Margie Bryce

Your leadership coach
and self-care advocate

89: Exploring the Complexities of Pastor Appreciation

The Crabby Pastor
The Crabby Pastor
89: Exploring the Complexities of Pastor Appreciation

What if the very tradition meant to show appreciation towards pastors, instead stirs up feelings of trauma, invalidation, and a sense of being unappreciated? As your host, Margie Bryce, we grapple with this question on the latest episode of the Crabby Pastor podcast. I’m discussing Pastor Appreciation Month, an event that has become a contentious topic among ministry leaders, leading to the question… should we get a petition to put an end to it? 
 The episode delves into the complex dynamics of validation and recognition in ministry, focusing on how these celebrations of appreciation can sometimes lead to dangerous comparisons. We discuss how congregations can effectively recognize and appreciate their pastors without partaking in the traditional Pastor Appreciation Month, addressing the awkwardness that arises when pastors feel the need to request appreciation. We also discuss the challenges of measuring a pastor’s worth based on a congregation’s response to this annual observance.
 Finally, we turn our attention to the crucial topic of mental health for pastors. We explore how Pastor Appreciation Month, while intended as a form of encouragement, can also serve as a source of trauma. The episode emphasizes the significance of establishing positive individual relationships and discovering meaningful ways to acknowledge the strenuous work of pastors. If you have ever pondered the challenges of seeking validation in ministry and how to navigate the intricate relationships within a congregation, this discussion presents an insightful exploration of these issues. Join us on this thought-provoking journey into the heart of pastoral appreciation.Support the show

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Margie: 1: 0:01

Hey there, Margie Bryce here bringing you the Crabby Pastor podcast, and I don’t think you’re going to be too surprised to know that it’s too easy today to become the Crabby Pastor. Our time together will give you food for thought to help you be the ministry leader, fully surrendered to God’s purposes and living into whatever it takes to get you there and keep you there.

So we’re talking about sustainability in ministry. Hey there, before we get started on today’s episode, I want to give you this opportunity to enhance your self-care. Part of self-care is having another individual come alongside you, whether you’re looking at a coach, a spiritual director, or whatever means you have, so that you’re not walking this journey alone, alone, that you have another person walking with you, and that is the ministerial coaching initiative. I’ve been a part of that now for this past year and as a coach, I have enjoyed walking alongside ministry leaders. This is a Lilly Foundation grant that is providing coaching through Point Loma Nazarene, their Center for Pastoral Leadership. So what I’m going to do is put a link in the show notes for where you can go to get more information. You know, tell them the Crabby Pastors sent you. They’ll laugh about that, but tell them that I sent you. So this is one of the avenues where I provide coaching for ministry leaders and you know I do it independently as well and through several other places. So I wanted to offer this to you because you know maybe you’d like to try on coaching and maybe you’d like to make a commitment to do this is eight sessions and there is a cost involved. It’s a good deal, because I’m always about the good deal, always. So you know if you’re going to try on coaching, you don’t want to try it on just once. You know I’m going to have one session to see how it goes. I think you’re at least going to benefit from three to four to get a sense of whether it’s a good fit and how it’s going to operate for you. Because coaching is its own thing. It’s not exactly therapy, it’s not exactly a lot of stuff, but it’s its own entity that helps you discover and empowers you to discover some new solutions to existing situations or how you want to manage yourself in the midst of your ministry context. So maybe you want to check this out. The link is in the show notes. It will be there through the end of the year and then the program does start in January, so that’s why it’s there for that long. So I hope you’ll consider this.

And this is Margie Bryce, host of the Crabby Pastor podcast, coming to you today and we are going to be talking about Pastor Appreciation Month again. You know, and you’re saying, have we not talked about this enough? But I have to tell you this is one of the highest, statistically highest podcast topics that there are, right up there with burnout stories. People seem to like those and like to hear the redemption stories. I don’t know what to say about Pastor Appreciation Month.

