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Thanks to the pastor

October is "National Clergy Appreciation Month."

Established in 1992, "NCAM" was created to recognize and honor spiritual leaders across the country. Each year the second Sunday in October is designated National Clergy Appreciation Sunday. On this day and throughout the month, congregations are encouraged to express their appreciation to their pastors and their families.

I can't think of any position in life more worthy of honor than that of a pastor. The position of clergy is to be treated with the utmost respect because it is a high calling of God.

Pastors have perhaps the most unique and important work on earth -- taking care of the spiritual well-being of God's creations. What they are concerned about is not something temporary, but something eternal and everlasting.

Most of those who serve Christ in the ministry do so because of their deep love for God and do so at considerable personal sacrifice and cost. They are passionate about their calling and work hard to serve God.

Pastors have a 24/7 job and live under incredible pressures. Often their hours are long, and the pay is minimal. They make huge sacrifices to serve God and its body. They work hard to make worship a unique celebration each week.

They are always there for others day and night. They console those in need of guidance and direction. They provide hope and comfort for those in times of crisis, suffering and death.

Pastors do so much, yet receive so little in return. We owe our pastors a debt of gratitude for what they do every day.

What we often don't realize is that the work of a pastor can be overwhelming. Sometimes pastors are the loneliest people in the church. They can feel disappointed, discouraged, depressed, defeated or completely burned out.

Pastors need affirmation, appreciation, encouragement and support more than anyone else. NCAM provides an opportunity for us to shower our spiritual leaders with the positive affirmation they need and the loving appreciation and support they deserve.

Here are some ways to help your pastors and their families feel appreciated, encouraged and honored:

n Pray regularly

Pray for your spiritual leaders regularly for their maturity and growth in the faith. Ask God to bless them with an abundance of love, joy, peace, hope, faith, wisdom, and courage.

n Be responsive

Pastors live a life of selfless giving. They need to know their sacrifice is making a difference. For them, nothing is more exciting and encouraging than seeing people respond to the preaching and teaching, and seeing their life transformed as the result.

Let your pastor know how his message has touched and changed you.

n Hold a special event

Designate a Sunday service for testimony time to honor your pastor and his family for their hard work and sacrifice. Have a church appreciation banquet in their honor.

n A note of appreciation

A spoken compliment is always welcome, but a written note of a simple, sincere, heart-felt expression of gratitude can be read over and over again for years. It will be treasured more. Be specific when you write. Tell about a sermon that has changed you or a program that your family has enjoyed.

n Let your community know

Submit an open letter to your local newspaper. Let your community know how much your pastor is loved and appreciated by your congregation.

n Do something practical

Invite your pastor and his spouse to lunch or dinner, give them a gift certificate to a store or restaurant, offer to baby-sit their children so they can have a date without kids or mow their lawn. These are all practical ways to show your appreciation.

n Give them a break

Just like everyone else, pastors need time off to recuperate and restore their physical and spiritual vigor. Encourage others in the congregation to preach to allow the pastor time off. Or better yet, send his family off to a retreat or a surprise vacation.

While NCAM offers a great opportunity to recognize, pray for and encourage our pastors, it is also important for us to remember that appreciation, affirmation and prayer support of our spiritual leaders are appropriate throughout the entire year, not just one day or one month in October. Appreciation is an attitude. We should really make clergy appreciation an every day event throughout the year.

Remember, to honor God's man is to honor God.

Before I end, I would like to take this opportunity to say a personal word to my pastor at Spirit of Life Bible Church, Pastor Frank Sanders. Thank you for your wonderful sermons and your spiritual leadership, your passion and dedication, your time and commitment in serving Christ. I feel blessed to be in your church and have you as my pastor. May God bless you richly.