How to Plan Programs for Pastor Anniversary

A pastor anniversary program can go a long way toward increasing pastoral longevity. That's important because ministry is one of the most stressful jobs in America, with a high burnout rate. Stress factors might include 2 a.m. suicide calls, regular conflict with church leadership, congregational criticism and writing the page equivalent of three novels a year at the pulpit..

Anniversary celebrations show the congregation's appreciation for the pastor's spiritual guidance over the past year. Church management needs to think through how to provide an upbeat experience that includes words, memories, gifts and financial gestures of gratitude.

Form a temporary task force to plan the celebration. Don't place all of the burden on pastoral staff or administrative help. Include the congregation to give members ownership of the celebration and spark their creativity.

Work with your committee to brainstorm ideas for the event. Consider multiple expressions, such as a video collage of thank-yous, a massive signed card, a weekend getaway, or tickets to a sporting event or concert.

Create a video interview for your pastor. Hire a videographer to interview your pastor and capture memories, jokes and ridiculous moments. Include testimonies of changed lives. Play the video during the service and give the DVD to the pastor.

Have an elegant office decoration made. Ask family members ahead of time before buying the piece. You don't want to give your pastor something she feels is tacky or obnoxious, after all.

Match the scope of the pastor anniversary program to the number of years served. If your pastor has been on the job for one year, a 20-minute program would be a little out of balance. If your pastor has served for 30 years in one congregation, even 20 minutes would seem small. Generally, multiply years of service by two minutes to determine how long to make the program.

Come up with a reasonable budget for the celebration. As a rule of thumb, multiply years of service by $500 to come up with an appropriate financial gift if that is all that is being done. This can be reduced if other gifts are given.