October is Church Worker Appreciation month. I know many congregations throughout the world have been showing their pastors, deaconesses, DCEs, musicians, and other church workers much appreciation this month through gifts, prayers, encouraging words, and much more. As this month comes to a close, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at a few examples in the Scriptures where God’s prophets and apostles, and Jesus Himself, receive appreciation or a lack of appreciation. Perhaps as we follow them in service to God and neighbor, we can learn something from these examples.
Moses has plenty of struggles with being appreciated by those God called him to lead. When Moses returns to Egypt in Exodus 4, he gathers the elders of Israel together. Aaron proclaims what the Lord has spoken, and Moses performs miraculous signs before the people. This is the response: “And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31). Moses’ ministry begins with some appreciation. But in the next chapter, the lack of appreciation comes through.
Pharaoh refuses to let the people of Israel go and burdens the Israelites by forcing them to continue making bricks. But now Pharaoh will not provide straw—one necessary material to make bricks. The people say to Moses, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (Exodus 5:21).
Moses’ response is to turn to the Lord and ask, “O Lord, why have You done evil to this people? Why did You ever send me?” (Exodus 5:22).
One of the things that delight church workers is when God’s people believe God’s Word and worship Him. One of the things that hurt church workers is when they believe their actions have caused God’s people pain.
Moses has a long tenure leading God’s people. There is a lot of grumbling from the people of Israel about food and water and many other things. And there is a lot of grumbling from Moses, often about the people he is leading.
But there is also a lot of joy between Moses and Israel. The Israelites give so generously to the construction of the tabernacle that they have to be “restrained” from giving (Exodus 36:1–7). And when Moses dies in Moab without entering the Promised Land, the people weep for thirty days (Deuteronomy 34:1–8).
Through the struggle between Moses and the people, we see that there is great love between them, even when there is great struggle and grumbling. This persevering love often exists between church workers and congregations.
The way that Paul begins and ends his letters tends to reveal his relationship with the congregation. Consider the difference between Galatians and Philippians. After a brief introduction noting who the letter is from and to, Paul says this to the Galatians: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6).
Whereas Paul says this to the Philippian church: “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:7-9).
Paul is devastated when the Galatian churches he and Barnabas planted in Acts 13–14 desert the Gospel. However, Paul is warmed with affection for the Philippian Church, which has become partners with him in sharing the Gospel.
Church workers feel the same way when their people desert the Gospel. They are devastated, heartbroken. And church workers feel the same way when their people partner with them in the Gospel. They are overjoyed. Both emotions come from a sense of love and care for God and His people.
One of many people’s favorite stories about Jesus is when people are bringing children to Jesus so that He might pray for them. The disciples rebuke the people, but Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
Consider how this might apply in today’s world with church workers and their congregations. The disciples seem to be acting out of respect for Jesus. It’s almost like they’re saying “Don’t bother Jesus! He’s got more important things to do!”
Church workers are often the last to hear about an illness, injury, surgery, or crisis in a congregation. The frequent refrain behind this is, “I know you are busy. I didn’t want to bother you.”
Church workers do tend to be busy. There is no shortage of tasks to do and relationships to build. But if our busyness leads people to think they cannot approach us, that is not a good thing.
Jesus does not want anyone to think they are not able to come to Him. He seeks to minister to the overlooked and the marginalized so frequently. In the first century, children were certainly overlooked.
Church workers are not perfect like Jesus is. We can show emotions of frustration, and we may feel unnecessarily bothered by many situations. But some of the most endearing ways to show appreciation to a church worker is to bother them, share who you are and how you are with honesty, and entrust them to care for you in life’s joys and challenges.
So if you are a church worker, I hope you see that you are appreciated and that your labor is not in vain. And if you are not a church worker, I hope you are surrounded by church workers who love God and love your congregation. And I hope that you can show them love and appreciation.
Equip yourself with tools to help the Church today with Holding Up the Prophet’s Hand: Supporting Church Workers.