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Five things I appreciate about pastors

Rev. Margaret Marcuson

October 10, 2018

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. When I was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gardner, Massachusetts, one of my biggest appreciators was Ethel Kendall. She died in July at the age of 96, so I’ve been thinking about her lately.

Ethel was about my mother’s age, and her home was up the street from the church and the parsonage where we lived. Every Sunday, she had her grandchildren over, and my own children became unofficial parts of her family too. Years later, they still have fond memories of her and those afternoons.

But Ethel supported and encouraged me in ways that went beyond simply welcoming my children. She liked to take me to McDonald’s for coffee and to talk about how things were going at church. When things got bumpy from time to time, she completely understood that this was part of the price of leadership, and she would say, “I see what you are doing here.” She was positive and encouraging all along the way. Not only that, but she was an invaluable ministry partner.

Ethel supported and encouraged me in ways that went beyond simply welcoming my children. She liked to take me to McDonald’s for coffee and to talk about how things were going at church. When things got bumpy from time to time, she completely understood that this was part of the price of leadership, and she would say, “I see what you are doing here.” She was positive and encouraging all along the way. Not only that, but she was an invaluable ministry partner.

Now that I’m not a local church pastor any more, I want to follow Ethel’s example and be sure to offer appreciation to the pastors in my life—those in the church I belong to, the pastors I teach and coach, and the many pastors I meet in person and online around the world.

Pastors, here are some of the things I appreciate about you:

You love the church. Sure, I know there are good days and bad. However, you are committed to the work of the church in the world, and you are doing your best to make sure that both your church and the wider church thrive and adapt to our changing times. Because you love it, you want to the best for it.

You keep learning. The pastors I work with are committed to keeping up with what’s up in the wider church, learning new ways of being church today, and trying things out. You are also working on your own growth, and on being the best person you can be emotionally and spiritually.

You do a multifaceted job week after week and year after year. You carry out the many tasks of ministry, some of which you love and some of which you don’t, because they need to be done. You plan, sit by hospital beds, lead worship, manage staff, attend and lead meetings, look at budgets, connect with your community, and of course so much more.

You preach. You show up in the pulpit 40 or more Sundays a year, and do your best to share your understanding of a word from God with your people. If you’re an associate pastor, you may not preach as often, but you take your preaching role seriously all the same.

You handle the many challenges of church ministry over and over. You are patient with people. You make do when people don’t show up the way they said they would. You lead one of the most emotionally intense institutions there is (when you put God and extended families together, people expect a lot!). With love and grace, you handle the projections of others onto you that have nothing to do with you. You carry on even when you don’t feel like it.

Thank you for the good work you do. I hope you have an Ethel in your church to tell you in person what a great job you are doing. I hope you continue to do your work faithfully, while being gracious and gentle with yourself. I hope you get all the support you need to sustain yourself through the days and years of ministry.

And church members: What can you do to show your appreciation to your pastor this October? And all the other months too.

The Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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