The Gospel Coalition

As a pastor who often hears other ministers teach and preach, I am disturbed by the number of times pastors allude to their jobs as being particularly difficult. Yes, we face many challenges—ministry may involve times of high emotional and spiritual duress—but I don't think these difficulties merit special recognition with regard to other vocations. After all, being a pastor involves almost no manual labor, which makes it physically easier than most other occupations in history. It doesn't require a 60- to 80-hour work week, unless you somehow equate longer working hours with more of the Holy Spirit's presence. And although the emotional and spiritual challenges faced are difficult, teachers and social workers—to take just two examples—face similar or greater obstacles.

priest_collarIn many ways this issue reflects a broader trend in how Americans approach their vocations. We generally derive our value from what we do rather than who we are, so those who do more are more important than those who do less. To prove your worth in society, you must continually boast about the difficulty of your vocation. For pastors in America this trend is particularly ironic given the relative ease of the job compared to other parts of the world. I recently had dinner with one of our bishops from northern Nigeria who stated that the work of a pastor is hard, then proceeded to instruct us on how to minister to members whose churches had just been burned, and how to pray when you're about to be executed.

I do not intend to denigrate the work of ministers, nor to whitewash over the real hardships faced by ministers. Ministry often requires you to get involved in the messiness and brokenness of life, and to labor in such situations in relative obscurity. However, I want to caution against such an overabundance of vocational teeth-gnashing, as it can create specific problems for local congregations.

First, it can help build a mystique around the pastoral office, erecting a barrier between clergy and laity. Laity grow up learning about the pastor's difficulties and begin to believe that pastoral duties can only be performed by such highly trained and skilled artisans. This can work in a mutually reinforcing downward spiral. Laity do not think they can teach, preach, disciple, and counsel others, so they place all of this burden on the pastor, who then complains about the difficult job of masterfully performing each of these duties. One of the primary duties of a pastor is to help release gifts in the laity for building up the entire body of Christ. To do so a pastor must model various duties with simplicity.

Second, pastors need to be mindful of what they are implying about the men and women they serve when they complain about their jobs. No one appreciates feeling like a burden to others. So pastors who appear exhausted by their job may find a congregation less and less willing to bring forward valid cares and concerns.

Third, pastors who continually complain about the difficulty of their job set poor examples for how Christians ought to approach work as a whole. Vocational crises often result from a faulty theology of work. We elevate the quest to discover the perfectly fulfilling career above all other purposes of labor, such as fulfilling duty to family or accumulating resources to help expand Christ's kingdom. Pastors who portray only the hardships of their jobs may tend to mirror or enhance the vocational anxiety in their parishioners.

The apostle Paul explains to Timothy that those who aspire to become overseers desire a noble task. May we as pastors handle this vocation with the upmost nobility, working hard in our daily tasks while modeling with dutiful and joyful obedience to the Lord the simplicity of the pastoral life.


Comments:

Flotsam and jetsam (11/22) | Everyday Theology

November 26, 2013 at 12:33 PM

[…] Is It Actually Hard to Be a Pastor? As a pastor who often hears other ministers teach and preach, I am disturbed by the number of times pastors allude to their jobs as being particularly difficult. Yes, we face many challenges—ministry may involve times of high emotional and spiritual duress—but I don’t think these difficulties merit special recognition with regard to other vocations. (Gospel Coalition) […]

[…] And Mike Niebauer at the Gospel Coalition opines in this post: […]

JF

November 25, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Interesting... my wife is a teacher in a suburban area, with scheduled hours of about 36, but never spends less than 45 hours per week at school. This doesn't take into account the hours she spends working/planning/communicating with parents and staff that brings her total up to around 55-60 hrs most weeks. This is the norm for her and most of her co-workers.

Able Baker

November 25, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Yeah I like the word whining. Everyone wants a trophy pastor who never whines I'm sure. But ALL pastors are human, normal people. TRYING to be mature like everyone else. At my best I "vent" at my worst I "whine".

Able Baker

November 25, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Sorry that you have had such a bad encounter with a lazy, introverted, complaining pastor. Not all story's are the same though. And not everything is what it seems. It is a labor though to be a pastor. Just because a person cannot see his work does not mean that he is not valuable and working.

1 Timothy 5:17–18 (ESV)
17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who LABOR in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”


Labor: ??????a; ?????a, ?? m: to engage in hard work, implying difficulties and trouble—‘hard work, toil, to work hard, to toil, to labor.’ ??????a : ?? ???? ?????? ??????????? ????? ???????? ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing’ Lk 5:5.

DC

November 25, 2013 at 10:28 AM

I think "venting" is a much better word than "whine." Whining is immature and ego-centric and merely wants to draw attention. Venting (sometimes) represents the fact that you have struggles and want to work through them and figure them out, but you are so frustrated you just want someone to listen. I for one don't want a pastor who wants to draw attention to himself and cries like a baby when he gets hurt until momma comes and kisses his booboo. I'd rather have a pastor who yes gets frustrated, irritated, and upset at things but works it out and talks it out and figures it out without merely trying to draw attention to his miseries. There is a BIG difference originating in the heart between whining and venting. And you know what? You're right - we are all human, and there will probably be points when we take a fetal position and just cry. I think sometimes people do have to get backed into a corner - it increases their faith as they diminish. From experience, I know there is something rejuvenating about buckling and crying and "giving up" (loosely stated). But if we are consistently "whining" and crying about all our problems, I think we should reconsider our dedication to God and consider the possibility that we're actually more dedicated to this world and our desires.

Andrew

November 25, 2013 at 09:09 AM

1. If this is really that prideful sounding to you, you should probably re-think complaining/describing your load in a public forum. All complaining is, fundamentally, prideful. "Look at my life, it is harder than yours."

2. I am very aware that pastors are human. Pastors need to remember that fact and act human.

3. Everyone should have some people to complain to. You are setting the mood for your church - don't do it from the pulpit. And I have had the unfortunate reality of a lazy pastor, so

4. Everyone has a hard time getting over their own burdens. Seriously. If you are really that offended by a stranger telling you to "get over yourself" on the internet, well, rethink your fundamental position. Getting over ourselves and on with Christ is pretty fundamental to what we're about.

5. Sometimes I think that claiming to be an introvert is really just a way of saying "I don't like people very much." Do extroverts complain about normal human relationships as much as introverts?

6 & 7 - Both true.

I was harsh in my post, but honest. You have people in your congregation who are bearing difficult burdens, who are serving in your church, who are giving their money and time (mostly) without complaint. By elevating your burden in a public setting, you are (unintentionally, probably) diminishing other people's burdens.

