Pastor Appreciation Month
That's this year's theme song for PAM.
A neighboring pastor framed it so well.
"What does Pastor Appreciation Month mean to me?...About two cards!"
Whenever I talk to members of the church that cooperated with his-really-His call to them, they say how much they love him.
He's in debt up to his ears.
He's maligned unmercifully by people because he's a champion for Jesus rather than them.
He's been their under-compensated and over-worked indentured doulos for nearly two decades.
What's it been worth?
About two cards.
Yes, October 1 ushers in PAM.
While pastors of every flavor and franchise - most of 'em with some notable exceptions not worth mentioning because exceptions to the rule are, uh, exceptions to the rule like when abortion is a choice worthy of Christocentric apology - keep pouring it out, the unrestricted irascibles, irregulars, and irreconcilables transferring their sicko pathologies to them 'cause pastors are paid to be holy keep pouring it on.
Or as a leading newswoman in the South said, "Pastors deserve Purple Hearts; since they probably suffer more wounds in battle from 'friendly fire' than anyone or anything else."
Parenthetically, I'm O.K. for now; or at least until the minority who hate me become the majority for God knows I know they know they're always in the, uh, shadows.
I'm too old for ecclesiastical BS.
Besides, I still get calls from other churches that are ready to take me as soon as I feel like that minority has become the majority or get tired of the majority letting the minority make life so miserable for my family that catches my sicko transferences.
Gotta take it out on somebody.
Pastors are human too.
I've got to do my best with His best in and through me for people with real problems instead of wasting time/energy/emotion on people whose biggest worry is whether their deodorant will keep 'em dry all day.
You know what I mean; and if you don't, you're part of the problem if you know what I mean which you don't.
Be that as it is regardless of how much people who say they love Jesus while mistreating others to prove they really don't love Jesus protest, I'm blessed to serve our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois; loving 'em to my death and appreciating 'em more than they know, admit, or dare to entertain.
We've just about completed the pruning prescribed by my predecessors that is a prerequisite to growth.
It took four years.
The last few months have been great!
Our leadership is on the same page with a membership increasingly receptive to fresh wind and fire to be a beacon and safe haven.
Or as I prayed as inspired a few Sundays ago, "The times of judgmentalism have ended in our family of faith. Contention has given way to cooperation. The kairos moment has been seized and we move forward in unity for Your peace and purity..."
So don't read anything personally pejorative or even positive in the preceding or following as confession, contention, or, uh, whatever...
I'm just reporting.
Did you know most polls reveal over 75% of pastors would relocate or change jobs today if they had the chance?
No wonder old Hans told young Luther to go into law; and that was pre-Reformation.
It's like the shrink who told our doctoral study group at Drew, "Problem people in your churches are usually constipated. That's why they dump on you."
Yeah, Bob, I've used that before; but, geez, it's good.
Speaking of pastoral ministry as a job or vocation or beruf for the educated, an engineer from the left coast wrote, "PAM testifies most eloquently to me that we believers are collectively immature and self-centered enough to require nudging to consider and properly acknowledge and express appreciation for the qualifications and accessibility of the men who are placed in positions of pastorship over us."
While he's gonna get letters from the other gender for that one, pastors are slobbering while, uh, others are just starting to get ___ed off.
This non-pastor went on, "I cannot help but think that being a pastor is almost as dirty of a job as garbage collector; demanding long and unusual hours without advance notice at marginal pay at best and easily inducing disillusionment, depression, burnout, and disruption to marriage and family life."
Not bad for an engineer!
He concluded, "One former pastor of mine put it aptly, 'If you are capable of doing anything else than being a pastor, do it! Being a pastor will destroy any man who isn't directly called into it by God.'"
A pastor in South Carolina wrote metaphorically, "My dad told me a very long time ago that if a woman really meant a lot to me that I would find a way to let her know on days other than February 14. He said showing love and appreciation on the other 364 days was more genuine."
Then leaving the metaphor for folks too dense to get it, he explained, "PAM has always seemed too Hallmark for me. I mean people buy a card without anything in it to help for months of deprivation; and then they spend the other eleven months gossiping about us, taking us for granted, dissing, and ignoring us."
He thinks PAM is kinda like Halloween.
It's another metaphor.
Pastors' wives from around the country shared these, uh, uh, uh,...reflections (euphemism):
Illinois: "PAM means listening to my pastor-husband complain all month about how he is not appreciated."
Pennsylvania: "I had no idea what it meant to be a pastor's wife until I became one. It sucks! He's always out, stressed, beaten up, underpaid, and treated like __ by people who parade around like they're holier-than-thou. My children hate the church because of how he's treated and how they're in a fishbowl of unrealistic expectations where people always complain about them because their own children are so screwed up. You want to know why PKs are so notorious? It's because of what churches do to their daddies."
