October is traditionally set aside as Clergy Appreciation Month. This October is unique as pastors are still facing the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. I recently talked to a group of Kentucky Baptist pastors to hear about their pressures in the current environment.
Here’s a list of five pressure points:
Masks and More
Someone posted a cartoon on social media depicting a church advertisement promoting two separate worship services during the pandemic. The 8:30 a.m. service is for those who think COVID-19 is real and want to wear a mask. The 10 a.m. service for those who believe COVID-19 is a hoax and do not want to wear a mask. The sign is humorous, except for those tasked with unifying members on either side of this issue.
Masks are only one big issue. Pastors have had to be online broadcasters. Who would have ever thought we would take someone’s temperature before they could enter the church building or find a way to limit seating capacity in a worship service? Pastors have had to make dozens of adjustments, only to re-adjustment them time and again.
Personal and Family Stress
Like a rubber band kept fully extended loses its elasticity, so does a pastor who is operating continuously in response mode for an extended period. Until 2020, no pastors alive today have ever pastored through a global pandemic prior.
Many of our finest Kentucky Baptist pastors have worked tirelessly without regular time off and without taking family vacations for the sake of caring for the congregation.
Trying to determine whether the church is hitting the mark of its mission is always difficult. It is more challenging when personal contact is significantly reduced. In the past, some degree of effectiveness, right or wrong, was measured by attendance, baptisms, and observable life-change. Some church members haven’t attended an in-person gathering in months.
Online services, unpredictable attendance, and Zoom Sunday School classes are leaving pastors struggling to evaluate their church’s current ministry strategy's effectiveness.
Pastoral Care Concerns
Many pastors are only able to connect with a portion of their congregation. This limited contact is concerning for shepherds who desire to “know well the condition of their flocks” (Proverbs 27:23a).
Godly pastors know they are under shepherds of the Lord Jesus Christ. When a shepherd is cut off from his flock, the shepherd struggles just like the sheep do. The inability to make visits to hospitals and care facilities has affected pastors. They struggle to provide the care they’re called by God to give.
Ready to Leave
This one is the most concerning. It has been estimated there will be a large group of pastors who will leave local church ministry after the pandemic. Some estimate that 20% will find other work or take early retirement.
I have sat with some of the best pastors in the state, and it is easy to see they are tired. They are by no means giving up, but the pandemic has taken a toll on church leaders.
I write all this to say: This is a great time to show appreciation for your pastor and his family. Consider sending a card or letter from your family expressing gratitude for the pastor and his family and their ministry to you and yours.
Be specific in pointing out how your pastor has ministered to your family or how the example of his family has been impactful to yours. You may be able to purchase a gift card to his favorite restaurant or store. Everyone loves to receive gifts. Your thought for him and his family is what matters most.
Your church might consider extra vacation time for this one year as it will be much appreciated by the pastor and not a great expense to the church.
In whatever way you choose to honor your pastor and staff during Clergy Appreciation Month, please remember church leaders have been on the front lines for the duration of 2020.