One of our main callings as Christians is to bear the burdens of each other, and build each other up. All Church leaders (paid or unpaid) need to share in that burden. I don't doubt that the person who bears the title of Pastor bears a special burden, and so do all of your co-laborers.

Today in Blogworld 11.25.13 - Borrowed Light

November 25, 2013 at 08:49 AM

[…] Is it Actually Hard to Be a Pastor? […]

Double Take (11-24-2013) | A Second Touch

November 24, 2013 at 03:04 PM

[…] Is It Actually Hard to Be a Pastor?:  “As a pastor who often hears other ministers teach and preach, I am disturbed by the number of times pastors allude to their jobs as being particularly difficult.” […]

Able Baker

November 23, 2013 at 11:53 AM

1. This must be satire because it is so prideful sounding.
2. Pastors are humans.
3. Pastors should be allowed to whine and complain. Because they are human.
4. If you Andrew are allowed to complain, whine and obviously have a hard time getting over yourself... so should we.
5. Some pastors have hard jobs, some pastors have easy jobs. Some pastors are ill equipped and as a result overwhelmed. Some pastors (like me) are introverts and most churches are geared for an extrovert.
6. Much of the pastoral stress is relative and cannot be broad brush-stroked.
7. Pastor unless they are sociopaths have feelings and emotions.

Able Baker

November 23, 2013 at 11:07 PM

Thanks Brad.

Able Baker

November 23, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Great article with some absurd comments. Wow?
I remember lacing my boots up for the last time as a crane operator. Within a week I was going to be the solo pastor of a rural church in Oregon. I thought I had it all figured out. Within a month I was calling my former senor pastor apologizing to him for how much I took what he did for granted. To any tired and overwhelmed small church solo pastors out there reading these comments don't take what some of these ignorant people are saying for a grain of salt they just have no idea. Be encouraged and if you need to whine a little because that's about 90% of what you hear all day (think Moses and the children of Israel) remember it's OK to be human and whine sometimes. If you don't you are probably a sociopath. I hope you find someone in you ministry who will listen to you vent. If you need a person to pray for you let me know. I understand.

Chad Martens

November 23, 2013 at 10:44 AM

The average length of a teaching career is 7 years. I think we would be able to find many similarities between teaching and pastoring. I have seen many fellow teachers quit after having to deal with students and their parents.

Daryl Little

November 23, 2013 at 10:36 PM

A thought that occurs to me related to many of the comments here. If you add the volunteer time that a committed member of a church puts in, are we really to believe that those hours plus their regular 40 plus hour work week, add up to so much less than what a pastor does?

I seriously doubt it.

We're all in this together, are we not?

Daryl Little

November 23, 2013 at 10:33 PM

Katy,

As a regular guy who is simply a member of a local church and who works at his own business...my wife and I have been kept awake at night worrying and talking and praying with and talking with friends in exactly those circumstances.

I thought that was just life.

And to Ian, this one phrase " with little or no recognition"...you mean like all the rest of us?

Since when did recognition play into anything other than our own selfishness?

Gene

November 23, 2013 at 10:29 PM

..............and BTW, I'm also involved in volunteering wit our community committee helping to meet the needs of those individuals as well........... (not bragging, just proving I'm not sitting around in an easy life)..

Gene

November 23, 2013 at 10:19 PM

I don't even know how to respond to your article. I pastor a very small church, and meet the needs of many older members. Because the church is small I work a part time job 30 hours a week to supplement our income. Because we have many older members the majority of ALL the 'manual' labor at the church falls on my shoulders. I do all the maint. and repairs, I do the majority of all the landscaping etc..... Maybe one day I learn what a life of ease the pastorate is. By the way, I love the pastorate, love ministering to our folk, and realize all I do is for the benefit of this ministry. This is what God has called me to do in this present time.... AND because of our elderly membership, you can find me many times at the homes of our membership assisting them with some of that "manual" labor, you say most pastors don't have to engage in.

Kyle

November 23, 2013 at 10:07 AM

This article simply doesn't present its case from the Bible. Why, in rehearsing the difficulties and burdens of the pastoral ministry, does it necessarily become "complaining." In his most pastoral book, 2 Corinthians, Paul doesn't shy away from insisting on the burdens he felt as a pastor, from his physical afflictions, to his loneliness, to his ministry objectives, and even to the weightiness of carrying the church on his shoulders, as it were. Was he complaining? No. He was identifying, hoping, and exalting in the glory of Jesus Christ.
Cheers!

Brad

November 23, 2013 at 08:52 AM

I have been in management with a top 5 national retailer, a financial advisor (series 7, 63, and LAH Ins. licenses), and a High School Teacher / Dept. Chair. I am currently a pastor (12 years). If it's not hard, you're not doing it right. It's only easy if you don't take the teaching / preaching of God's Word seriously, are disconnected from your people, outsource counseling you should be doing, and don't care about the toll all those things take on your family. I am in awe of the fire / police personnel we have in our church. I am in awe of the factory workers who work constantly and all night. I am in awe of our medical people who do a job I could never do.

But please don't minimize the toll of the glorious call of the pastor. This article has given many people ammunition to make the work even harder.

Again: If it's not hard, you're not doing it right.

Kate

November 23, 2013 at 08:48 AM

I think a lot of pastors have to count at least some committee meetings as work because they attend so many of them in total. The average church member (at our church) would only have one or two meetings a week, whereas the pastor would have a lot more than this. In addition, the pastor is often the one chairing the meeting and this tends to involve giving a lot more both before and during the meeting than the others who attend.

My experience is that church members often take their time off as their right, but often don't seem to think that the pastor needs any time off. Sometimes pastors need to explain that they won't be able to do something on a particular day because it is their day off and they have biblical responsibilities to their wife and children, as do other members of church.

John

November 23, 2013 at 08:42 AM

Andrew and Josh,

If pastors need to get over themselves (which I agree with) then you two need to stop being full of yourselves.

If you really think that there is no absolute distinction with what ministers do and what the laity do then you really have no understanding to the nature of the pastoral ministry and the unique challenges they carry. Let me give you a few examples

1. Financial: Even though pastors have as much professional education as attorney's, physicians and engineers, their financial compensation by comparison to those other professions are very low. Most pastors don't go into ministry for the money but it's because of the money issue that many pastors have to leave the ministry. I imagine that as attorneys you guys do not worry about paying the rent, feeding and clothing the children and go on the occasional vacation. If I'm assuming too much here please forgive me but one thing I know I am not assuming is that in general most pastors will be lucky to get even a 2 week vacation let alone time to do further study for the ministry.

