1) She totally deserves a nice party.
2) Many churches are not good at this kind of thing.
Just as most of us in the church consider ourselves “friendly,” we also consider ourselves “loving” even when we aren’t. I get to observe, as part of my job, an ordination, installation, retirement, or clergy anniversary almost every Sunday of my life and I have some thoughts on this.
Maybe we simply need to re-teach what it looks like to love our pastors. Although I’m a pastor myself, I hope you don’t consider this self-serving, but somebody’s got to say it. If you want to love your pastor – that person in your life who serves as spiritual guide and pastoral caregiver, please:
- Remember. Remember the anniversary of the day she became your pastor. Remember the anniversary of his ordination to professional ministry. Most anniversaries of pastors are remembered by their spouses who whispers into someone’s ear that “a big anniversary is coming up.” I even know one pastor who was given a new robe for an anniversary by her congregation only to learn later that – actually – her husband bought it for her. The church couldn’t be bothered, even after he told them about the anniversary. He also ordered the cake. Also remember that your pastor might still be grieving the death of his father last year. Remember that your pastor had a miscarriage last summer and Mothers’ Day might not be her favorite holiday. Remember that your pastors are human beings.
- Forget. Forget that lousy sermon preached the day after a tough funeral one Saturday last autumn. Forget the time your pastor didn’t include your name on the list of Vacation Bible School volunteers in the newsletter because sometimes it happens – and possibly she’s not even the one who published the list. Forget the time he didn’t say “hi” to you in the hall because his mind was on something more pressing. Holding childish grudges only damages community and personal relationships. And it makes you look petty.
- Acknowledge. Acknowledge openly and in public that your congregation has not given the pastor a raise in years, and maybe didn’t even give a cost of living adjustment last year. Acknowledge that she has a hard job. Acknowledge that he is a good pastor.
- Notice. Notice that she drinks tea (so you might have a cup ready when she visits.) Notice that he doesn’t eat red meat (when the officers plan a cookout.) Notice that he didn’t take a day off last week because of that emergency. Notice that she came home a day early from vacation to do your daughter’s wedding.
- Celebrate! Celebrate milestones together. Celebrate reaching the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel (e.g. paying off the church mortgage, welcoming 25 new members on Christmas Eve, reaching a financial goal for that hospital in Haiti!) It’s possible that your pastor had something to do with the good things happening in your congregation.
Learning how to love our pastors is good practice for loving everyone else. We do not do this well naturally. We need to learn how.
And congratulations to the extraordinary JBL today. 10 years at WSPC!