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October is Staff Appreciation Month, a time to recognize and thank the church staff for all they do. At times staff are viewed in a less than favorable light, as in this humorous quote from Pastor John McKeal: “I’m a preacher and the other day at the supermarket I saw a little boy from church with his mother. He saw me and his eyes went wide. He began tugging frantically on his mother’s pant leg shouting, ‘Mommy! Mommy! It’s the CREATURE from church!’” There are times when ministers feel like they are viewed as something from another planet.
In 2010 LifeWay did a survey of ministers. Their findings revealed that 55% are lonely. There are times we all feel lonely, but the reality is the life of a minster can be consumed with loneliness. Ministers might sense they cannot have any friends at church, so they have no friends at all. Some ministers work long hours leaving little time to recharge so feelings of loneliness can creep in due to exhaustion. A church that experiences little or no numerical growth can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression for the minister. Loneliness can lead to burnout resulting in ministers/staff leaving the ministry or experiencing a traumatic crisis.
In a 2010 New York Times article, the author stated that in the last decade ministers’ use of antidepressants has risen while their life expectancy has fallen. The article also affirmed that many ministers who fall into this category make decisions to change their jobs.
In light of this discouraging news, let me challenge you to take time this month to encourage your ministerial staff who have no doubt struggled with these issues. Here are a few suggestions to assist in making staff appreciation effective:
Ministers need to hear sincere words of encouragement. Have you ever received a less than sincere compliment? An example of sincerity might go something like this: “Pastor your message on loving my neighbor challenged me to reach out to John who lives across the street.” This person’s comment conveys that they heard the message and applied it to their personal life. It has that feeling of sincerity about it.
I read a recent article by Mac Lake on encouragement. He challenged the reader to be specific regarding an event or action that made a difference in their life. Just saying “you served our family well” is not enough. The person offering the word of encouragement should think about something specific that was helpful. For example, “Pastor, when you came to the hospital and shared Psalm 23, that really encouraged us.” Lake’s belief is that when someone is specific in sharing an encouraging word, the recipient gets a bigger boost. This conveys a greater amount of appreciation.
Be a person of Action
It goes without saying that encouragement will not happen unless some action transpires. Individuals that procrastinate about what they want to say or do, but do nothing are not providing any encouragement. October is a great month to take the bull by the horns and follow it up with the action of encouragement for your ministerial staff.
Here are some ideas you might consider for Staff Appreciation:
-Send a card and enclose a gift card to a local restaurant.
-Discover the staff person’s favorite treat and make it for them.
-Offer to take care of the children so the minister and spouse could go out.
-Send a handwritten note listing specific ways you were blessed by the staff person.
There are many ways to offer encouragement. Take time this month to show appreciation to your church staff. And remember to be sincere, be specific, and be a person of action!