2. Spiritual: I'm sorry guys, but just because you take on your fair share of the ministry doesn't mean you are held to the same level of accountability to God as the pastor does in his ministry. You may share the pastor's responsibility of ministering the body of Christ but you do NOT share the pastors accountability to God in his ministry to the body of Christ. This is why James says that not every one should seek to be a teacher since God will hold them up to a much a higher standard. And the author of Hebrews says that it will be ministers, not lay folk for every soul that they were responsible for. I have yet to see a person leave the church or leave the faith because the small group leader or the worship leader screwed up. I have seen countless of people fall away and live in bitterness and cynicism toward God and HIs people because of the foolish actions of a pastor. If you guys really think that you have that same level of accountability then it is you that need to get over yourselves.

3. Personal: The fact is a pastor's personal life is under a high level of scrutiny by both the culture and the members of the church that most lay people do not even fathom. I doubt Andrew and Josh that your clients and partners scrutinize your wife or your children to where it would actually threaten your job. They could probably care less. But the fact is pastors carry the extra burden of having not only himself but his whole family under the microscope. Your kids probably will never feel the burden of having to be a certain way so daddy doesn't lose his job. Pastors and their family are constantly living in a fishbowl that other occupations simply do not have to worry about.

4, Professional: In our day of overspecialization, the pastor's ministry is still an occupation of the generalist. Most pastors in American have to take on the duties of preaching/training, administration, worship leading, counseling, crises management, staff management, janitorial duties, visitations, weddings, funerals, graduations, baptism that make it one of the most over-saturated job descriptions there is. Most law firms, hospitals, corporations, can afford to hire additional staff that can specialize in those different tasks. But that is simply not an option for most churches in America.

Put all this together and it's pretty clear that pastors carry a unique burden (I didn't say greater burden) that the laity simply do not have to worry about.

Kate

November 23, 2013 at 08:38 AM

The pastor at our church spends a lot of time encouraging, training and equipping others to do the work of ministry. It is really encouraging to see Christians grow and become more committed to others at times. Sadly, there are a fair number who seem to think that the pastor should do it all. They do not want to be equipped and it does not seem to be possible to find an area that they are willing to serve in. Additionally, the pastor spends a lot of time running round picking up the pieces when members of church let their commitments fall by the wayside for the flimsiest of excuses. I think this is part of the reason our pastor gets tired and it does not reflect well on church members.

Kate

November 23, 2013 at 08:30 AM

I think the "get over yourselves" comment was very unkind (I'm surprised it was allowed by the moderators) and I do not think that it is an attitude to be emulated. It does not seem to be the sort of attitude to pastors that the Bible commends.

Kate

November 23, 2013 at 08:24 AM

Of course pastors should not whine and complain about their job from the pulpit, but they should be able to speak to mature, trustworthy Christians when things are difficult, without fear of being treated unsympathetically.

I think your comment "Get over yourselves" is very unkind. It concerns me that you are involved in Christian leadership if this is typical of how you relate to others.

David B

November 23, 2013 at 07:19 AM

As a fellow pastor, this article was so helpful to me I've considered framing it! For years I've vented about my vocation. While there are challenges to the ministry, this piece puts it in perspective, and describes how my negative attitude can hurt others. Thank you for writing and for sharing.

Char

November 23, 2013 at 05:35 PM

This reminded me of the line forum Son House's Preachin the Blues: "I'm gonna be a Baptist preacher, so I won't have to work".

He referred of course to the back breaking manual labour most southern African Americans toiled at. It does go to show it's all about perspective. If your alternatives are seen as easier, it isn't hard to be discontented. But if it's the brutal and difficult life of a laborer, suddenly being a pastor seems like the sweetest gig possible.

David

November 23, 2013 at 01:36 AM

I'm going to throw this into the mix: One of the most challenging elements of being a pastor is that no matter how underpaid, overworked, overstressed, criticized, (and so on), that you are unless the Lord calls you elsewhere you stick it out - you are a shepherd, not a hired hand.

If I was an attorney, or a construction worker, or a banker, or... you name it, under the same pressure to toss the towel in, the call to remain a shepherd to a specific people, in a specific place, does not apply.

I could find a new employer, move to a cheaper state, switch career paths, etc. Yes, there are challenges there, but it is different from the pastor. As long as they are called they cannot move. The ones that can most identify with this are stay-at-home moms, I'm sure - they don't even get vacation time.

EMBG

November 22, 2013 at 12:45 PM

I'm saying that comparing burdens is often not helpful. But that believers in other vocations can understand certain aspects of the pastor's challenges and some non-pastors can help bear the pastor's burdens and encourage him in his calling, John.

I'm saying that neither non-pastors nor pastor's should assume that "no one understands the burdens I bear"... Not only does Jesus understands but he calls us to understand and help one another.

Clarice

November 22, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Ultimately, I think the title of this piece is deceiving. It suggests that the author is going to explain why a pastor's job isn't hard...and that's not at all what he does. I found this very helpful for what it SAYS, not what it doesn't say. I feel many of the comments miss his point here and attack him for saying something he didn't say. It's so often that folks read an article that wasn't written and then critique it as an article it isn't.

He is starting with a premise that some pastors complain about their laborious ministry. This is demonstrably true. He then explains the effects of such complaining on the congregation (and the pastor himself, as it turns out). These are also legit I think.

John

November 22, 2013 at 09:07 AM

This post is helpful, in fact it may cause problems.

This is not the best article because it encourages church members to fall further into fault finding in the pastor. That is already happening at a maximum for some brothers who are in difficult places.

I can't tell you how many pastors miss the 8 to 5 work day because they could leave their work at work.

Pastors indeed should not fall into self pity, that is prideful. However, the pastor's work done faithfully will lead to some of the most intense strain on him and his family. The loneliness, the betrayal, the personal attacks, etc.; make many a pastor resign and say to heck with this strain... I'm going back to my old job.

Ministry has ebb and flow and the seasons of blessing are wonderful, the seasons of famine and discord are intense burden.

I think Satan truly wants to impact the pulpit and get faithful preachers out and strain every church in its unity.

So... I think this may be a provocative post, but its not very helpful.

Hal

November 22, 2013 at 08:12 AM

Paul does use hardship lists in a couple of places, but the purpose is to underscore his (and his colleagues') devotion to the Gospel. And this is offered to counter the critics and detractors who have questioned his integrity.