I decided to engage people on the Facebook group into this discussion and I’m not going to name any names or say what you said, but I’m just going to. Well, I’m going to say what you said, I’m just not going to attribute it to you. So no calling names here. I’m not naming names or anything like that, but I wanted to just talk about this because at the end of the day, you know, I’m wondering do we need to circulate a petition to get this thing stopped? I don’t know, I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m going to get at that in just a second here, but I wanted to take a moment of privilege here because I’m the host and I can do this, and I look at countries and places where my podcast is downloaded. It’s kind of interesting and one just took my breath away, like last week, when I looked at it, and it was Monaco, Monaco. Somebody in Monaco downloaded the podcast. Maybe somebody was on vacation in Monaco, I don’t know. I sure would like to go at some point, just kind of so I could say I’ve been there, but I guess you need to know why that’s fascinating for me and this is just a point of minutia for you. But my mother was British I think I’ve said that on this podcast before and I was actually born in England as well. So there’s the merry crown of England on my birth certificate and my mother would talk a lot about royalty. So I know way more about the whole lineage thing and how that works because my mom would tell me that sort of stuff. Or, as they would say in England, my mom would tell me all of that. And second, in line with talking about British royalty, my mother would talk about Princess Grace of Monaco. A lot, a lot, a lot. So I was just pumped to see that somebody had listened to the podcast from Monaco. So hello if you’re out there again and still.

So I’m going to move on though to that’s quite the transition in segue, isn’t it? To the issue of pastor appreciation. That’s what I’m going to do. So I started out the conversation with a question on the Facebook group self-care and sustainability, the number four ministry leaders. So I started out there and I asked people what was the worst pastor appreciation month that you or a friend there’s your out you or a friend I had encountered. And you know, we got. I got some of what I expected. The entire month came and went, and not even so much as a card with nothing in it, a card with nothing in it was given. I was like, okay, yeah, that happens.

So somebody said what’s pastor appreciation month, you know, and I kind of get it it seems to create a bit of trauma for those of us in ministry. I, of course, always had somebody chime in and say they’ve, you know, they’ve never had a bad one yet and nobody, they know, has ever had a bad one yet. And I thought, well, you know, I mean, that’s nice. I think that was the essence of why it was created at the get-go.

So you know, it’s a matter here of people buying into this idea and some people don’t seem to know that Pastor Appreciation month is a thing and they would be that people. It’s like expecting a Christmas present when people don’t know. I don’t know, that’s maybe not a good analogy, it sort of is, but it isn’t. But you know, if somebody didn’t even know about Christmas which is pretty tricky to do but if somebody didn’t know about it, why would you expect to receive a gift, right?

So, okay, I moved into. Then I thought I’d asked the, you know, started out with the one question there, and then I moved into what’s the most amazing pastor appreciation gift you’ve ever received? I was hoping, you know, maybe somebody got a hot tub out there, I don’t know. Or maybe somebody got a trip to somewhere exotic, maybe to Monaco, I don’t know and so I moved into that. You know, we got into a discussion about bath bombs, which you know, hey, I got a whole education about bath bombs in here and obviously I think this was the female ministry leaders that were talking about bath bombs. Somebody got meat. Somebody had pork chops, hamburgers, and steaks, and they thought that was pretty amazing meat. I thought that’s a pretty good one, especially at the going rate of meat these days.

But then we got back into nobody. Somebody got nothing and they had been involved with this congregation for a number of years and you know, here stand up and let’s all clap for the ministry leader, and you know, I think there always should have at least been chocolate, not the cheap stuff. So another person said they get cards, baked goods, love offerings, and then they said that, gee, reading all this other stuff about what other pastors have received or not received has made them feel a little grateful for what they are getting. So but you know, homemade cookies, pies, breads, that wouldn’t be such a bad gig to get.

So somebody got an extra day off given to them, which I thought okay, that’s pretty high in the amazing charts actually. I mean, I asked what they did with it. But you know, it was one of those days where you could just actually do your self-care and fritter time away or maybe actually do nothing. There’s an idea Somebody got funds for a weekend away and they went to the nation’s capital and here we go back to nothing, nothing. And they had served the congregation since 1980. So that was a little disconcerting, as always. Then they’ve got let’s see self-made gifts. That’s a great expression of care.