Tennessee: "Several denominations in many towns where we've lived made a big deal of PAM. They had community dinners, gift certificates, testimonials, and cash gifts. Doing this in October separated it from the other holidays when our husbands were so busy making everybody but their own families merry. Do you know how many Christmases and Easters that I've spent with my family since starting one with a pastor? Zip! Well, I also think it's worth noting that no Presbyterian church that I've ever known has ever participated in what I just mentioned."
Maryland: "My husband says it's a missed opportunity to express appreciation. One word comes to my mind: disappointment. Sigh!"
Texas: "My husband didn't have to take a vow of poverty. It's been imposed upon him! It's pathetic how people don't appreciate his call, education, how he's sacrificed so much of us and himself...I can't continue...I'm crying just thinking about it...I wish you hadn't brought it up...I've been thinking about divorcing him to get my kids and me away from it all."
New Jersey: "PAM? What a joke!"
Florida: "You want to know how to make my husband feel appreciated? Stop those ___s in the church who are always lying about him! I don't understand why he's supposed to be so nice to everybody while they treat him like ___! If people really appreciated him, they'd help us pay some bills and throw those ___s out of the church that are up to no damn good in our life or the life of the church. Nobody protects my husband from abuse! PAM? Yeah, right!"
Of course, there are some contented vicars out there:
Missouri: "I get a very nice check that comes in real handy around this time of the year. They buy a big cake for fellowship hour. I get lots of gift certificates for family dinners and movies and stuff like that. It's neat. I like PAM because the church likes me."
Illinois: "I normally am very upbeat about this month because my congregation has typically taken very good care of me and shared their affection in very practical ways. But we have gone through an organizational change in the past year, and there is no committee now that looks after this matter as an annual event. I am wondering if anyone will remember without having to be reminded or without it being programmed as part of an annual calendar of events. I'll let you know."
North Carolina: "I got a new car one year because they appreciated all of the driving that I do to serve them. Then I got a big check to pay off bills another year. They sent me to Israel one year. But I never tell any of my pastor-friends about this because they're as good or better than me and get nothing more than a nod or box of chocolates from Hershey's. Oh, the local funeral directors give all of us gift certificates to a local restaurant. Thanks for not printing my name. Pastors around here are already jealous because I'm pretty happy."
Praise the Lord!
Quick hits from less enthused colleagues:
New York: "I recently saw an episode of Seinfeld that was about women 'faking it' during sex. It made me think of PAM. I was fired during PAM because 3 out of 750 members did not like me. The folks where I am now started PAM early this year. Two members are spreading gossip and rumors about me that are causing division in the church and the elders aren't doing anything about it. PAM? It's not on my calendar, brother!"
Pennsylvania: "It means six more books that I won't read and getting a card from people who don't attend worship."
Florida: "If I had stock in Hallmark, I might like it; but I'd rather have a few extra bucks."
Illinois: "It hurts like crazy when no one says or does anything to remember me during PAM. The Devil uses PAM to discourage those of us who need some appreciation. Sad but true."
Texas: "What do I think of PAM? Not much. It's not on anyone's radar in my church. I've never alerted anyone to it because it might appear self-serving, might cause some sick members to use the other eleven months as open season on me, and the target on my back is big enough already. If people really wanted to celebrate PAM, they'd live openly as Christians! When I see that happening, I feel appreciated. By the way, I get lots more cards from churches that I've served before than now. It seems churches miss pastors after they've left and wish they would have shown more appreciation so they would have stayed. Hey, KD, have a happy PAM!"
Tennessee: "It was created to boost the profits of Christian greeting card companies. I hope they didn't print too many cards! While the church I serve is very generous at Christmas, PAM isn't in their minds at all. What does PAM mean to me and most pastors? Well, here's the short answer. Not much!"
Indiana: "I find myself asking lots of questions during PAM? Why do we need a special month? Why doesn't anyone remember that special month? Isn't God's appreciation enough for us? Why did it begin? Were some people feeling guilty about misusing and mistreating their pastors? I really question the motives behind PAM. Why appreciate people that you ___ on most of the year?"
And here's one from a pastor in Virginia who admitted getting drunk so he could feel uninhibited enough to comment: "___! They need to appreciate the role of appreciating the Author of ministry! ___! I wanted people to know Jesus when I started. That's the only ___ing appreciation that I need. ___! I've tried to get them over churchianity; but, ___, all they do is act like pagans in nicer clothes. Don't give me some ___ing 'Greatest Pastor' mug in October and then a 'Get Out of Dodge' pink slip in November! Nobody cares! Why am I even bothering to write to you about it? If people really cared, so many of us wouldn't be thinking about committing suicide! I better stop drinking or I will."
I have been counseling three pastors who have thought about getting out of ministry by ending their lives.
PAM is not therapeutic.
Yes, that song is profane.
That's what PAM has become to most pastors.
It evokes sarcasm, cynicism, and, increasingly, the kinda dark thoughts encouraged by demons in the shadows with the unrestricted irascibles, irregulars, and irreconcilables.
The world is bad enough without the church making it look better by comparison.
