America – needs MORE pastors, not fewer!
Lisa Morrison says
As a pastor, I thank you for this! However please remember that not all pastors are male and let’s be cognicent of clergy spouses vs. Wives.