When the text invites it, we pastors have grounds to elaborate on the challenges of ministry life. But obviously, this needs to be rare. As servants, we don't need to call attention to ourselves.

Robert B

November 22, 2013 at 08:06 PM

I have not read every commment concerning the article. I don't label beinga local church pastor's job hard. I have heard Dr. Robert A. Cook from the Kings College say, "Men when your church has a work day you get out their with them and put on your bib overhauls and work. I took that to heart. I work with our men, I do things around the church even as the pastor. Secondly, the pastor's job is what one makes of it. As a Baptist pastor I preach three times a week, teach two Bible Studies,and each one is different. That takes a lot of time. I don't have to tell you pastors something new. Visit hospitals, nursing homes, lead the church and then deal with ungodly men who think they are godly and want to tell you what to do. You don't have just one boss or critic, but your whole congregation. One day you are praised and the next day you are eaten for lunch. No other job like it.

Eric Carpenter

November 22, 2013 at 07:02 PM

I was a pastor of an institutional church for over two years. Compared to most other occupations it is not hard.

Ali

November 22, 2013 at 05:32 PM

Andrew- Pastors should get over themselves? My father is a minister and while I am not surprised that someone would say that, I always cringe when I hear it.

"I am an attorney. I work plenty of hours, and I have a ton of responsibility at my job. Additionally I lead a small group in my home every week, I play music every sunday, and I also lead and plan worship."
I believe a pastor does much more than that...what about the pastors family? I know first hand of the challenges they face. I think pastors and their families need so much encouragement and prayer. There's a reason for the stereotype of pastor's kids.

I appreciate what John says: "Pastors indeed should not fall into self pity, that is prideful. However, the pastor's work done faithfully will lead to some of the most intense strain on him and his family. The loneliness, the betrayal, the personal attacks, etc"

Of course it's not about us but I do believe being a pastor is very emotionally difficult. Especially when a congregation does not encourage their pastor. So, when I hear someone say pastors should get over themselves I know they must not understand just how painful and hurtful that statement sounds to a pastor and his family. Even just the spiritual challeneges alone are so difficult...

We live for Christ....it is not about us or how much we do. All glory and honor goes to Christ. Not to us. We deserve nothing but were given everything.

So, I will agree that when pastors grumble they probably do need a heart check! But let's pray for our pastors more!

Links I like | Blogging Theologically

November 22, 2013 at 04:01 AM

[…] Is It Actually Hard to Be a Pastor? […]

Clarice

November 22, 2013 at 03:59 PM

This is exactly what the article was expressing...with a less frustrated tone. :)

Josh

November 22, 2013 at 03:54 PM

A hearty amen to both of your points, Arthur.

Josh

November 22, 2013 at 03:52 PM

I should point out that I, too, am an attorney. I work in a universe where it is very difficult to be a Christian and where the physical and psychological demands are highly burdensome. The clergy posting in this thread need to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that they're not as special as they think they are. We are all co-laborers for the Kingdom, each with our skills, each with our own callings, and each with our own tasks that God has called us to accomplish. As a result, I second Andrew's "get over yourselves."

Josh

November 22, 2013 at 03:49 PM

Kind of mean, but amen.

[…] More here […]

Andrew

November 22, 2013 at 03:11 PM

The ammount of moralism and pride from the clergy posting in this thread is maddening. I am an attorney. I work plenty of hours, and I have a ton of responsibility at my job. Additionally I lead a small group in my home every week, I play music every sunday, and I also lead and plan worship.

I have young children and a marriage and a spouse to tend to. I try to minister to, lead, counsel, and have relationships with the people in my church and group with whom I do ministry, and I try to do the same with people outside of the church.

What is the basis for the hierarchical nonsense of "special burdens" and "heightened responsibility" some of you allude to? Have you ever considered that people in your congregation are tired of hearing you whine? That other pastors, teachers, and leaders in your churches use their spiritual gifts without either a paycheck or complaining?

Get over yourselves.

Arthur Sido

November 22, 2013 at 02:56 PM

This might be the first article on vocational ministry I can recommend. We are inundated in the church with subtle and not so subtle complaints about how exhausting ministry is and then wonder why guys who have high stress jobs in the office or who bust their tails in factories are less than impressed.

I might suggest another point. The men who choose vocational ministry could help themselves a lot by letting, encouraging and equipping more men to do the work of ministry. If you take it all on yourself, either because you think you have to or our of a need for control, you are bound to be overburdened. The work of ministry was never intended to be restricted to one or a few men so stop treating it like something only professionals can do.

Mike

November 22, 2013 at 02:26 PM

How about a normal job, then layer on top of that being a volunteer pastor... now that's a difficult job! Split focus!

David Drake

November 22, 2013 at 02:13 PM

I am unemotional about it but my job as an urban pastor often has work weeks over 60hrs...my wife's job as an urban teacher has a work week of just over 32 hrs. We both work hard...just thought the numbers were screwy.

Credo Magazine » Credo’s Cache

November 22, 2013 at 01:30 AM

[…] Is It Actually Hard to Be a Pastor?: By Mike Niebauer – Niebauer notes: “The apostle Paul explains to Timothy that those […]

a church member

November 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM

I understand the point of this article and I agree with it. Pastors themselves should not complain about their jobs from the pulpit.

As a church member from a (relatively) small church, I completely disagree with a lot of this post. For example, my pastor never works less than 60 hours a week, although I've never heard him complain about his job.

I agree with Mike's comment above: "I believe the author of this article underestimates the true difficulty of the pastorate by measuring pastoral difficulty with the wrong devices...The true difficulty of the pastorate is carrying out the Scripturally-mandated duty of the pastor: 'Shepherd the flock that is among you.'"

All I have to do is watch my pastor in action for a month or two, and I know the role is much more difficult than that of (the majority of) teachers or social workers.

Maybe it depends on the church. But when you're in a small church and you're the primary preacher, shepherd, counselor, administrative lead, and more, it's a pretty insanely difficult, taxing, and, most of all, spiritually draining position.

Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

November 21, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Great thoughts and perspective. I'm a full-time vocational pastor (going through the absolutely toughest, spiritual warfare filled time I've ever been through, by the way) but I've stopped trying to milk the 'pastoring is tough' thing.

Every person in my congregation's life is tough. Their vocations - whether business or stay at home mom - is a grind. It's not like I'm digging ditches for 10 hours a day. Most of my time is physically easy - reading, speaking, having conversations. The really burdensome stuff I lose sleep over is very similar to what school teachers and others go through. Lots of people 'bring their work home with them'. Not just us. Everything this article says is true.

