Spending my weekends with pastors gives me insight into their unusual world. Of course, I’ve lived in that world, too, so I‘ve got my own first-hand understanding of their plight.
Pastors face one of the most challenging tasks on the planet. Here in America, pastoring is almost always listed among the most stressful career options when such lists are made. Why? Lots of reasons…
At the top of the list has to be the unrealistic expectations of their assignment. Pastors are expected to be experts in so many areas—communicating, counseling, administrating, managing staff, recruiting, fund-raising, and facilities management are just the start of the list. I’ve yet to meet anyone that can meet all those expectations and can’t think of any other task that requires all of them.
But expectations don’t end with the work schedule. Relationally, pastors are expected to be flawless too. People expect a pastor to be there when they are in crisis, to have words of comfort or solution and to always act like, well, a pastor. Frustrations have to be hidden, anger can’t leak out, an enthusiastic smile at every moment—little wonder that many pastors are emotionally unhealthy. They simply can’t be themselves, because people want to believe that their pastor is always as he seems from the pulpit.
Of course, pastors must be there on their peoples’ worst days, from funerals to emergency rooms, to adulterous confessions, to…well, you get the idea. Sharing peoples’ most stressful moments takes an emotional toll that’s hard to measure. And when a pastor’s vacation is interrupted by another crisis, the chance to rest and recharge is postponed for another year.
And friends, well, pastors are expected to treat people equally, allowing every congregation member to feel as close to their pastor as they wish. