Our pastors have invested in us, our families, and the communities we serve. Whether they’re teaching us through their sermons, leading us in worship, pouring into our families, or enabling us to reach out more strategically, they are an example of faith lived out. The love they project on us is often greater than can be expected. They sacrifice much and expect little in return.

However, how well congregations love upon their pastors will usually determine how effective they are as a spiritual leader. If pastors do not actively feel loved, they will likely feel underappreciated, making them more likely to drain the energy out of the church. Further, if they have nobody to openly and truthfully share their own struggles, they are more likely to feel burnt out, which can cause them to stumble in their own walk. Pastors are real people with real problems. They struggle just like the rest of us, and the added pressure pastors feel to live an exemplary life can become too heavy of a cross to bear.

The cross has been carried for ALL of us already. Jesus died for us knowing we were incapable of living perfect lives. Sure, as Christians we all strive to live a life that is honoring to God, but too often we hold church leaders to an unattainable standard—one, we ourselves, will never reach. Over the years I have met many pastors who are amazing, God-loving, faithful followers of our Lord and Savior, who also face real struggles. However, these struggles are usually hidden for fear of judgment. A judgment that we are not authorized to give.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. It’s an opportunity to “build up” the leaders in our church and let them know how much we appreciate them. First and foremost, pray for your pastor and their family. Pray that God will place people in their lives who they can truly trust to support them in their struggles, and that their own walk with the Lord will flourish. I then invite you to go the extra mile over the next month. Invite your pastor over for a meal, write a note of appreciation, provide him an opportunity to get away and be quiet before God, or have a potluck (yes, we can still do these) with the aim of simply loving upon him. Whatever it is, make sure they know how much they are loved and appreciated.

They invest in our spiritual lives and now it’s an opportunity to invest in theirs. Don’t be surprised if they downplay the whole thing. If they are not used to it, they may be uncomfortable; but the more often you do it, the more comfortable they will become. Be careful though: if you do it right, the energy and love could change your pastor’s life, change your life, and have a great impact on His kingdom.

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

If you celebrate your pastor in October, please send me your story. I would love to hear how God is moving in your community.