October is Pastor Appreciation Month. At least it has been since around 1992. If you serve in a small town like I do, that means your church may set out a basket for the pastor and ask the church members to bring gifts each week.
If the congregation likes you, you may get some fresh fruits and vegetables, or perhaps a jar of jam or honey. If they congregation doesn’t like you, expect to get whatever they have left over in their pantry. I hope you like lima beans. If you have more than one pastor on staff, expect the awkward tension of one pastor getting more than the other.
For these reasons, and many more, my church decided to change October from Pastor Appreciation Month to Volunteer Appreciation Month.
Here are the three areas we focused on.
- Appreciation – My church doesn’t function without the help of close to one hundred volunteers who serve each week. Volunteers are the lifeblood of my church. People really like the preaching, they really like the music, but they love how our volunteers serve them each week. My church tries to go out of our way throughout the year to show appreciation to our volunteers. We send thank you cards. We give gifts. We buy pizza. This year we wanted to do more. So, every Sunday in October we looked for ways to bless our volunteers. One week we gave away free premium coffee at our coffee shop. One week we took family photos and provided a free 8×10 to every volunteer. And one week we gave away a $200 gift card to help one volunteer with their Christmas shopping.
- Celebration – Not only do we want to show appreciation to our volunteers, but we want to celebrate the act of serving. We have a saying at my church that you may use as well, we say, “You’re never more like Jesus than when you serve.” Serving is not just a next step at my church; it’s a core value of my church. So, when one hundred volunteers are choosing to serve others each week, we want to celebrate that. Few things bring me more joy than seeing a new family show up at church and watching how much love they receive from our volunteers. I imagine it’s like seeing a head coach watch his team score a touchdown.
- Initiation – Andy Stanley says, “What gets celebrated, gets replicated.” So, this October we wanted to appreciate our current volunteers, celebrate the act of serving, and use that to initiate a whole new group of volunteers. We started promoting Volunteer Appreciation Month on social media a few weeks before October and provided a link for people to sign up to serve. Each Sunday in October, we spent 2-3 minutes during worship to tell a story of how serving was impacting others. On the last Sunday of the month, our lead pastor spoke on the vision of the church and how each person could help us achieve that vision by volunteering.
If you’re a pastor, you know there are two things you can never have enough of: money and volunteers. So, always be looking for clever ways to initiate more people into serving.
What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received as a pastor?