SUWANEE, Ga. — One of Mark Marshall’s greatest keepsakes is a notebook filled with letters from church members expressing their love and appreciation for him and his wife.
“It was given to me 26 years ago, and I still have it,” said Marshall, a longtime Southern Baptist pastor now serving as assistant executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
That’s an example of one of the many ways congregations can show they love their pastors in October, which has been set aside as Pastor Appreciation Month.
Southern Baptist leaders who minister to the needs of pastors say it’s vital that congregations show their appreciation.
Pastors are feeling increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs and more than 40 percent have considered leaving the ministry in the past 12 months, according to the Barna Group, a research organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in America.
"The number of pastors who feel burnt out, lonely or unwell is growing," Barna said in March. "To put it bluntly, Barna Group’s current data does not paint a pretty picture of the state of the American pastor.”
Marshall said he has seen churches show their appreciation to pastors in various ways. Sometimes, he said, it’s as simple as a gift card to his favorite restaurant or a night away with his wife at a bed and breakfast.
“Do something for his wife and children,” Marshall advised churches. “When you love on the pastor’s family, you love on him.”
Marshall said many congregations set aside a Sunday morning in October to honor their pastors.
“Be sure to bring his family up on the platform with him when you recognize him,” he said.
Marshall said a church might consider presenting a card signed by the entire congregation or handing out 3X5 cards and pens so they can write why they love their pastor.
“Put a 'Pastor Appreciation’ board up in a visible place and thumbtack those cards to the board,” he said.
Ray Gentry, a longtime Georgia associational mission strategist who now serves as head of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders, told the Index in March that churches need to show their love to the pastors, especially now.
“The pastorate is increasingly stressful in our day and age,” Gentry said. “So many different pressures are coming against pastors and churches.”
“Church members,” he said, “need to keep their pastors at the top of their prayer lists all the time,” he said. “Pastors are like everybody else in that they need encouragement, trust and appreciation.”