Sunday,  January 14th is Clergy Appreciation Day, so I wanted to take this opportunity to honor religious leaders from all faiths who work harder than we will ever know in order to be the hands and feet of the Divine for us.

I’m a graduate student in seminary, which means I’m training to become a Christian leader. I am not headed for the pastorate (to pediatric hospital chaplaincy I go!), but I intern with pastors, have the privilege of multiple pastors who have made multiple churches feel like home for me over time, and spend time with many friends and fellow students who are future pastors. I have seen firsthand just how hard religious leaders work for their people. I have had the joy of working with them, being served by them, learning from them about their faiths and my own, and praying for them.

Here’s to these folks who work far more than 40 hours a week if they’re full-time and far more than 20 hours a week if they’re part-time, have an identity as a leader wherever (and whenever) they are in their area, are with their people at their best and worst and all the ordinary moments in between, constantly learn more in order to serve their people and areas better and try to speak words of love and justice in troubled times, and work in a profession that can be surprisingly lonely for them at times.

If you attend a house of worship, I encourage you to consider what you might do sometime to show your leaders that you see and honor their hard work. I asked my colleagues in various ministry groups what their people have done to show them that they care, see, and appreciate them. Friends, here’s what we can do for our wonderful leaders.

  1. Make them feel known, specifically, whether it’s through giving small gifts that reminded us of them or remembering what they’ve told us about them in past conversations
  2. Make them feel remembered in prayer during times of trouble
  3. Pray for them regularly, even just in the normal ebbs and flows of life
  4. Be generous with the number of days off we provide them with, as well as understand and send them off with blessings for family situations that are emergencies or times of joyous milestones
  5. Encourage them to take care of themselves
  6. Understand that they are human beings like the rest of us
  7. Give them loving, helpful, and specific feedback, not just our hopes for improvement (because we’d all be surprised by the number and pettiness of things that are sometimes complained about)
  8. Help out with the less crucial tasks so they have time for the most crucial ones
  9. Bring or make them their favorite beverage or food that fits their dietary restrictions
  10. Give them handwritten cards
  11. Give them hugs, if they’re comfortable with that
  12. Show them that we remember their past teachings
  13. Do our best to keep people from calling them while they’re away
  14. Notice their absence and say that they are missed
  15. Decorate while they’re away and surprise them when they’re back
  16. Make a donation in honor of them to a cause that they find important
  17. Ask them how they’re doing and wait for a full, honest answer (because chances are they won’t want to burden you with anything, but we all need a listening ear and they often are ours!)
  18. Give them a gift in the form of something we’re talented at, whether it’s house repairs or baked goods or childcare so they can have a night out
  19. Invite them to do something fun and relaxing with us
  20. Tell them how their children are doing in groups we help run
  21. Crowdfund in an emergency or for a special gift for them
  22. Stop by briefly (since it’s such an extroverted job) to give them love and then leave
  23. Understand that holidays are wildly busy times and not ask for non-urgent favors from them
  24. Visit them in the hospital and help them and their family in times of need

It doesn’t have to be anything big, just a moment of love in troubled times for the people who try to make life less troubling for others. Take the time to love your leaders. They love you more than you’ll ever know.

Emmie Arnold

Emmie Arnold (she/her/hers) is a hospital chaplain in New York; a Reverend in the PC(USA); avid cook; traveler (on hiatus); friend and family member to many; writer; and musician.


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