- He cannot afford the books he just bought to help him serve you better.
- He has worked over five weeks in a row without a day off several times this year and the only one who knows are his wife and kids.
- Yes he probably knows all the gossip about you (though he will say he has heard nothing) and loves you like family anyway.
- He is always on call. If he has been a pastor for 5 years he has been on call over 40,000 hours.
- His children, and wife hate the phone.
- He has probably visited or received help from the foodbank this year.
- He can’t sleep without some kind of medication.
- He is probably on or has been on some kind of anti depressant.
- He is probably not telling the truth about certain personal theological changes because he’s afraid you will fire him.
- He and his wife cannot afford childcare and a date at the same time. So they have probably not been alone together for months.
- He is the loneliest person in the church no matter how many friends he has. He can only allow certain people to become very close to him and if he’s smart it’s not a person in the congregation.
- He wants to hide after every sermon.
- His hardest day is Monday (most pastor’s day off)
- He has performed many weddings, funerals for free and counseling sessions for free. Most of the time its the wealthy and middle class families that don’t pay or pay very little.
- He wears the same clothes all the time for several years because he cannot afford new ones.
- His most feared question is “hey what are you doing tomorrow? “
- He loves to hear about your trip to Hawaii unless his wife is around.
- If he seems defensive a lot he is probably being attacked a lot.
- He is human and wrestles with how to reconcile his humanity with your expectations.
- He knows that most marriage counseling will end in the couple leaving the church.
- His kids have never heard dad say “maybe tomorrow ” to you like he has said it to them hundreds of times.
I know these dont apply to every pastor but i am interested in what you If you are or were a pastor, pastor’s kid or pastor’s spouse what would you add to this list?
Another one is “Pastor you aren’t very busy are you,” when truth is the pastor hasn’t put in less than 70 hours a week in over 6 weeks and hasn’t had a genuine day off in seven or eight weeks.
Yikes. The man you are describing shouldn’t be in ministry, if he doesn’t have the integrity to be forthright about his theology or the humility to ask the Body of Christ for help or to realize that God’s church won’t collapse if he takes his kids somewhere for a few hours and leave his phone at home. I assume by “probably” you mean you’re taking a guess rather than have statistical evidence, because this sounds more like a workaholic with a messiah complex than an ordinary pastor who believes in the grace he preaches.
O boy that’s another one. Thanks Mac5410
There are other ways to see it as well. Thanks for reading though!
He lacks the peers or supervision who will encourage him towards healthy ministry priorities and rhythms because his only encouragement comes from people who reward him overworking to serve them
I think many people would be surprised by how different rural / solo pastoral life is from other contexts.
If a person is this miserable…they should perhaps either learn to set some boundaries or find another profession. If you need help from the food bank – get a second job. There is a reason some of us in rural ministry are bi-vocational! I’m not a great preacher and probably not even a good one, but I don’t hate Mondays and I never desire to hide after I preach. My identity is in Christ, not my preaching. I prepare and pray and then preach the best I can – and then, leave it with God. No pastor should be the loneliest person in the church, and assuming he or she is married, probably isn’t; there are usually widows and shut-ins who are lonelier. Make friends outside the church, make friends with other ministers, get involved in the local ministerial association if it exists, or within your denomination! If you fear the question “What are you doing tomorrow” learn to plan an answer for it. You don’t have to always be available. Of course there are crisis situations and people in genuine need – but sometimes we overcommit just because we can’t say no or we’re afraid of what people will think if we’re not always available. And if you’re always saying “maybe tomorrow” to your kids and not to your church members…CHANGE IT! If you’re not taking any time off – if Jesus could go away to spend time with the Father and tell His disciples to come away to rest, why can’t or DON’T we? Of course there are aspects of ministry that are hard. The criticism and expectations are real. But sometimes, we make it harder than it has to be either from having poor boundaries and being a people pleaser or from trying to impress people with how hard we have it or how much we do.