So, okay, we got a great list of things. I’m not sure which one I liked the best. If it was a meat or the day off, those were pretty good ones. But people always want to add in here that they came and went A whole month, came and went and nobody did anything. So, lastly, I just kind of felt like I wanted to. I went finally to this post and asked why is past appreciation month is such a hot-button issue. Because it seems to garner a lot of attention with the podcast and the same thing with commentary on the Facebook page, and so you know, I think I’ve hit on something and it it did. It is of concern if you have to sit with ministry leaders and they’re talking about early in the month what they got and you know you’re waiting and looking and nothing and nothing and nothing. You know you kind of it’s like Christmas. I’m back to Christmas, but it’s kind of like Christmas, like your siblings got gifts and you got a lump of coal. It feels like that. That’s what our emotions do with it.

So I wanted to ask what they thought. Why ministry leaders think it’s a hot-button issue. And of course, you know, I got it’s not an issue and God has graced us with appreciation and a lot of other kinds of appreciation goes on throughout the year and I think that’s that’s a fair comment. That really is absolutely fair, and sometimes we get hung up on this and we want that kind of appreciation or validation shown.

You know, congregants might say, well, we pay you and I’m like well, yes, that is true, but maybe, maybe we just want that kind of validation because these are the people we serve and when we spend a lot of time creating messages and we work really hard to create messages that connect with our people, then we just would like and it’s not like when they go out at the, at the end of a worship service, and if you are one of those pastors at a stand of the back, I don’t know if we’re shaking hands with everybody anymore, but you know, nice message, nice message, nice message that’s different than and we appreciate that you serve us and that God has placed you here.

One person here said why, under why is this a hot-button issue because we’re supposed to have some super special connection with God and we live up on top of a pedestal where the world can marvel at our piety and faith, when the truth is, we are often more messed up than our congregants and there’s a lot of truth to unpack to that a lot. Actually, it’s very true that the leaders are usually the ones that have the most trauma and usually we have connected with God’s healing or God’s power in our lives in pretty remarkable ways, and it’s because of that very thing that we want to pass it on, that we want to be the ones that help others find what we have been so blessed to find. But that does not mean that we are not a little traumatized or the most messed up in the entire group.

That is very true, and you know I guess I’ll add in here that if you feel like you have never identified those shadows, side kinds of things that drew you into ministry, it’s a good idea to check into that, just so you’re aware. I mean, we all carry baggage, but it’s a great idea to know exactly what that baggage is, because that will help you should a congregant trigger you, which you know, that’s like oh, I roll for me here. So I just want to mention that. Let’s see, we all want to be acknowledged for what we do, and that doesn’t always happen. And here you go, I have to go back to remember, remembering who, who called me, and why I do what I do. It is for Jesus, but it can still hurt sometimes. Why does it still hurt? Because we are human, human, human, human. So a little bit more pushback on. I didn’t really know that this was a hot-button issue. I think it is with some people, but it’s not with others.

Obviously, somebody said that they thought it’d be interesting to see if gender made a difference and whether the congregation expressed gratitude or not. And women are expected to fulfill roles and expectations without being thanked, just like at home. Let’s unpack that for just a second. And yeah, I don’t know whether this means that perhaps you know, after I got to this point with I think it was around this comment or so, I thought maybe we need to be circulating a petition to not have this anymore. Is this helpful? I mean, is it? How good is it for thankfulness and appreciation, that’s why we have other holidays you know, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day where you can show your appreciation. But some people feel like maybe they would like to just do it just because they’re appreciative, not because it’s in that required month when you should be showing appreciation.

I don’t know, I have no idea this was an interesting post here that this was a female ministry leader. It says my husband takes it hard when they forget. You know, your husband’s a great guy. I mean, that is so sweet there, you know, but that’s a piece that we don’t often think about, that our spouses are sitting there watching this as well, and if no appreciation is shown, that’s a tough, a tough thing to take, absolutely a tough thing. So now we’re blaming social media, which I thought you know, yeah, we’re all over that. We try to keep our finger on the pulse.

But you know, if you chronically see pastors thanking their congregations for, you know, the vacation to Monaco or the amazing gifts, dinners, and everything you know, that can make it tricky, you know we’re still human. We try not to take it so seriously. This is when I did jump in and said you know, maybe we should start a petition to you know, let’s say let’s not do this anymore. Let’s not. You know, and I did get a couple of comments. Oh, they said it’s like Sweetest Day, which you know, Sweetest Day is a Hallmark holiday. No offense to the fine folks at Hallmark, but it is. It’s like Grandparents Day, you know. It’s a reason to buy a card, I don’t know.

