I came into ministry later in life, after over 20 years in the business world. Maybe that explains some of why I was surprised, when I entered the ministry, at how hard churches can be on a pastor. I never knew.
My church leadership blog has given me access into the lives of hundreds of young pastors, many of them in smaller churches where they are one of a few, if not the only, staff members. I don’t see this as much in larger churches where there are more staff members to spread the workload, but in some smaller churches, many times the pastor is drowning. His spouse is drowning. His family suffers. They can’t keep up with the demands of the church. I never knew.
Some churches expect the pastor to be at every hospital bed. They expect them to know and call when they are sick. They expect them to attend every Sunday school social and every picnic on the grounds. He is to officiate their wedding and then be the counselor when their marriage is suffering. He is to preach their funeral and visit their neighbor who isn’t going to church. He is supposed to recruit Sunday school teachers, manage a budget and be actively engaging the community through a healthy Tuesday night evangelism program. Then, they expect a well researched, well presented Sunday message, one in the morning and one at night, along with a passionate leading of the Wednesday night prayer meeting. One pastor told me recently he is allowed one Sunday off per year. I hesitated to do the math on the number of messages he is doing in a given year. Wow! I never knew.
Now some of that is exaggeration, but in some churches it is exactly the expectation. And, in principle, the activities may be different, but the level of activity is normal for many pastors, again, especially in smaller churches.
To be honest, I’m burdened for those pastors.
I learned when my boys were young and I was running a business, serving on the city council and on dozens of committees, that if I wanted to be successful as a husband, father, and business owner, I had to get better personally and privately, so I could achieve more publicly. It was then that running switched from being a fun pastime to a necessary part of my week. I needed and craved the downtime and the exercise. It was then that I had to get up early to make sure I had that days quiet time to fuel my soul. It was then that I became diligent in scheduling my week, so I didn’t miss family activities.
If I could give one piece of advice to pastors, ALL PASTORS, especially during Pastor Appreciation month, it would be that they take care of themselves personally, take care of their family, so they can meet the demands of their church. They may need to share this blog with some key leaders they trust in the church. They may want to have a hard conversation and establish some healthier boundaries with the church. Take some time and read Jethro’s advice to Moses. Read Acts 6.
I love you pastors. I want you around for a while. Take care of yourself. If needed, reach out to someone before you crash and burn. God called you to do His work, but the work He called you to do specifically, won’t be done (at least by you) if you aren’t here to do it.
Join the MinistryMatters.com “Why Ministers Matter” blog tour to read today’s leading pastors and authors share their stories of ministers who made a difference in their lives. Visit MinistryMatters.com/blogtour for a complete list of virtual tour stops and to link up your own post about a minister who mattered to you!
MinistryMatters.com “Why Ministers Matter” blog tour 10/1/2012 – 10/12/2012.