Soul Food: Clergy Appreciation Month—Gratitude for Callings

Soul Food: Clergy Appreciation Month—Gratitude for Callings

Siblings in Christ,

Consider the power of a life called by God. Such a life is to live by listening, a life of utter reliance on the one who sustains the calling, and a life that trusts God will equip what God calls. Whether a nurse or teacher or clergy person, a calling is lived in humble trust. We trust that God is enough, and we are enough to God. We are all called to the ministry of the baptized, to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Life is a process of discovery and trust that each day calls us forward and deeper into the ‘yes’ of Christ crucified.

I write to thank all of you who have offered the witness of your, ‘yes,’ to a calling. In this month of October when we celebrate clergy appreciation month, I want to speak my appreciation of you, clergy. Local Pastors, Deacons, Elders, retired clergy continuing to serve, and to you who may be spiritual leaders not yet with clergy credentials—but on the journey—thank you for your ministry!

I think of my life and consider not only my call, but my beloved spouse, Rev. Im. My brother, Rev Heekwon, saying yes to a clergy calling after teaching business with advanced degrees. Yesterday at the installation of Rev. Park Hunter in the North East District, we were blessed to see the callings of choir members, clergy couples and clergy spouses offering support, former superintendents and mentors. Wisconsin is blessed with gifted clergy leaders!

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. The Wisconsin Conference has 27 clergy serving in their retirement trying to navigate the pandemic and electronic forms of worship, some for the first time.

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.

  1. Pray for your clergy persons. Deeply, earnestly, and honestly pray for their ministry.
  2. Advocate for an increase in compensation and work to improve your congregation’s financial stewardship.
  3. Serve. Teach. Organize. Your service leads by example and blesses the body.
  4. Hold accountable gossip and complaining that does not address people directly.
  5. Visit someone who is grieving or sick or shut-in on behalf of the community of faith.
  6. Speak well of your pastor in the church and community.
  7. Share with your clergy something specific that you appreciated about her or his ministry.
  8. Attend classes that your clergy person offers. Support them with your presence.
  9. Help others in your congregation respect the clergyperson’s Sabbath day.
  10. 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 voice that may be calling you. 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


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).