I did get a little bit of yay anyway, with let’s pass a petition around. But the Hallmark holiday our idea was kind of interesting. Maybe if we ditched it and just said love and appreciation should be shown year-round. I mean, maybe this is something that all of us need to get better at showing appreciation to the people around us. Maybe this should be. You know, we all talk about Christmas and how we all have enough stuff. Maybe this is a point that could be made is that we could make a big list of people we need to show appreciation to, and you know if you can come up with 12, that’s one person a month or something, and I think that might be a great way. It’s not the solution to this to the Pastor Appreciation month, but this was a great comment.

People want to be noticed and appreciated and, in my humble opinion, ministry leaders long for validation. And since ministry is such performance-driven and the word job is in quotes. We constantly need to hear from someone that we’re doing a good job so we can then compare ourselves to other ministers and thus we can conclude whether we are successful or not. And that always reminds me of sitting in with a bunch of ministry leaders and we had to go around and they said oh yeah, we always are kind of carping about stuff here. Let’s go around the room and say a blessing, that is in your life or something good. And we did get to one Individual who decided that they were thankful for the five million dollar addition that is going on at their church and I thought “Did you have to say the number?” You know there are some churches here that the whole building and the whole shebang is not valued at that number that you just tossed out. So yeah, we kind of are a little comparison.

We can say don’t compare yourself to other people, but sometimes we, we do, sometimes we do so this person brought up, the same person set brought up, and on that fretful and continual hamster wheel we keep running. Yes, we do, we compare ourselves and we are trying to decide whether we’re successful or not, when really I mean, this is a one-on-one thing between you and God as to whether you’re successful, and that’s a pretty private thing. But they also added this if you give me a gift card to Bucee’s, that means I’m doing a good job. Buccee’s, the land where there’s 500 flavors of sunflower seeds and jerky, I don’t know. That little sunflower seed thing was my editorial comment. But this person said, if, if the gift card’s an amount more than my fellow minister, well shoot, I must be doing good. And I thought, wow, even ten bucks, the Bucee’s would be just just fun, just fun.

So how do we find our validation in what we do? And maybe all of us Christians just as Christians you know forget the ministry leader piece for a moment. Maybe we should be seeking just to validate other people when it is a real heartfelt thing, and maybe we need to be more grateful. I know a lot of people spend November doing that. You know we spend November saying 30 days of thankfulness or something, and you see people posting on social media about that. So we’re not sure. Still, some are not sure. It really is a hot-button issue, but pastors do appreciate it when the congregation makes a point to do something, to recognize a month. But it’s not necessary to the rhythm of ministry out. You know, the local church does have a different calendar than Hallmark. I’m just gonna leave that there. We really do have a different calendar going on and we do mark time in a different way. But yeah, it’s nice but it’s not necessary.

Now here we get down to somebody being brutally honest and saying they’re not comfortable with it at all. They did serve a church and the church just did a more broad thing with thanking all the volunteers, as opposed to singling out the leader. So, hey, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe we need to be more appreciative people in general. Somebody said something about pastors always getting perks and I thought did I miss the boss on this? What perks? What perks? What am I missing out on here?

Maybe they feel that that’s too much to have pastor appreciation in addition to all those perks that we get. And, like I said, if you know where the perk box was or is you know, let me know, because I missed that when I was serving more people who served a church where it was not recognized and more people saying we could just bag the whole thing. Now, if we’re saying that we could bag the whole thing. Then the question is, how could we then live into that in our congregation and it just have it not be a thing at all, which is why, at the end of the day I’m so wondering how you could send out a petition I don’t even know where you’d send it to and either say you’re going to or you’re not going to.

Now, keep in mind I just read something from West Path people, that’s an agency of the United Methodist Church, and on the list of that is you need to be doing this. So maybe the leadership of whichever denomination where God has planted your feet, they need to get with the program and get the people to do this, because somebody brought up along here, you know, as the pastor, you don’t want to stand up and say, okay, everybody, now we have to do pastor appreciation month, because all y’all need to grow in appreciation, and then after you say that you need to duck because the rocks and or rotten fruit are going to come flying at you and besides, that’s pretty awkward. It’s very awkward, it’s very awkward for us when we have to say, okay, it’s time for you to do your review of me and decide whether you’re going to give me a raise or not.

