Congregations tend to have a gravitational pull: churches play host to potlucks, recovery groups, food pantries, baby showers, funerals, weddings and counseling sessions (often all in the same week).
In healthy churches, that steady drum of activity is united by a single thread: attentiveness to God in every moment of life. Our open buildings are evidence of an underlying call to an open life, and a belief that congregations are places where we learn to listen for God and others.
That listening work ripples out of our churches into our communities, as congregants leave our services and begin the work of applying the gospel to the places God’s positioned them. And in turn, our congregants’ lives ripple back into the church, as they bring their celebration, doubt, fear and joy (all intermingled with a desire to listen again to God) back into worship.
Because congregational work is listening work, clergy stand at the intersection of congregation and community, praying and working for the best of both. The burden of that listening work is often heavy, which is why clergy care is so essential for sustainable ministry.
That kind of care can come in many forms. “Gifts of appreciation are great,” said Rev. Beau Hamner, outreach pastor at College Wesleyan Church, Marion, Indiana. “But I feel cared for when laypeople show me that they value me for who I am and not just for what I can offer the local church.” Seeing, valuing and knowing others stems from an ecosystem of care — where listening is prized as a competency in pastors and in congregants.
Attentiveness in relationships includes knowing (and meeting) each other’s needs. Our clergy need resources, encouragement and support to keep going for the long haul; and our work in Education and Clergy Development (ECD) is to help clergy be healthy, fit and effective from the beginning of their call to the end of their ministry.
All year long — but especially as we approach October (Pastor Appreciation Month), we want to remind our Wesleyan congregations about the opportunity we have to thank pastors for their listening work and offer the kind of care that supports the church’s mission.
“Pastors have guided and inspired me my entire life,” said Dr. Judy Crossman. “When I think about the power of their influence on my soul development, I realize that I can’t even begin to understand how much they have helped me know God! As a layperson, it is a joy for me to share in tangible ways with our precious pastoral team! We are blessed and it is good to try to ‘bless back’ those who work in our congregations.”
If your congregation is considering sponsoring a gift for your pastor, the following options may prove useful resources for refreshment:
- Money for a retreat or vacation: Because pastors so often forgo vacations in order to care for their congregations, providing money specifically for a retreat or vacation communicates both the laity’s desire to see their pastor practice rest and makes that rest possible with resources.
- The Gathering: Gathering with other clergy in spaces dedicated to worship and refreshment can be tremendously renewing for most pastors. As Pastor Appreciation Month continues, consider sponsoring your pastor’s ticket to The Gathering — an upcoming conference for Wesleyan clergy.
- Full Strength Network subscription: A subscription to the Full Strength Network provides counseling, coaching, resources and opportunities for your pastor and family to step toward holistic well-being. For more information, click here.
- Hobbies: If your pastor has a hobby, pay for something you know they’d love (whether a gift card to a store associated with the hobby or an experience related to the hobby). This can demonstrate a tremendous amount of value for who your pastor is (beyond the work they do).
- Retirement planning: Consider sponsoring a retirement planning session for your pastor — and if they already have a plan, consider giving money specifically targeted toward their retirement fund. No matter what stage of life they’re in, this can help multiply their ability to head toward retirement with confidence!
For more information about how Education & Clergy Development partners with pastors all year long, visit wesleyan.org/ecd.
Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.