One October the congregation to which I was appointed began a conspiracy.
I am not sure how it got started. I just knew I was at the center of it. Every day something mysteriously showed up at my desk. Flowers, chocolate, a small gift, a personal note of thanks. Every day. For no apparent reason.
I couldn’t imagine what I had done to deserve this. I was used to occasional notes of thanks after particularly meaningful moments of ministry, but nothing was coming to mind that would cause such a response.
Finally, while listening to some music on a Christian radio station, I figured out what was happening. The announcer mentioned that October was Pastor Appreciation Month. The light bulb came on for me. The people of my congregation had entered into a conspiracy of kindness toward me, their pastor, and I was surprised and delighted.
Cementing love and trust
Looking back on that experience, I see now how it cemented the love and trust the congregation and I had for each other. We were by no means perfect and we had our difficult moments. But we did have a deep sense that we wanted the best for each other and we were thankful to be on the journey together. Their thoughtfulness and care stirred in me an even deeper desire to be the best pastor I could be as I sought to love and lead them as a congregation.
It is a tough world out there. I rarely meet someone who is not at least a little bit weary and worn down by the stresses and anxieties of life. We are all working harder and harder and in this economy, often for fewer immediate rewards.
Clergy are no exception. These are challenging times for the church and clergy face more demands on their role as spiritual leaders. They knew that when they signed up—and no, they didn’t go into this work for the money. They answered God’s call because they wanted to make a difference. They want to help people discover a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ and become disciples of Christ who make a difference in the world. What really makes a clergyperson’s day is when someone writes his pastor a letter or tells her how this church and ministry is helping him become the person God intends him to be.
I have two boxes. One is a large memory box I received from that church that performed the conspiracy of kindness. In it I keep all sorts of cards and notes I have received over the years. These are the rewards that matter most to me in ministry.
I have a smaller box. It is my joy box. Whenever I am having a bad day, wondering why I am doing what I am doing, I pull out that box and read a few cherished notes of how I made a difference in someone’s life. They keep me going.
This month, I invite you to start your own conspiracy of kindness. Write a note to your pastor. Take him out for coffee. Bring her some chocolate. Let her know how glad you are she answered God’s call. Tell him you are praying for him and for God to use him to bless people and lead your church into the future God has for you. Share a story of how she helped you in your relationship with God.
It is such a simple thing, but it will make a huge difference not only to your pastor, but to your life together as a congregation. Trust me on this—I have firsthand experience.
Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church