Pastor Appreciation Month sparks opportunity

NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- With two jobs, a pastorate and a full slate of courses at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, pastor Toby Brogden was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted when he showed up for a class last month.

"Look, I am stretched, just as tight as a rubber band," Brogden, who pastors Grace Church in New Orleans, told classmates. "I feel like I'm about to break. We have to get away. We have to get a break. We're stressed to the max. So you all just pray for that."

The next day Brogden slipped in late to Johnny Hunt's Timothy-Barnabas conference on the NOBTS campus and didn't sign up for a drawing for a couples getaway from the North American Mission Board's pastor support ministry. Fortunately for Brogden, someone else put his name in the drawing. He was shocked when his name was called.

"One of the guys sitting next to me is a classmate at seminary," Brogden said. "He leaned over to me and said, 'Isn't it great when God answers our prayers fast?'"

Through its Send Network website sendnetwork.com/pastor-appreciation, NAMB is providing churches with tools to honor their pastors in a similar manner for Pastor Appreciation Month in October. Brogden noted that while he appreciated the gift from NAMB, gifts from church members have provided special and unique boosts throughout the years. When he served as the pastor of a church in Tennessee about a year ago, the congregation held special dinners for him during October. Church members brought in thank-you cards that included gift cards.

"When you have someone handwrite a card -- it doesn't even need to have a gift card in it, but it's a hand-written card from his heart to yours, it just encourages you," Brogden said.

NAMB's website provides church members with an opportunity to purchase bed and breakfast stays for their pastor and his wife at 25 to 50 percent off the regular price. Churches will also find a "50 Ways to Honor Your Pastor" poster on the website. Church leaders can also introduce their pastors to two NAMB-sponsored smartphone apps designed to help them "refresh" their spiritual lives and their marriages.

Members of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, used NAMB's material last year to honor their pastor, Danny Forshee.

"Our deacon ministry emphasis is serving our church, supporting our pastor and bringing unity to the church body," Andy Spencer, chair of deacons at Great Hills, said. "During pastor appreciation, we as a deacon body collected money to send our pastor and his wife on a weekend away. We gave them the information on Christian Hospitality Network who offered a discount to pastors for pastor appreciation month."

But the deacons didn't let the appreciation end there. In August the church celebrated his 50th birthday by presenting him with 50 cards and 50 gifts and challenged members to perform 50 random acts of kindness in 50 days in his honor.

The purpose of the materials offered on the NAMB website is to help spur on similar efforts to develop a culture of appreciation in churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Often pastors feel like they're in a NASCAR race," Michael Lewis, NAMB's executive director for pastoral care and development, said. "It's hard to manage it all. You hit the gas and you just go, go, go."

On October 1, NAMB will launch a pastor care phone line in partnership with Focus on the Family. Struggling pastors who call the line will be offered resources and referrals to licensed counselors who can assist during times of crisis. NAMB notes that all calls are confidential. The phone number is 1-844-PASTOR1 or 1-844-727-8671 and can be reached weekdays between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern Time.

Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.
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