When people look at their pastor or minister what do they see? A spiritual giant? A servant of the congregation? Or just someone who works a day and a half a week?

The truth is that clergy are real people with real families, dreams, needs, desires and gifts. Like all of us, they shine best in situations where they are appreciated and supported.

Consider these 11 ideas for saying thanks.

1. Write a note of appreciation.

Mention specific things for which you are grateful to your church leaders. A positive communication is bound to stand out amid all the negative feedback that pastors deal with constantly.

2. Pray for your pastor regularly.

Pick a day of the week to lift up your leadership in prayer. Say a special prayer for each worship service. Ask God to protect and bless your pastor.

3. Stop the rumor mill.

Refuse to gossip. Say something positive or don't say anything at all. Get the facts straight before spreading any news. And try to give your pastor the benefit of the doubt, trusting in his or her positive intentions.

4. Invite the pastor out to lunch, a round of golf or for some other shared interest, without an agenda.

Spending time with a church leader is a gift that shows you really care—enough to be a friend.

5. Offer to babysit their kids so the pastor and spouse can have an evening out together.

An even better idea may be to also offer them a gift certificate to a restaurant they enjoy. Take tangible steps to support your pastor's family relationships.

6. Honor the pastor's day off.

Allow your pastor time for rest, personal renewal and family. It's easy for weekday workers to forget that weekends are busy times for pastors.

7. In times of loss, offer sympathy, care and practical help.

Being there just to say you are sorry can ease the pain of grief or illness. Beyond that, offering food, groceries, restaurant certificates or other practical help is invaluable to a hurting pastor.

8. Consider your pastor at holidays and other family days.

If your pastor or other church leaders are far from family, invite them to your celebration—no strings attached.

9. Ask your pastor how you can help and then follow through.

Lifting some of the leadership burden from the shoulders of your pastor will be a welcome relief throughout the year.

10. Tell your pastor what you've learned from the sermon.

Rather than generic praise or disapproval of a particular message, try to be specific with an analogy you liked, a story that "spoke" to you or how you received new enlightenment on a particular passage of Scripture.

11. Consider a sabbatical time for your pastor and find a way to provide one.

The stress of serving in the pastorate can be offset by some serious time away. Find out about short-term retreats or longer-term sabbaticals. Then offer your pastor some time away from church.

Pastors Retreat Network provides pastors and their spouses with a five-day, self-directed retreat experience that is free of charge. It is a time to rest, spiritually renew and reconnect with God and spouse. If you'd like more information about Pastors Retreat Network, please visit www.pastorsretreatnetwork.org.

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