In fact, I have flexibility that most others don't. Almost any day of the week, I can come home for some family purpose and make up those hours later.

Doug Bursch

November 21, 2013 at 11:05 AM

I presume the goal was to help people, but I think this post is going to hurt more people than it helps. Which is really sad.

DC

November 21, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Ian, you should also consider the fact that millions of non-ministry workers also commit suicide. The article is a good reminder, and laymen should be supportive of the fact that being a pastor too is hard. but people in ministry should not see themselves as "special" in regards to having a job that is harder than other people's jobs, and defining themselves by it.

Laura

November 21, 2013 at 10:45 AM

As a clergy family, I completely disagree with this post. You fail to mention the many studies and statistics that show pastor's suffer from depression, lack of friendships, loneliness, etc, etc. You also fail to mention the immense pressure and expectations that are place on a pastor's family, including his/her children of any age. I get that complaining is not a good thing, but we must acknowledge and validate the pressures of professional ministry in order to address it.

Laura

November 21, 2013 at 10:42 AM

I appreciate your call for pastors not to complain about their work and calling (Ph 2:14). This should be the goal of all believers, as we are to be those that are thankful in all things. However, I would also point out that a congregation rarely knows how hard a pastor works. Indeed, I believe they might assume the opposite is true, especially because much of the work is spent studying in order to teach. I don't believe that a pastor's job is more taxing than some others out there, but it is and should be taxing! If pastors follow the Apostle Paul's example (2 Tim 2, Ph 2:17, 2 Cor 11 24-33) they work hard for the sake of the gospel and for their congregation. They should be honored because of this. And remember the enemy seeks to bring God's people down in whatever way possible in order to discredit Christ. Pastors (and their families) may experience even more attacks from Satan because of their role in the church.
I am the wife of a pastor of small church. While our people love and support him and are helpful in carrying out the ministry of the church, he still works 60+ hours each week, does most of the administrative work, is ready to help when anyone is sick or needy, meets with every visitor, studies diligently to present God's Word, preaches faithfully every Sunday, and teaches once or twice more during the week. I see up close how hard he works. Funny thing, I don't recall if I have ever heard him complain.

Katie

November 21, 2013 at 10:38 AM

A Simple Worker-

As a pastor's wife and former business person, I can attest to the fact that both are difficult. However, in the business world, I was never kept awake at night, praying that a mom was not getting beaten at that moment. I did not have people stopping by my home at all hours crying and I did not watch marriages fall apart.

At the same time, in the business world, my greatest joy was helping small businesses. This pales in comparison to the ministry world, where I was one of the first people called when a couple finally got pregnant, where I was blessed to see marriages reconcile and where I was able to see lives changed by the gospel.

So, my opinion is that overall, ministry is more of a rollercoaster emotionally, which over time, takes it's toll.

The business world is ugly and mean. I agree. But, there is nothing as scary as some finicky old church ladies!

Danny Kirkpatrick

November 21, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Mike,

While I appreciate your service to Christ, your willingness to write this article, and the truths found therein (yes, brothers, let's not complain about our profession as though it were drudgery thus setting a bad example to our congregations), I must respectfully disagree with the premise of your article.

Though I understand that Paul's context concerns apostleship (not pastor), he nevertheless says something that (I believe) is very indicative of pastors: 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

While I understand that this refers to the apostles, do not pastors pour their very hearts into what they do only to be treated in contempt by the people they serve? Like the prophets of old who faithfully proclaim the message of the Lord yet get deaf responses in return, does not the pastor carry a burden to preach the text with vigor only to see his labor not carry (often times though certainly not all the time) its intended result?

As a pastor/shepherd, is not "hard" to work with sheep? If not, why did Paul continually refer to his ministry (and the ministry of pastors) as labor? Yes, I do work out of my air-conditioned study, and most weeks are not 60-80 hours. Nevertheless, the pastorate remains one of the greatest privileges and pains in my life. It pains because I care. It's hard because I love my people and lay my life down for them. It's labor because I desire to do it unto the Lord.

Hear me that this is not complaining. As Paul would say right after the verses quoted above: 1 Corinthians 4:14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. It is the nature of the office, and yes, my friends, while it is a joy that carries much reward, it is nonetheless hard.

Justin Garcia

November 21, 2013 at 10:31 PM

I think this is one of those articles where there is a take-away for everyone. I am a ministry-minded layman (a la priesthood of all believers) and I think if we are all truly seeing ourselves as members of the body of Christ, then we all see that the hand can't say to the foot "I have no need of you" and vice versa. In the body of Christ, who is the head, there is no hierarchy--there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, etc. If everyone saw their vocation as a means to end--making disciples of Christ to bring glory to Him--then there would be more understanding for both "vocational" pastors, lay-elders (who are equally "undershepherds"), businessmen/women, mothers, fathers, singles, and even children. We would all rejoice together (celebrating pregnancies and the like) and we would all suffer together (when someone is ill or hurting).

The Apostle Paul chose not to use his Apostle status to lord over any of God's elect following after Christ' model of ministry; humble servanthood. To serve others is to serve, love and honor Christ, the head. So as a laymen (who is looking forward to one day being in full-time ministry if God would allow), I really appreciate my pastors/elders who are watching over my soul, taking the time to study the Word that they might in turn feed my soul, and even teach me to feed on the Word for myself that we all might be sanctified in Truth. And at the same time I am glad that God has placed me in this chapter of my life where my primary role is to serve my wife and 3 little ones at home and providing for their needs as my Father in heaven provides for me and my family. As someone starting out with a ministry background to make the jump into the business world I feel as though it would do us all good to spend some time in both "worlds" whether a "full-time" pastor or a CEO of a large corporation or a stay-at-home mom.

And God in His genius has given us all diversity of gifts for the building up of His body, the Church, and to go in all the world with a single mission of gathering for Himself true worshipers for His glory. We are all on the same team with the same Lord and with the same mind (in Christ) for the same prize, to know and love our Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray that I would learn to enjoy my "secular" work and work as if I am working for Christ Himself (which in actuality I am) and at the same time not loose sight of the prize, the high calling I have in Christ. So for me to complain about my "work" or "ministry" would be to grumble about the gifts and position God has called me to for this period in my life (for we all have different seasons of work and ministry). Thank you for the reminder to be appreciate others' difficulties whether Pastors or laypersons in Christ.

Timothy Durey

November 21, 2013 at 10:29 AM

I think I get what the author is saying, but I had an internal reaction at first. If anyone else wants to chime in, feel free.

