Pastor Appreciation Month is one of my favorite times of the year, because it gives us all an opportunity to thank and encourage the amazing pastors in our lives!

Jan and I are doubly blessed by our Indiana home church Waterline, served so capably by Pastor Scott Rhyno and the pastoral team, and then when in Michigan at our family home “Haven,” we’re blessed by the ministry of Pastor Kevin Smith and the pastoral team.

A couple of months ago, I celebrated my birthday in a very unique way. To be clear, I didn’t skip the amazing birthday cake my wife Jan made — oh, how I love all things “lemon” — and the gift of a fishing pole Jan and the kids collectively funded — a fishing pole that will require this fisherman to up his game to utilize its potential.

What did I do that day? I first recognized the goodness of God in my life over the years. In my role as General Superintendent, I’m regularly in a variety of worship settings, and a song frequently sung is the “Goodness of God” by Bethel Music. It’s been a special blessing to me these days. The only musical talent I have is listening; so, I listened. In fact, I listened more than once as the lyrics powerfully and uniquely reminded me of God’s unfailing mercy and his closeness like no other — even, and perhaps especially, in the darkest times and when I’m led through the fire. I expressed to the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-15) and Ultimate Pastor my gratitude for his faithfulness and goodness — what a way to start a birthday!

Then I looked back over my life. With each passing year, an even longer look is required! I thought of people God had worked through in different seasons of my life.

Some have gone to be with the Lord, and I look forward to a heavenly reunion one day. My dad, Wayne Schmidt, Sr., was a lay person with a pastor’s heart. Though he went to heaven over 30 years ago, memories of him still shape my life. I thought of Dick Wynn, founding pastor of Kentwood Community Church and the first pastor I served under. His mentorship helped me realize to serve God didn’t mean becoming something I wasn’t — an issue because I tended to compare myself to other pastors — but it meant becoming fully whom the Holy Spirit would empower me to be.

Others are still living — some of whom I now hardly ever see, others I cross paths with regularly:

  • an amazing woman, who toured the world and influenced lives in multiple countries, yet would respond to the spiritual leadership of this 20-something-work-in-progress pastor;
  • a leadership couple, who had access to leaders and learning opportunities in a wide variety of contexts culturally invested in me;
  • a Local Board of Administration vice-chair, who led by example and provided accountability for me to engage in crucial conversations rather than avoid conflict;
  • my accountability partner, who for the past 38-plus years has met with me every other week in an “iron sharpens iron” relationship.

Yes, these lay persons were thanked by someone who had been their pastor. In that “reverse pastor appreciation” moment, I was appreciating them for their formative input in my life.

I certainly surprised a few of the pastors I called. One of my favorite responses — after seeing my name come up on his caller ID — was “Wayne Schmidt, if you need money for bail, the answer is yes and how much.” I laughed and was reminded how much his sense of humor had been part of the blessing.

The only reason I was calling was to thank them and to verbally identify a very specific way they have blessed my life. They found it more meaningful than I would have imagined, and some even decided they’d be calling some people to do the same.

I discovered that day the best way to celebrate is with gratitude for others and encouraging them.

I challenge you in this Pastor Appreciation Month to …

  • Thank God, the incomparable pastor and chief shepherd!
  • Appreciate a lay person who has been or is now a “pastor to you.”
  • Get in touch with a pastor who blessed you in the past or from afar.
  • Express appreciation to your pastor or pastors who invest in you right now.

How will you bless and encourage your pastor?

While it involves a thank you, I encourage you to consider other ways to enrich your encouragement of others by reading Ethan Linder’s article, “We see you” and visiting our “We see you” resource pages (Spanish and English).

Dr. Wayne Schmidt is General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church of North America.