Some non-pastors were sympathetic:
Indiana: "The longer I serve in God's house, the more I see the critical nature of congregations. I am appalled at the lack of compassion on the part of many individuals who vent their spleens on pastors. PAM for me is reading Ephesians 4:7-16 with a prayer that we will take seriously what it means to be the church and what it means to love those who have committed their lives as pastors."
New Jersey: "I didn't even know about PAM until you asked me about it. I really believe pastors and their congregations better be having mutual appreciation every day if they expect to carry out the work of the Lord. I guess I better bake some brownies for our pastor now that you've reminded me about PAM. Maybe a lot of prayers for him would be better!"
Illinois: "PAM means a time to reflect on the person who has given her/his time to guide, protect, reprove, and love people regardless of their affections or affiliations. It's a time to honor a pastor who has vowed to live like Jesus and is trying to set an example of being free for Jesus. For me, personally, it didn't mean much to me until I met the voice behind KD (You better print this!). I never met a pastor until you who really tried to live as an example of loving like Jesus so unconditionally even when treated so shabbily. Thanks, I love you for being a good example of what God wants me to be!"
Vermont: "It means being grateful for the pastors in my life who really pastored. I mean the ones who preached the Word and didn't care whether people liked it or not. Pastors who corrected me when I needed correcting. The ones who risked being liked, honored, loved, and adored for His sake and for my sake. You, ___, are in that category; although I may not have appreciated you in the 70s as much as I do now. I'll bet you've got some people in your church and community and even presbytery who are really upset with you for telling them the truth about them; and if they're like me, they will thank you some day. But don't hold your breath right now! Keep on, ___! You are a blessing to those you pastor...even the ones who say you aren't!"
A few more thoughts, analytical and otherwise, from NPs (non-pastors):
A lawyer and very important player in the PCUSA (Kentucky): "PAM means that we focus on the blessings we have received from the Lord as members of His body and a congregation in particular...the blessing of having The Good Shepherd as our shepherd...of being in a body of believers who have discerned the call and provided the support for our under-shepherd...for the blessings through our pastor - his sermons, his leadership, his character, his witness, his family...then we respond with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord and with expressions of appreciation to the pastor and his family - notes, gifts, and other means. And not forgetting the family who raised him, the Christians who supported and encouraged him, the seminary that trained him."
A businessman and very important player in the PCUSA (Virginia): "The only times I have ever been exposed to PAM is when I have read about it in The Presbyterian Outlook...When I go to my presbytery's website, there is nothing about it...We tend to forget the pastor's job has to be one of the most difficult and important these days; so I'm all for thanking them in a public way with more than a smile."
A retired woman (Florida): "It's like Mother's Day and Father's Day to me. There should be no reason for a designated day or month to show those who go the extra mile for us how we realize and appreciate having them in our lives...It should not be necessary; and the very notion that it is necessary is a sorry commentary on the Christian ethic in today's church."
A lawyer whose daddy was a PCUSA pastor (Missouri): "Hadn't thought much about it, but that is no surprise since the word pastor means herdsman in Latin; and what do the dumb sheep think of their herdsman? Not much; 'til the wolf comes and then they are glad for the pastor's rod and staff to comfort them! So I guess that means this dumb sheep better ask his pastor and family to dinner in October to say, 'Thank you!' When you're back in Kansas City where you should have never left, you're invited and can stay with us!"
A photo-journalist (Pennsylvania): "Why should pastors get a whole month? Hell, secretaries get one day. Mothers get one day. Fathers get one day. Even Martin Luther King, Jr. gets only one day...Pastors are like dairy farmers - milking it for every drop. They work one hour a week on Sunday - maybe 15 minutes if you count the sermon that everybody ignores. Other than Hebrew and Greek, their education is easy. They get free parking at hospitals. At church dinners, they're always first in line. They are paid a few pennies for the weddings and funerals that cost thousands. What a gig! And they want a month of appreciation? I have to stop now because my tongue in cheek is starting to sting."
A brilliant PR dude who has counseled almost all recent Presidents except, uh, the current one (California): "Sorta like National Almond Month? I would say PAM is about a 2 on a scale of 10 to most folks; and that's probably rather high...Is there a National Lawyer's Appreciation Day?...Thank you, KD, for listening to His call, for overcoming your defects and stumblings, for maintaining a soft heart in the face of emotional and spiritual abuse, for staying fixed on Jesus when there were/are lots of other folks yelling 'look here' or 'look at this.' Thank you for internalizing God's loving embrace and returning it to your congregation and those whom you meet. Thank you for remaining vulnerable when you knew you would be wounded. Thank you for returning treachery with forgiveness, intolerance with welcoming, narrowness with a higher vision, ignorance with kind scholarship, repression with innovation, heresy with Biblical certitude...You are one of a rare breed; even though you choose to endanger yourself on a two-wheeled-over-powered suicide device."
There are three things that I'd like for PAM.
Ain't gonna happen.
Jesus will have to suffice.
Now back to PAM's theme song...
Blessings and Love!
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