We were pastors’ wives, all of us, and we sat around the coffee table one early November sharing our experiences as if they were no big deal. But if push came to shove, we’d admit it, we all felt a bit raw. Another October had come and gone and not one of our congregations had spoken even one word of encouragement to our husbands. Nope! Not a single one of us experienced even a hint of appreciation during those four weeks christened, “Pastor Appreciation Month”.
Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. I figured as much as I pulled out token gifts and handwritten notes expressing my appreciation for each one of them. They all deserved far more; far better. Even so, the solace of hearing affirming words from someone who shares your experience and knows your heart is a tender gift for a raw heart.
We continued to share, pushing our hurt aside and pretending we didn’t really feel it. We made excuses for our congregants and encouraged each other to find creative ways to make up for the lack of appreciation shown to our husbands and families. We reminded each other that it’s the Lord we serve. That He cares. That every sacrificial cup of cold water given in His name matters to Him. Nothing goes unnoticed by Him. We all heartily agreed and found comfort in those precious truths. We left our Gathering that gray November morning with the hollowness in our hearts soothed a bit by the love and vulnerability we shared.
I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks that Pastor Appreciation Month can be the hardest month of the year for a lot of pastors and their wives, especially if they are plugging away in a small church or a church plant. Somehow most parishioners just don’t get the memo. Often, they don’t get the memo about Christmas bonuses either; that their pastor will never get one if they don’t initiate one.
It’s even harder if you work at a Christian organization as I do. A place that promotes Pastor Appreciation Month. A place where co-workers excitedly plan appreciation surprises for their pastors while you listen on.
How do we handle those demoralizing feelings? If we don’t process them, over time, they will wreak havoc in our hearts. Honestly, I still struggle to process the lame smack of failure this month often hurls at me.
There have been years I’ve chosen to block the whole thing out and pretend its really “not a thing”. Some years I’ve focused on unknown servants of God, far more worthy than I, who endure hardships far greater than mine, and are given no reprieve or appreciation. Other years I’ve tried to celebrate ministry heroes of history who were never celebrated by their contemporaries.
The more practical, hands on alternatives have been the most meaningful to me. Here are a few of them to get you brainstorming your own ideas for making “that month” a joy-filled celebration.
- Express meaningful appreciation to your husband. After all, he is your pastor. I don’t do this every year or it might be a bit counterproductive, but many times over the years I’ve jumped into this full force. When the children were young we made it a family project. We wrote notes and attached them to surprise treats and hid them in his desk drawers. We made favorite dinners and when there was a little money to spare, we included gifts along with our notes. Use your creativity and express your appreciation for your pastor-husband with all your heart.
- Express appreciation to your children (this was my husband’s truly brilliant idea). Write notes to each child letting them know, you realize it’s not easy being a pastor’s kid. Express your love and your appreciation for them in specific individual ways. If possible, accompany the note with a very special gift. Caution, this will bring you to tears.
- Find a pastor and family or a missionary family you know are not receiving appreciation. Plan something special and really fun for them or with them. If you both have children include all the children and make it a fun celebration of God’s goodness in placing both families in service to His church.