Its funny how much pressure there is on us pastors to be fixed people, almost super human all the time. I happen to know several pastors that are wonderful servant leaders who have at one time or are currently dealing with some of these things. Because they are human and wrestle with how to reconcile thier humanity with other humans expectations it creates some not so ideal but real seasons of ministry.
Sometimes God calls people different than yourself (rural minister) to serve Him in pastoral ministry. I would imagine your comment above would create a sense of guilt in many struggling pastors that need to know there are others struggling like them rather than the leave it to beaver pastor they read about in Joel Osteen books. In a sea of ideal articles about model pastors I paint a real picture of what its like for others and it seems to make you want to teach and fix rather than understand and empathize.
“In my 30+ years of ministry, I’ve seen all of these. If you’ve been in ministry for any time, you’ve probably experienced several as well.” Thom Rainer
Scott, I know you mean well in your comment. However, you have either never been in full-time, paid ministry or have worked with a church that is very unique. To say that the minister who serves others is lacking in humility or integrity because he doesn’t go share his struggles and bare his soul to those in his spiritual care is not only hurtful, but is one of the primary reasons for several of the 21 things above being true. I’m sorry my friend, but you have no understanding of what a pastor does or what their lives are like and don’t seem to care, since you rush to judgement so quickly. Yikes indeed.
Actually I’ve been in ministry close to 20 years, 11 of them as a solo pastor in a very rural congregation. I’m used to the jokes about us working one hour a week, the midnight calls, the old lady who constantly want a visit, the regular “helpful suggestions” about my preaching, the excruciating committee meetings and the audacity of a few church members’ expectations. I can relate to several items on the list, but I realized in my ministry that many issues came from me not setting boundaries with people. Personally, my failures in that area are rooted in a desire to please people, to be justified by my ministry rather than grace, and lack of humility in admitting I’m not going to meet everyone’s expectations. So my family doesn’t hate the phone because I don’t feel obligated to answer it if I’m doing something with them. I check the message and get back with someone when I’m back on – we’re always on call for emergencies, not always on call for anything. My kids regularly experience me leaving home for church stuff, but they also regular see me at their events and overhear me tell a member I’m not available for something because I’ll be with them. When I explain the need for downtime or family time and ask someone to reschedule, people usually understand.
I’m not saying we should bear our souls to everyone in our congregation, but you can be honest about your financial needs if you are having to regularly go hungry and can’t buy clothes or necessary books for ministry.
I understand the caution in sharing too much with parishioners, but if you can only makes friends with certain people, is there a reason other than keeping up a facade as a Pastor? Why should a minister, who I agree faces real difficulties most church members don’t understand, be the only person not receiving care from the Body? I have found that my very honest requests for prayer from select members not only ministers to me, but models the dependency on grace I preach.
I admit that with most of these issues pastors can agree or disagree on, but if a pastor is not forthright about his theology it clearly lacks integrity. We all have doubts and I know there can be times of wrestling with an issue, but if you decidedly change your conviction on a doctrine that is crucial enough that that you could lose your ministry, it is dishonest (and for many of us a betrayal of ordination vows) to not disclose it.
I want to tell that pastor that he needs to take a day off and pace himself… otherwise that will not bode well for her or him in the future… and I want to tell that church, “Hey, give your pastor a break!”
I agree with Able… that’s probably just one explanation to describe the person struggling with these feelings. There most certainly area. And as Bob notes below, I think there are better ways to help a pastor who is feeling these feelings.
That being said, I do agree that these feelings are concerning… but sometimes pastors feel “stuck,” you know…
Some of these ideas are helpful and some of them seem like they are making assumptions.
Here’s my take on some advice to pastors: http://thinktheology.org/2014/07/04/pace-yourself/
Well you are blessed. Thanks for commenting. Some guys have it all together.
