Do’s and Don’ts for Appreciating Spiritual Leaders

Edible ArrangementsI remember a denominational leader once advising our Presbytery:

If you like your pastor, please treat her/him well.  A spiritually nourished pastor = a spiritually nourished congregation.

What we clergy do – at its best – is spiritually nourishing work.  But it’s also lonely, unrelenting and – at its worst – soul-sucking work.  How can we support all our church staff members:  clergy, educators, music leaders, and administrators when they are serving at their best?

  • Do: Give an extra week or weekend of vacation, if  – in spite of excellent leadership – you cannot afford to give your church staffers a cost of living increase, much less a raise.
  • Don’t: Forget to do annual performance reviews for every paid and volunteer member of your church staff.  Everybody gets a review.
  • Do:  Surprise your church staff with random acts of appreciation.  A gift card.  One of those random cut-out fruit bouquets.  Cupcakes.
  • Don’t: Make them ‘pay to work’ – e.g. paying for their own music (musicians), art supplies (educators), and conferences (clergy.)
  • Do: Recognize that most of their work is unknown to you.  The average church member has no idea what we do all day long. Somebody should write a television series.  (Oh, wait.)
  • Don’t:  Assume that – when you call – they are sitting at their desk just waiting to hear from you.  They have quite a bit going on.  So please try to refrain for phone calls asking for other people’s phone numbers (look it up yourself) or asking what day of the week Christmas falls on this year (again – look it up) or complaining about last week’s coffee.  Please don’t.
  • Do: Encourage them to take their days off, all their vacation, all their study leave time, and – if at all possible – a sabbatical.  Your congregation will be better for it.
  • Don’t: Call them when they are on vacation just because you can’t find the light bulbs or the name of the roofer.  Don’t interrupt that holy vacation at all unless it’s a catastrophic emergency.  (e.g. death, near death, something that will make the evening news.)

One of the greatest things our Presbytery was able to do this year was award 33 $1000 grants for clergy to be used for something that refreshes their souls. (Note to applicants:  the last 11 haven’t been awarded yet.)  Gym memberships, painting classes, a canoe, a weekend trip with a son/daughter, date nights with their spouses.  This might seem extravagant, but it’s actually a beautiful and subversive way to nurture our colleagues in ministry.

As church budgets are being created for 2015, my hope is that those of you who do such things will consider beautiful and subversive ways you can  nurture your own spiritual leaders.

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