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Appreciating Clergy

With Labor Day now behind us and the school year underway, we're back into the routine. Which means that Clergy Appreciation Month is literally right around the corner.

Whether or not your church commemorates Clergy Appreciation in October, it's vitally important that we raise our spiritual leader(s) up on a daily basis. It seems to me that a career in the clergy might in some ways be one of the loneliest professions you could pick. Rewarding? No doubt. On many levels. Spiritually fulfilling? Again, that's most certainly a yes. To spend one's professional life working every day to grow the kingdom of God must be very special indeed.

At the same time, though, it has the makings of a very tough, demanding - and lonely - occupation. We all have days on the job when it seems nothing goes right. You might be under immense stress with deadlines looming, the boss might be on your back about something, your co-workers may be bickering, you might be worried about a layoff...there are any number of things that could contribute to a "bad day." Maybe it's a string of bad days.

When that happens, it's not uncommon to talk the situation over with a spouse or friend, or a trusted business associate. Those conversations can be a great way to unburden yourself and maybe come up with some solutions you might not have considered previously.

Your pastor or priest has those same bad days from time to time. He may have more of them than the average person. But unlike the rest of us, he often doesn't have the luxury of a sounding board. Just two examples: First, consider the issue of job performance. While most of us are faced with performance appraisals once or twice a year, he's being critiqued on a weekly basis! I guarantee you there is someone sitting in the congregation on any given Sunday morning who is thinking that the sermon could have been better, or that the music wasn't to their liking, or that the service just wasn't "that good."

It's almost certain that at least some of the comments will make their way back to him. Who's he going to commiserate with about the fact that no matter what he does, somebody is unhappy?

Then there's his role as counselor. Maybe he's been visiting and comforting people who are critically ill. Maybe he's talking to families who are being ripped apart by strife. It can weigh heavily on the heart to deal with difficult situations such as these. Yet, we speak to our spiritual leader in confidence. So where can he go when he's feeling emotional strain or to receive advice about how to handle a particular situation?

Sometimes we put our spiritual leaders on pedestals of sorts - and it's got to be a little lonely up there. We might forget that they're human beings just like we are. They have strengths, and they have weaknesses. The get tired. They get frustrated. They need a pat on the back every once in a while, too!

So while Clergy Appreciation Month is a wonderful thing, it's also important to support clergy all year long with prayers and words of encouragement.

If last week's sermon had a particular impact on you, say so. Send your spiritual leader a note of appreciation. You can also support clergy by getting involved in the work of the church. If we are enthusiastic followers of God, it will mean something to God - and to His ordained servants.

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