I think the intent of the author is to talk against a grumbling spirit that pastors have in order to elevate themselves above other people and make themselves sound superior to others - thus creating a view of vocation that is anti-biblical.

That said, isn't there truth in the pastorate being more difficult from a spiritual perspective? In a sense, aren't pastors waging war on the front lines so-to-speak? Maybe "front lines" creates the bad dichotomy, but hopefully you understand what I mean by that. Pastors are overseers of the flock and local churches are called the pillar and ground of truth. There is a lot of warfare going on in a church and the pastor is to be the leader of that flock, watching over their souls and incurring stricter judgment because of their position as teacher.

In addition, I think this article is correct to assert that we gain our identity and worth from how much we work, but this article also assumes that manual labor is more tiresome than sitting behind a desk or other types of discipleship-oriented tasks. Interestingly, there's been a recent study that revealed that higher levels of stress takes place in certain types of jobs with less manual labor but involve more mental energy.

I don't bring this up to play the "pastor works harder than you," but instead I think we all need to put down our stones and understand where God has placed each of us in His plan. While it is not right for people to whine about their vocation, that doesn't mean that people can't express the joyous difficulty.

It was perfectly legitimate for someone like Paul did and say that he labored harder than all the other apostles. Or for Paul to "play the fool" and talk about how he has been a superior example.

That said, we need to keep this article's intent in mind. Let's not express our worth in terms of how many hours or how burdened we feel. Our worth is in Christ and as a result, we need to communicate to people as needed for their own good.

DC

November 21, 2013 at 10:27 AM

"Anyone who grumbles about the difficulties of full-time ministry need to spend more time experiencing the realities of the business world."
Spot on, Layman.
I think the "key passage" in this article is when he states "We generally derive our value from what we do rather than who we are, so those who do more are more important than those who do less. To prove your worth in society, you must continually boast about the difficulty of your vocation."
It really is funny that people try to validate themselves by complaining. I find myself (a businessman) doing this to my wife as a means of trying to gain a little respect from time to time, not because she isn't giving it to me, but because I feel like I'm not getting enough out of life. Sometimes I'm just plain exhausted and I'd like to feel like the work that is exhausting me is worthwhile. I don't think this desire is foreign to the ministry world (coming from someone who studied for ministry and has a goal of being in ministry someday). It's not foreign to women either. Lots of stay at home moms feel disrespected because the common world views it as "not a job," as though stay at home moms do nothing but play around on the computer and yell at kids to stop doing what they're doing. So some of these women feel the need to blog about how hard their job is in order to gain a little respect(and their job IS hard!), or post their latest recipe success on Pinterest because that's what all the respectable moms do. I'm just saying it affects everyone. I'm not "dissing" anyone, just saying the desire for respect is everywhere because like this article points out, we define ourselves by what we do and we want others to see what we do as deserving respect. And people don't respect "easy" jobs. The only complaint I have about this article is I think the conclusion should have dealt more with overcoming the root of the issue. But that's not really something I'm going to complain about.

Jason@livingfaithkc.com

November 21, 2013 at 10:23 AM

I kind of understand this, however some rebukes are good for private conversations and not meant to be blanket blog postings. Many pastors are alone/or feel alone. Some of their cries to other pastors are the deep need to share and bare the burdens they carry, that infact most everyday average Christians often do not carry. If you interpret their bringing up issues as complaints then of course a private rebuke may be in order, on the other hand, they may need encouragement and prayer. I don't believe this article is too awfully encouraging in a field filled with difficulty and fraught with the eternal challenges and burdens of so many. There is a lack of empathy and makes the author suspect to me if he really has a good grasp of what he's writing about.

Mike

November 21, 2013 at 09:31 AM

The main assertion of this article is that pastors should stop using the pulpit or their postionally-inherited audience as a means for decrying the tough aspects of the pastoral ministry. With this assertion, I wholeheartedly agree. No one likes the self-abasing and unsavory practice of fishing for encouragement or sympathy. It diminishes your calling in Christ, unintentionally calls into question the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, and it continues the false dichotomy of pastor/laity. Even more, we are admonished very clearly: "Do everything without grumbling or arguing" (Phil. 2:14). This includes serving in our calling as pastors.

However, I believe the author of this article underestimates the true difficulty of the pastorate by measuring pastoral difficulty with the wrong devices. His points are valid. We do not often exert such physical labor to lead to bodily exhaustion although mental, emotional, and spiritual strain do effect the body. And very often, lengthy weeks are a result of being undisciplined in our time management. But solely using these pragmatic measuring tools for the pastorate leads to given faulty results.

The true difficulty of the pastorate is carrying out the Scripturally-mandated duty of the pastor: "Shepherd the flock that is among you." This sole duty involves various activities that are not able to be accomplished without the help of God's Holy Spirit (a fact I'm sure the writer would attest to). However, this duty can never fully be appreciated until one is under the divine calling to carry out this said task. Thus the conversation is better left carried out among colleagues in private conversation rather than church members in the public sphere.

And even more, the difficulty of the task of pastoring is mostly underestimated because in most cases it primary duties have been terribly misunderstood and misapplied. A better understanding of the Scriptural mandates of the pastorate, and help with books such as Richard Baxter's "The Reformed Pastor" might help in this misunderstanding and misapplication.

a layman

November 21, 2013 at 08:33 AM

Ian,

Your post just illustrates his point. I could cross out the word "pastor" in everything you just wrote, and insert almost any different vocational job descriptions or even just the word "layman", because what you wrote applies to everyone.

Anyone who grumbles about the difficulties of full-time ministry need to spend more time experiencing the realities of the business world. It will give you perspective.

-a simple worker

Petar Nenadov

November 21, 2013 at 08:32 AM

Ian - I read Mike's article to provide the very balance you encourage. The goal was not to silence pastors or minimize anyone's suffering. It was a solid piece through and through - not extreme in the least.

Mike - As a fellow pastor, thanks for writing this piece.

Able Baker

November 21, 2013 at 08:05 PM

I know these two things to be true for myself...

Being a pastor is the most difficult job (mentally, emotionally & spiritually speaking) that I have ever had and I have had many jobs.

Being a pastor is the best and most rewarding job (mentally, emotionally & spiritually speaking) I have ever had.

http://thinktheology.org/11-challenges-unique-to-rural-pastors/

Bob Price

November 21, 2013 at 07:19 PM

If this post was on "Snopes" it would have both the red and green lights.

