We have just enjoyed honoring pastors all over the globe during October’s Pastor Appreciation Month. We appreciated some of them more tangibly than others, perhaps. And if you pastor a church that did not recognize or appreciate you last month, I am truly sorry. It hurts. I know you need to know you are loved and appreciated. Please remember your most significant reward will be out of this world. Seriously.
Having covered that, I wonder when Layperson Appreciation Month would be. When do we intentionally appreciate our lay people in our churches? We would not have a church without them. (I realize I am taking a risk of upsetting my fellow clergy friends by stating this.)
On any given weekend during this last church year in North America, there were just over 231,000 worshippers who attended Wesleyan worship services. At most, 5,000 of this number is clergy. This means over 225,000 of worship attendees God’s servants who are not in the category of vocational ministry. Yet they honor Christ with faithful living and worship every day. I am thankful for them. When I pastored, I had many Christlike, outstanding people I went through the ups and downs of life with. While doing so, I learned a few things.
- Lay people have a passion for God and his Word. I can vividly remember preparing sermons and telling my wife that someone ought to greet me at the “you did well door” this Sunday with a punch in the stomach for preaching so boldly. It seemed the more courage I mustered up to declare the inerrant word of the Lord, the more people thrived in their personal relationship with him. I pray I was never what I call a “gospel jerk,” yet I loved the love people had for the Word. As a guest speaker in many of our churches these days, that same passion is still hot.
- Lay people have a passion for the lost. Family and friends need Jesus and people know that. They know it so deeply that they witness to them with the truth in love. They live out their faith in some difficult surroundings. They attend family holidays and gatherings and are sometimes made fun of because they are “radical Christians.” They represent Jesus well at work and school. They get the fact that the church exists for “others” more than for themselves. They invite, pray for, and share Jesus with everyone they can. They are disciples who make disciples who make disciples. How awesome is it when people get the mission and truly live out what it means to be the church in their community?
- Lay people love to serve. Some of them have never really been asked, trained, or thanked before. We gave away lay people to other churches and ministries. I know you may find this odd, but in some ministry categories we had too many volunteers. Everyone has at least one spiritual gift and purpose, and they want to live them out. Countless volunteer hours are invested every week to keep our churches and ministries running effectively. We should all appreciate each other for that. It may be that they are not serving because they don’t know they are allowed or they don’t know exactly what to do. Be sure to include the children and youth on your volunteer list. They want to serve, as well.
- Lay people want to make a difference for Jesus. Sure they have families, careers, and busy lives. So do I. Nonetheless, I believe there is a deep need in each of us to make our lives count for something far greater than ourselves. I refuse to fall into the traps that people don’t care today or they have no sense of commitment. Folks are sometimes committed to the wrong things or too many things. But please consider the reality that people still have a deep sense of commitment and care today.
Maybe I’m too optimist about church life. I know I am a lifelong fan of both lay people and clergy. That makes me an eternal fan of the body of Jesus Christ. Lay people of The Wesleyan Church, you are appreciated along with our clergy. Thank you for all you are and do! I know you don’t expect much recognition or even a fancy gift, but if I have done my math correctly, Lay Person Appreciation Month would be every month except for October.
Whatever you think of the words of Jesus found in John 15:12, let’s remember: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you” (NLT).
Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.