To those of you who jumped very quickly to dump all the responsibility back on me please understand that I have served the Church for 22 years in rural settings including several multiple point charges. Three of the last four appointments have been in very dysfunctional, toxic congregations. I received only a little support from Staff parish, or District levels when I asked for help. In healthy congregations days off and vacations are no problem but when you are constantly placed in the unhealthy congregations it is very difficult.
I hear you Mac. As I was telling someone else. It seems some pastors have experienced a season of ministry that is all sunshine and roses. My experience and it sounds like you have as well would be more like an experience of all four seasons. Cheers!
Thanks for listening and hearing!
Great thoughts, Luke. I, too, have learned the hard way through serving in some dysfunctional churches and allowing myself to be consumed by expectations. But ultimately, it still comes back to the reality that only we can make our lives healthy. At some point we would say this to our parishioners who constantly complain about their lives yet do nothing to improve the situation – why don’t we consider the same advice for ourselves? Only we can set boundaries for ourselves. There is only so much I can do to change a church; people are people and there will be problem people everywhere. But I can make choices to live a balanced life.
“Only we can set boundaries for ourselves” not all servants of God that love Him, His call and His people don’t consider your advice to be as easy and simple to accomplish. Moses sure didn’t and I take great pleasure in knowing his story and ministry. Some people are trapped in Gods call with an unhealthy congregation. Providing soul care in a sick church is a wonderful way to learn how to complain constructively.
Able, don’t you think there is some truth to the point he is making in regards to a level of responsibility? I realize not all pastors have the resources or skills to deal with that, but shouldn’t they try and develop those then? What do you think?
It seems like on one hand, the extreme is to be in a very unhealthy context for ministry and on the other hand there is a lack of empathy and or understanding. Where is the middle ground here?
To me the middle ground is season’s. I think pastors go through seasons of ministry experience. They should Learn from these periods. If they make it through they receive experience and understanding. I feel like my experience is preparing me for something. For example Iour church is growing in the midst of these struggles. The new growth seems much healthier than the older growth many of them are leaving. I think taking medication and seeing a counselor in my mind is being responsible (among many other things).
Mac at the end of the day some of us just want to be heard and know that people are listening.
I guess you could call me still a “newbie” in the field, so to speak, having been a pastor for approximately 12 years, and currently in my ninth year serving a flock that is nearly 95% low-income.
So I would add two to the list:
He has heard much of the gossip about himself and never or very rarely speaks of it because he does not want to grieve his congregation
When church finances are not enough to meet a particular necessary expense the ministry has incurred, the balance comes out of his own pocket.
I wrote something on pastoral burnout earlier this year here at ThinkTheology, which may (a) add a few more items to your list, and (b) provide some good questions for pastors to ask themselves (or have their spouses ask them). 🙂
The Pastor described above must take time to read about the lives of the Apostles of the early Church; their sacrificial lives to the Gospel of Jesus. If he can do that and wholly submit himself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he will change his mind about most of the things written above. If my pastor preaches to me that ‘Christ is the Head of the man’, then I’d expect him to know better. If he is a a faithful servant of the Lord, we should be able to see the Lord satisfying all of his needs, according to his calling. The Apostle Paul earned his living by making tents; Acts 18:3. He suffered a great deal in the hands of Jewish officials, and in his life in general, as the leader of the church; but not once did he moan about it, instead he rejoiced for suffering for the Master.
This is what Apostle Paul had to say after all his sufferings in 2 Cor 11:16-33 > “When someone is weak, then I’m weak too; when someone is in distress, I’m filled with distress” (2 Cor 11:29). He also said (2 Cor 11:9); “And during the time I was with you I did not bother you for help when I needed money; the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me everything I needed. As in the past, so in the fuure: I WILL NEVER BE A BURDEN TO YOU”. I as a family man, need a stronger man as my leader. The MOANING ONE like the one described above, IS NOT the one I’d like to approach, when I encounter family problems.
I particularly like the 7th mans comment! Amen and Amen