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Oct3ThuComox Valley Ministries embraces Pastor Appreciation Month. October 3, 2019 by Brent Hobden
(Above) The corps family at Comox Valley CC wrote messages of appreciation on sheep for Cpts Michelle and Kevin Elsasser
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October is a beautiful month in Canada, when we start new church programs, make plans for Christmas ministry and, of course, focus on the things for which we are thankful. It is also when Christian churches around the world celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month.
Theologians suggest that the concept of pastor appreciation began when Paul told Timothy that the “elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17 NIV).
Pastor Appreciation Month began in the United States in 1992 as a means to honour pastors and their families. In 1994, Focus on the Family launched a campaign suggesting congregations set aside the entire month of October to focus on and recognize the hard work, dedication and love of our clergy. Parishioners were encouraged to show their gratitude through gifts, notes of encouragement and various other expressions of gratefulness. The intention was to create an outpouring of love in deep appreciation for the dedicated service of spiritual leaders as they shepherd the flock the Lord has placed in their care.
The formative years of my youth included Sunday school, junior soldiership, corps cadet classes, senior soldiership and youth group activities. In all of those years, I don’t recall a leader mentioning pastor appreciation. A few years ago, I asked a corps officer friend why The Salvation Army hadn’t embraced it. “It’s just not a practice that The Salvation Army has ever adopted,” he said. Then, perhaps with a hint of sarcasm, he suggested that I take up the challenge.
Eight years ago, a small group from the leadership team of Comox Valley Ministries in Courtenay, B.C., met to plan what has become an annual event. The third Sunday in October has been set aside at Comox Valley Community Church for pastor appreciation, when the church says thank you to our corps officers through testimonials, personalized notes of gratitude, acts of service and gifts of thanksgiving. The service is well attended and the involvement by so many has proven to be a blessing to our officers.
So what does pastor appreciation Sunday look like at our corps? Over the years, we have tried a variety of things, but we have learned that participation is heightened when we focus on a specific theme. “Words of Appreciation” was one of our themes, when the congregation brought posters filled with positive messages for Captains Kevin and Michelle Elsasser, our corps officers. Throughout the service, individuals randomly held up signs with such words as kindness, service, integrity and grace, to show our leaders that they hold a special place in our hearts. We took a group photo which hangs in Captain Michelle’s office and has been the topic of many conversations.
Another year we chose “Shepherd and Sheep” as our theme. Dozens of small sheep-shaped papers were distributed to the congregation—the “sheep”— who were asked to prayerfully write a short note to our corps officers—the “shepherds”—expressing the love and appreciation they have for them. We then displayed the letters on a large poster with the title “Thank Ewe, From Your Flock.” The young ones of our corps family—and even some who are not that young anymore—joined in the fun as they wore sheep ears and sang a special song for the officers, I Just Wanna Be a Sheep. After the service we enjoyed a potluck lunch, complete with cupcakes decorated to look like sheep.
In this season of thanksgiving, I challenge you as soldiers, adherents and friends of the Army to make pastor appreciation a priority in your corps. Let your officers know that the hours they spend preparing sermons, counselling the bereaved, visiting the sick, helping at the thrift store, standing beside a Christmas kettle, and so much more, are not taken for granted. Thank them for sharing the love of Jesus Christ, meeting human needs and being instrumental in transforming lives with the love of Jesus. How your congregation shows appreciation for your leaders is limited only by your imagination.
Brent Hobden is corps sergeant-major at Comox Valley Community Church and community ministries director for Comox Valley Ministries.