I understand what you are saying when you say that being a pastor doesn't require as much work as other jobs. We don't have to lift heavy boxes (physical requirement) or work 60-80 hours a week (some can work as few as 30 hours).

But the 'work' of the pastor can be very difficult...even if it is a blessing. Pastors are required to be expert theologians, historians, writers, public speakers. They are expected to be present at the birth and death and significant moments of their congregations. They are constantly dealing with the changing emotions of the day as they encounter different people in different emotional states. They are expected to be able to counsel on every subject from drug addiction, marital issues, suicide and depression and financial matters. They are expected to connect with every major age group in the congregation. They must be able to 'grow' the congregation and attract young people while not alienating the older group and be able to to engage with community leaders and prepare the congregation for building projects. And that is just the job description.

Furthermore, the main difference between a businessman and a pastor comes in their lives. While their are many Christian businessmen who witness a great deal, the pastor has to put the primary focus on his discipleship. His marriage must be exemplary (as well as his parenting skills). They must be extreme disciples of Christ and be able to deal with the 'stuff' of their souls. They must excel in humility if they want to be a good pastor. They must be good listeners, keen counselors, and men of exemplary character...all of which is under constant scrutiny by the congregation that will often feel the pastor is not doing enough. At the same time, many pastors are not paid enough to support their families and must take two jobs.

Having said all of that, ministry is still a privilege and a joy. Pastors should not 'whine' about their positions nor make themselves a special class unto themselves. But at the same time, we need to show some appreciation for the work that they do.

Ken

November 21, 2013 at 05:35 PM

I too had an internal reaction that at first was sort of "uhh" so I breathed and sat back and read the article again and that feeling is still there. Is the author saying that pastors should not grumble because their work is no different than a firefighter or school counselor? If he is I agree and disagree with him. On one hand it is vocationally no more difficult than another job that pays badly, has long hours and held in light esteem by many outside the tribe. On the other hand a right and high perspective of the pastorate should not be confused with those who grumble against its hardships. It is, without exception, a unique activity that is unlike no other in the world. I am leaning to the idea that the author seems to be missing this in his effort to bring balance (which I think he does not by his broad brush strokes; where did the story of the Nigerian pastor come from, it seemed very token. However, I do appreciate the fact that in reading this and some comments that it is a wise thing to avoid grumbling whether one works as a petroleum engineer or pre school teacher. Do not grumble is good advice to every Christian; housewives, cooks, CEOs and pastors. There need not be a crusade against the pastorate in general to get this point across.

John

November 21, 2013 at 05:21 PM

So what you're saying is that a pastor has the responsibilities and burdens of a business leader, Christian counselor, social worker, teacher combined right?

WS

November 21, 2013 at 05:14 PM

Thank you, Steve, and thank you for writing this post, Mike. This is something that my husband and I have talked about extensively. We've heard too many "that's-not-my-jobs" or "that's-my-day-offs" over the years that we have served in leadership in our church. Yes, being in a pastoral role is hard, but so is doing "secular" work. What often gets overlooked is that lay people work full time jobs during the week (in my husband's case, 60-70 hours a week) then attend meetings at church and serve in many other ways without getting paid and on top of the work hours they put in. Often, pastors count committee meetings as part of their work week. My husband has sacrificed countless hours and time away from our children as he has faithfully served our church. It hurts to hear pastors complain about meetings scheduled during "family time," because these comments indicate to us that our pastors don't really understand our lives at all.

Let's just face it, everyone works hard today. Do we really need to complain about it?

Paul Cummings

November 21, 2013 at 04:08 PM

Thanks for this article.
I think it's a matter of attitude for a pastor (I hope I can speak with some credibility having been in the ministry for 20 years)

A pastor (when focused through the Holy Spirit and guided by scripture) should view his work as a privilege. The privilege of being there at birth, death, marriage, crisis, leading worship, teaching scripture, discipling, caring, serving and being a shepherd to the church. Because it truly is. We are often the only people outside of the family to be invited onto "Sacred ground" in hospital rooms and living rooms. It's an incredible blessing.

Allison

November 21, 2013 at 03:45 PM

Danny- I think that you will find many occupations in which people pour their hearts into service only to be treated with contempt by the people they serve. I know that is true for me as a social worker. It is also often true for me as someone who is not ordained but serving in the church. A desire to love the Lord and serves others is hard no matter what "field" you're in. If you are ministering in your field, you will often experience these hardships.

Spot on Mike.

Matt Svoboda

November 21, 2013 at 03:37 PM

The proof is in the pudding… How many other professions have a 30-40% drop out rate?

Craig Apel

November 21, 2013 at 03:29 PM

I'm surprised by your failure to consider spiritual attacks upon pastors by the enemy of our souls. If Satan can cause a pastor to fall into sin he is able to damage and discourage many additional lives of those who looked up to the man (and often placed inappropriate expectations on him) and discredit Christianity in the minds of many more. I have no doubt that Satan is a good tactician who knows if you can take out the leader you score a great victory.

Then there is also the pressure and consciousness of the pastor daring to speak for God. It is his calling, but he had better get it right!

Finally there is the barrier that "ordination" seems to create between the pastor and others. True, some pastor's foster it. But it's been my experience that it's more often forced upon us.

For these reasons I believe the pastoral ministry can be (and often is) more difficult and stressful than making widgets.

EMBG

November 21, 2013 at 03:20 PM

Thank you, Steve. Well said. Every vocation has challenges and seasons of especially difficult challenges.

When it comes to carrying people in trouble on one's heart, Christian counselors, lay counselors, social workers, teachers and others, can often relate to the challenges of pastors.

When it comes to public speaking and administration, business leaders can relate, etc...

EMBG

November 21, 2013 at 03:17 PM

Pastors do have real challenges, real difficult and need real support. Sometimes the isolation even needs to be combated w/ good theology. Pastors who pre-suppose that the laity can't understand may be more likely to feel alone and lacking understanding. God means no one to carry burdens alone. The church is to "bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." And that goes for pastor's too - their burdens are to be shared - not borne alone while they bear everyone else's.

For members of the laity who have had it pressed on us that the pastor's job is the hardest on earth, an article like this can be helpful. Our pastors are human like we are. They need understanding and encouragement like we do. But they aren't super-human or above us.

I remember sermons where we heard that preaching a Sunday sermon was the equivalent of 12 hours of hard physical labor in the amount of exhaustion it produced. Maybe. I don't know. I've never preached a Sunday sermon. But I have spoken in public and I know that there is considerable preparation involved and a certain level of stress in public speaking, regardless of why you are doing it (amount depending on personality).