We get stuck doing a lot of awkward stuff and this is just awkward at times. You know, I don’t know who likes awkward. Does anybody here like awkward? So I had one response that was a big pair, it’s a big, big paragraph and I liked it a lot, not because they said they wished it would be abandoned, but because there were a lot of other good thoughts in here.

It says circumstances and individual churches and among individuals themselves are very nuanced and at times complicated. The reasons people offer, offer appreciation or not, are not consistent enough for one to measure their entire worth to a congregation, or even part of it, by the response to that annual observation. So how do you gauge your people? Oh, my people are just. I don’t know their turds. Because they don’t do this, we can’t say that it’s bad theology. Besides, this person went on to say I’ve been in ministry for 40 years and found many churches are simply unaware and at the risk of looking like you’re fishing for compliments. Few of us are going to make that announcement anyway. Again, another person says it’s like Sweetest Day easy to overlook, especially if you’re not a pastor.

Sometimes leadership changes can muddy the waters and people are still dealing with that change. Some groups in the church are supposed to you don’t remember the pastor and sometimes it just gets missed. It just gets missed, it says. When my spouse and I were poor and struggling kids in our first church, our small churches showered us that month because they knew our needs. This is kind of a good picture, fast forward to our substantially advanced circumstance in a much larger context. Our current church doesn’t officially recognize it at all. It leaves words of appreciation to individuals in the course of the year as people are so moved. This includes no formal Christmas gift by the church to the pastors. All staff are remembered, however, to receive gifts of appreciation from a larger church on top of substantial pay and other perks of the job. Now here this person spells out the perks which I was like. I can’t recall getting any of those, but I’ve heard of people getting them. You know, perks like occasional unused football tickets, theater tickets, and fights to the country club for dinner, individual Christmas gifts, honorariums etc.

Would just be well unethical at most and just counter to our Christian witness at best. Then, of course, there are individuals who may use the opportunity to relate passive-aggressively toward the pastor. I thought, oh good heavens, by withholding acknowledgment and goodwill Bottom line, this ministry leader doesn’t see it having consistent benefits to the soul of a pastor by observing the month. I’d rather see our institutions and institutional leaders invest highly in mental health initiatives, such as mandatory workshops and classes, boy. And then this person finished up by saying that we’re sacrificing too many gifted leaders to pain, despair, and isolation.

So maybe, maybe the best pastor appreciation gift you could give somebody would be a series of sessions with a mental health counselor. But I, you know this person had a lot of really good thinking going on in here, so they finished their thoughts with. I completely acknowledge that many hardworking pastors are deprived of encouraging words and need it as desperately as a cool drink of water. However, I found that focusing on meaningful individual relationships around positive people in ministry tends to have all the acknowledgment needed inherent in them.

So I’m going to leave that there, and I still have questions about whether, whether what should happen is we should not celebrate it or ask for mental health services because I thought that was probably about the best, the best suggestion so that we can keep ourselves in check and maybe so that we can hash around with a neutral person about whether and why past or appreciation month is or is not important to us and where we could file that.

So thanks again for listening and hope this has been helpful, or just another way that we can just walk together, journey together, and hash around the issues and challenges and topics of the day.

Hey friends, the Crabby Pastor podcast is sponsored by Bryce Art Glass and you can find that on Facebook. I make stained glass. That’s part of my self-care and also by Bryce coaching, where I coach ministry leaders and business leaders, and so the funds that I generate from coaching and from making stained glass is what is supporting this podcast and I will have opportunities for you to be a part of sponsoring me and, as always, you can do the buy me a cup of coffee thing in the in the show notes. But I will have some other ways that you can be a part of getting the word out about the importance of healthy self-care for ministry leaders. Hey, thanks for listening. It is my deep desire and passion to champion issues of sustainability in ministry and for your life, so I’m here to help. I stepped back from pastoral ministry and I feel called to help ministry leaders create and cultivate sustainability in their lives so that they can go the distance with God and whatever plans that God has for you. I would love to help. I would consider it an honor and, in all things, make sure you connect to these sustainability practices you know, so that you don’t become the Crabby Pastor.

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