I miss being a pastor. To be entrusted both by God and by a community of faith to represent and proclaim the gospel of our Lord is the most humbling and thrilling vocation I could imagine fulfilling. To have lived out that trust daily for 22 years was a joy.
I will never forget the thrill it was to pray with Ernie in his hospital room as his liver cancer was threatening to take his life. After years of resisting his wife’s faith, he now sincerely affirmed Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, and welcomed Christ’s presence into his life.
What fun it was to baptize the young, the old, men, women, and children. Never to be forgotten was the time I baptized baby Benjamin along with his 83-year-old grandfather Henry. Never to be forgotten (even though I have tried!) was that other time when I got counter-baptized by slimy, smelly, half-digested baby formula.
It was painfully touching to lead a congregation in mourning on the evening of 9-11-01 and after the two shuttle explosions (I served near Cape Canaveral when Challenger exploded; I served next to Johnson Space enter when Columbia broke apart).
My heart skipped a beat every time a wet-eyed worshiper caught me in the narthex with the words, “God spoke to me today through your sermon.”
Four friends were a lifeline for me, meeting with me every Wednesday morning for 12 years, simply to hear my needs and to pray with me for God’s strength and wisdom!
Great friendships surrounded Barbie and me. And our children felt proud to be preacher’s kids.
I miss all that!
Then again, I don’t miss the pastorate. I served congregations that were unusually positive and supportive of me and my family. Nevertheless, the pastoral ministry did have downsides.
Take a regular 40-hour workweek. Add late night meetings three, four, five nights in a row. Mix with counseling appointments scheduled at times of others’ convenience. Stir in a few midnight hospital emergencies. Boil it together, and it can add up to an actual average workweek of 65-75 hours. It did so for me.
Preaching changes lives! But even my best sermons were preceded by a sleepless Saturday night, as I suffered through “second-guessing syndrome.”
Holiday services were joyous, but it broke my heart to hear my grown son reflect, “As a kid, I figured out that on Christmas Eve I had a better chance of seeing Santa Claus than of seeing my dad.”
The nastiest letters to the editor today don’t hurt nearly as much as the off-hand putdowns that rolled so easily off some church members’ lips.
When accepting the call to move from pastor to editor, I resolved to throw my support behind my colleagues working out on the frontlines of congregational ministry. In particular, I determined to promote October as Pastor Appreciation Month, a practice that has been taking hold in some other branches of the American church.
How do you express your appreciation to your pastor(s)? Give a gift certificate to take their family out to dinner? Drop a note of appreciation? Send a contribution to their seminary in their honor?
Here’s an idea. Resolve here and now to stop gossiping about the pastor and become instead a gossip-stopper.
Some congregations provide sabbatical time to rejuvenate. Does yours?
More than anything, do you pray for your pastor? Does your pastor know that you do?
It doesn’t take an enormous amount of creativity for church members to band together to shower their pastor with expressions of love and appreciation.
Whether pastor or stated supply, interim or commissioned lay pastor, long-term or brand new, head-of-staff or associate, wee kirk or tall steeple, your pastor’s commitment to serve “with energy, intelligence, imagination and love” would be encouraged by an expression or two of appreciation.
How do you say, “Thank-you?”
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