The Way We Treat Each Other

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.

4 responses to “The Way We Treat Each Other

  1. I’m an intentional interim minister and I have been working with this congregation about how to express appreciation to their staff. Each year at Christmas, the secretary, the music director, and I each receive a fruit basket from one of the grocery stores. There is no public presentation of them, they are simply given to us by the treasurer during one of the last work days before Christmas and they are identical. It’s a step up from other congregations who don’t give anything, but I wind up giving half of what is in the basket away, the oversize milk chocolate bar, the cocoa mix that is loaded with sugar etc.


  2. Lib McGregor Simmons

    I want to give a shout-out to the personnel committee at Mount Pleasant (SC) Presbyterian Church. To say thank you to the staff for going above and beyond during the pandemic, they are serving breakfast to the staff this morning (they provided a menu ahead of time so that each staff member can order one’s preferred meal). And they are granting staff members an additional day of PTO during the summer and a $100 gift card to spend on that “day off.” (the PTO/gift card is a secret until 10 a.m.!)


  3. Pam Phillips-Burk

    Good Morning –
    I’ve been hanging onto this post since May. I serve in the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination on the Pastoral Development Ministry Team. As far of my work, I support churches that are in a pastor search process. Your article would be great to share with those chairpersons. May I send it to them, and may I post it on the Pastoral Development Ministry Team Facebook page? I will of course give you credit and reference your site.
    Thank you,

    Rev. Dr. Pam Phillips-Burk
    Pastoral Development Ministry Team Leader

    Cumberland Presbyterian Church
    8207 Traditional Place | Cordova, TN 38016
    Tel: 901.276.4572 Ext. 203 | Fax: 901.276.4578

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