October is National Clergy Appreciation Month
Siblings in Christ,
We know that God was in Christ, reconciling the world, and that relationship is the essence of transformation. We are changed by offering gifts in ways that serve each other. I am grateful for the gifted laity who lead and serve, and the dance of shared mission we discover when we deploy gifts in relationship with communities.
I write to thank you, clergy. Local Pastors, Deacons, Elders, and to you who may be spiritual leaders not yet with clergy credentials—but on the journey—thank you for your ministry!
God creates by speaking a new reality into being. God said, ‘let there be light,’ and there was light. Clergy, our words articulate God’s newness in creation. We reset blessing in creation when we pronounce a benediction and say, ‘may the Lord bless you and keep you.’ We re-establish God’s newness when we say, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven.’ We pronounce something irrevocable when you, say, ‘I baptize you…’ These are not just words, but language that paints God’s possibilities over the worn-through grain of the world. The church is a language community establishing God’s relentless solidarity and interdependent good in a world that asserts self-interest as the way of the world. October is clergy appreciation month. I hope, Siblings in Christ, you will join me in offering signs of genuine appreciation and thanksgiving to clergy.
I want you to know that clergy are paying the price of a politicized pandemic. They are exposing themselves to the harm of those who refuse to mask for their neighbor. They are trying to raise the level of maturity in Christian community so that Christ would be made known in our witness. They proclaim the Oneness of Christ in a world where powerful forces seek to divide us.
According to the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, nationally, young elders, those age 35 or younger, declined again in 2021 to 721--lower than the previous low of 852.There is a decline of young deacons since 2019 by 23%. 38% of Wisconsin clergy appointed to churches have been in their appointment three years or less—and they are trying to build pastoral relationships across a pandemic and via electronic means of communication.
Our clergy recruitment is international, bringing highly educated and gifted candidates from around the planet to serve and supply congregations in Wisconsin, and we know cross-cultural and cross-racial appointments clearly express the oneness of Christ. That said, they require deep commitment from both laity and clergy for us to make world-transforming disciples of Jesus. Every pastor and every congregation have a cultural heritage. Where deep sharing takes place the governance of God’s Spirit is made known. Thank you for choosing to make Christ known.
Ministry has always been hard enough to require both lay and clergy to rely on God and disorienting enough for us to take God’s hand whenever it comes. I offer ten concrete ways to show appreciation for your clergy person.
- Pray for your clergy persons. Deeply, earnestly, and honestly pray for their ministry.
- Advocate for an increase in compensation and work to improve your congregation’s financial stewardship.
- Serve. Teach. Organize. Your service leads by example and blesses the body.
- Hold accountable gossip and complaining that does not address people directly.
- Visit someone who is grieving or sick or shut-in on behalf of the community of faith.
- Speak well of your pastor in the church and community.
- Reflect back to your clergy something specific that you appreciated about her or his ministry.
- Attend classes that your clergy person offers. Support them with your presence.
- Help others in your congregation respect the clergyperson’s Sabbath day.
- Make sure your clergy person takes regular times of vacation and gets away for continuing education.
Siblings, what you pay attention to grows. Pay attention to stewardship or mission or service—and they grow. Pay attention to the office of pastor or deacon and its value and impact will only increase—as will the people in that office. Thank you, each of you, for your ministry.
Know that I am praying for you.
In the hope that Christ offers us,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).