I spent some time with church leaders last week and our conversations sometimes included stories about the way a pastor has been treated by their congregation. About a month ago, I received a call from a church elder tasked with planning a welcome party for their new pastor.
Sweet Church Lady: I need you to do some spywork for me before our new pastor comes to town.
Me: I love spy work. Hit me.
SCL: I need you to find out the following information about our new pastor: What’s his favorite Bible story? What’s his favorite color? What’s his favorite ice cream? What’s his favorite liquor?
Me: I’m on it.
This is a church that saw their new pastor as a real human being with favorite things (and maybe even a favorite liquor) and the plan was to: have a new clergy stole made featuring his favorite Bible story, decorating the party with his favorite color, and giving him a gift basket with some of his favorite treats.
This will be a successful ministry. The pastor and congregation will disagree in the months to come. They will frustrate each other from time to time. But they will thrive together because the congregation already wants their pastor to feel welcomed and appreciated.
[Note: Voted Worst Teacher Appreciation Gift of 2021 was what teachers at FBC’s school received on Teacher Appreciation Week in early May. It was a single Lipton tea bag in a baggie stuck in each teacher’s mailbox. Keep in mind that these teachers have had to shift gears every week since March 2020 because of COVID.]
Everybody likes to be appreciated. And if we want our congregations to thrive in ministry, help your leaders thrive. Don’t give them coffee if they are tea drinkers. Don’t give them a gift card to Dunkin if they are watching their sugar intake. It means a lot when people know us – or want to know us – well enough to have a sense of our favorite cake or our favorite music.
The best Pastor Nominating Committees are the ones who recognize that their candidates are real people with families and I remember hearing about one PNC that learned enough about their final candidates’ families to leave personalized gift baskets in hotel rooms remembering spouses and children and even pets. It’s a lovely gesture that shows that you want to be in relationship with the pastor. They are not merely hired hands.
We all have examples perhaps of congregations who do not treat their pastors well. And yet there are many congregations out there who choose to respect and value their spiritual leaders even before they begin this calling among them.
Note to pastors: we are called to respect and value our flocks too.
This post is written in memory of George Floyd who died without the respect and value intended for every Child of God.