October is “Pastoral Appreciation Month.” The first thing I thought of was a conversation I had with a ministry friend of mine recently. Several years ago, it was recommended by the Lead Pastor (where my friend is also a Pastor) that they seek counseling. When you first read that, it might sound harsh, but if you understood their relationship, you would understand that he was recommending this in my friends best interest. Their role is one that lives in the midst of the tensions in ministry, creativity and leadership. As with any occupation, those tensions can do a real number on the one that stands firm in the midst of them all. The ability to weather those tensions make an organization better. The Lead Pastor understood that he needed my friend to be healthy mentally as well as physically. So he recommended therapy. 8 years later, their relationship is as strong as ever, their leadership team is strong and the church is strong. My friend will point to that therapy as a reason why.
When the words therapy and ministry are mentioned, you would instantly assume that the person in ministry is the one providing the therapy not attending it. Maybe this gives an idea why Pastoral Appreciation Month is important.
For a guy that never attended seminary, many of the people I call “friend” work in some form of ministry as an occupation. Some lead small churches, new churches, established churches and churches on the decline. I often find myself across the table from said friends in coffee shops or on the other end of texts from those that live out of town. I’ve seen some resign. I’ve seen others fired. Some have stayed in the same church for years while others have moved across the country to lead a ministry. If you think that ministry is different than Corporate America when it comes to the moves and changes, think again. It is a changing and challenging role. It takes a calling and a special kind of person.
I honestly am not sure how the friendships I have with all of these Pastors happened, it just has. The ones that I call “friend” are guys that I respect far beyond words. One key difference between ministry and jobs in other industries is the departure or job change. When you leave a corporation or are let go, you move on to the next one without much thought. Ministry is different. Ministry involves people and relationships far deeper than the water cooler at most places of work. Pastors invest emotionally, mentally and spiritually in the lives of those in their church. You can’t just separate yourself from that. It doesn’t matter if the choice was theirs or the choice was made for them. Those relationships remain even after the time in a ministry ends.
To those Pastors that I have the honor of calling “friend,” you have my sincere appreciation and respect. Thank you for answering the call and weathering all that is thrown your way. Thank you for investing so much in the lives of others. Thank you for accepting the role of shepherd and all that comes with it. Doing so requires so much more than just being the face of your church. The reality is that there is no way to honor all that you do. May each of you be honored this month (and every month for that matter) by those that you’ve invested so much in.