Although calendars show Teacher Appreciation Week, National Police Week, and even Truck Driver Appreciation Week, those hardworking clergy haven’t quite had their day in the sun — until now.

October has emerged as Clergy Appreciation Month, a little-known recognition that is picking up steam. There are 24 Hallmark cards saying thanks, websites offering gift ideas (neckties out, gift cards in) and Christian radio spots offering listeners a chance to nominate their pastors.

The Rev. Karen Greimel was an unexpected recipient of the honor this month. She was out of town when she started receiving congratulatory messages.

Turns out someone nominated her for recognition through a program of the Christian radio station KTIS in Arden Hills. Greimel won a gift certificate, but still doesn’t know who nominated her.

“I wasn’t familiar with the month … but I love it,” said Greimel, of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove.

“Pastors sacrifice so much that people don’t realize. There’s calls in the middle of the night. Calls to accident scenes. Driving people to the hospital. … So much is going on behind the scenes.”

Beyond clergy month, there’s also a specific Clergy Appreciation Day, the second Sunday in October.

The idea has been promoted by the evangelical group Focus on the Family for about 20 years, its website says. But it hasn’t been on the radar of the broader religious community until more recently.

“I’ve known about it about three years, and am seeing it pop up a bit more in my Facebook feed,” said the Rev. Jerad Morey, communications director of the Minnesota Council of Churches. “But within most churches, it’s not something that well known.”

Morey thinks clergy already feel appreciated. He points to a 2007 survey by the University of Chicago that found 87 percent of clergy were “very satisfied” with their work — the highest ranking among jobs on the survey.

However, other studies show the job brings significant stress, he said, and health problems such as high blood pressure and depression.

Minnesota Lutherans haven’t really latched on to Clergy Day, said Bob Hulteen, communications director for the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In fact, this month his synod held its own Recognition Day — but it was for administrators, custodians and other workers who keep churches humming, he said.

But for those interested, the website Thriving Pastor offers a downloadable guide for how to mark the occasion. Its advice includes: “A simple card, an invitation to lunch, a promise to pray for them or an offer to babysit, wash a car or mow a lawn make wonderful statements.’’

LifeWay Christian Resources online suggests saying thanks by praying for pastors, sending thank you notes and volunteering. It also sells gifts including a “Man of God Oval Glass Paperweight” and a “Faithful Servant Desk Box.”

“Don’t give your pastor a Bible,” advises another website, as he or she already has plenty.

Morey says most faithful don’t wait for a special month.

“Someone just volunteered to till my garden at the parsonage,” said Morey, pastor at Northfield United Methodist Church. “It’s because they appreciate me, not because it’s clergy month.”

 

Jean Hopfensperger 612-673-4511