EMBG

November 21, 2013 at 03:09 PM

Does that mean that pastors have the most objectively difficult vocation on the planet to the point that non-pastors can never understand it?

Ian Smith

November 21, 2013 at 02:25 AM

Hello Mike,

I believe I understand the heart behind this article--and it is a reaction against a kind of grumbling spirit which I have encountered among many in full time vocational ministry; and of which I have been guilty myself. However, I wonder if maybe your post is a little too reactionary--what I mean is, you could be swinging to the opposite extreme.

What about our fellow ministers that serve faithfully among many small churches throughout our nation and around the world with little or no recognition--many under-paid and overworked. Most of the pastors that I know work 60-70 hour weeks, often doing things that go unseen by the average Sunday morning regular. Hospital visitations, prayer meetings, bible studies, service projects, meetings, discipleship etc. If anything, my experience has been that many pastors and missionaries have very unhealthy boundaries and balance in their lives.

I happened to read an article this morning about a pastor who committed suicide (http://www.afro.com/sections/news/afro_briefs/story.htm?storyid=80440). I found this article to be an interesting juxtaposition to your own. You may be downplaying the suffering that many pastors in the West experience as compared with those in the Majority World; however, even men in your own tradition such as Robert Murray M'Cheyne suffered quite seriously with depression and worked himself to death.

Maybe there is a healthy place in the middle--where we can acknowledge the real suffering that many in ministry really experience, but also let the blood of Christ wash over it and sanctify it. Let us not create a culture where pastors and church leaders are afraid of really telling others how they feel--creating a culture of perfection, fear and hiding. Let us instead encourage our peers to bring things into the light, and in community encourage each other with the Gospel.

-Ian

[…] Is it Actually Hard To Be A Pastor? TGC […]

Steven

November 21, 2013 at 01:24 PM

I believe the author is combining two different issues here. The complaining of a pastor and the difficulty of being a pastor. I believe Paul addresses both of these issues clearly and separately.

Paul addresses those who complain (Phil 2:14) and do things with a wrong heart (Col 3:23), while earlier, he characterizes his own ministry as difficult: "For this purpose I labor..." (Col 1:29). Labor (Kopiao) meaning working to the point of exhaustion, which I believe can accurately describe the work of many pastors today in the US.

I believe it would be better to separate the two issues, as the title and introductory paragraphs appear to be addressing the difficulty (or lack of difficulty) of being a pastor, while the main point addressing the heart of a pastor and the consequences of complaining. If the two issues are discussed together, I believe the heart of a pastor can be addressed while acknowledging the the difficulties of being a pastor and how these difficulties tend to lead one to complain.

Sam

November 21, 2013 at 01:15 PM

Well said and very fair and accurate, Katie.

[…] © The Gospel Coalition […]

Kathy

December 11, 2013 at 12:11 PM

I feel this article is not well thought out or explored.

After serving for 20 years as a pediatric physical therapist and supervisor prior to finally answering the call to seminary, I totally disagree with the premise of the article.

I loved my vocation and calling to serve as a PT and I love my calling to serve as a pastor. I worked physically very hard every day, lifting children, crawling around a mat, going up and down stairs, teaching them to walk.

I put in extra hours as a supervisor responsible for not only my case load, but the administration of two clinics. I worked through lunch, came in early and took work home.

So I thought nothing could ever be as difficult as my former profession at which I excelled. I could not have been more wrong.

The differences between a secular job and the pastorate are significant in several ways:

First, I was compensated via a much higher salary for my extra duties as a supervisor PT. I could take some comp time if I had to fill in for someone else. (I willingly took a 30,000 pay decrease to serve as pastor. While I am fine with it, my husband has had to wrestle with a real change in our life-style.)

As a pastor, I cannot control the flow of peoples' lives - death, marital or family crisis (suicide), crises of faith, etc. I need to be there with the people, but as a PT when I took a week off, I was really off. As a pastor, I have returned, leaving my family, when a 63 year old whom I just hugged on Sunday developed acute Leukemia and died on Thursday in the middle of my vacation (sacred time with my family) to attend to my flock. You are never really ever off, especially if you serve a small parish where there is not a staff of other pastors or associate pastors to trade off duties. And in times of death and crisis, parishioners do not want a stranger with whom they have no relationship - they want their pastor and do not understand that you would choose family time over their life-changing horror event.)


When the woman touched the hem of Jesus' robe he turned and stated, "Power has gone from me, who touched my robe?" Any day of the week and every single Sunday, I would rather go back to my life as a PT. Counseling people, holding and supporting them through many trials in this life is difficult and exhausting. And no, it is not because I cannot separate myself professionally from their problems, but active listening and guiding is an art and takes tremendous mental energy. I joke all the time with my husband and say, "I would love to just have a mindless job where I only had to show up, do what I was told, and go home."

In addition to the strain of counseling, there is the politics of a church. As a PT, I excelled. I only had one person doing my annual evaluation. As a pastor, I have 70 to 100 people who evaluate me, and who each have their own standards of perfection that they feel a pastor is to meet. No one else I know is expected to be perfect in every area: never have a weak moment, never need time with their family, never need down time to relax, always have a perfect sermon that speaks to each person in their own language and for their specific needs, and the list goes on.

Let me say before I conclude that there is great joy in the privilege of getting to serve God each and every day in a very real and visible way, of getting the honor of guiding the flock toward greater union with Christ.

However, that being said, I completely disagree with the premise of this article. In fact, I think pastors should share openly the stresses, strains,and tensions incurred seeking to serve as a public witness "on stage for everyone to see when they make a mistake, when they struggle."

Without educating the laity, they will continue to have unreal expectations of those who have the courage to wear that collar and be that visible public witness. As well, I believe sharing the cost of this type of discipleship guides parishioners to learn the real truth that their discipleship also comes at a cost - the cost of sacrifice.

While never wanting to make anyone anxious and especially wanting members to share their deepest needs, but for those members who expect the pastor to be at every meeting, etc. we can equip the saints and then share that the laity has a responsibility too.

So, given the choice between my old life and my new life, I would choose everyday my old life where I was well-paid for all of my extra efforts and time, for all of the headaches I experienced in my secular job. I wrestle every day with this choice. I have a great professional to which I could return.

I serve as pastor now only because I feel called by God to do so, and that is what gets me out of bed each morning - only after praying to God to go with me into whatever joys and trials lay ahead this day.

Sincerely,

Pastor Kathy

Mark Loeffler

December 11, 2013 at 11:12 AM

So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. 1 Timothy 6:8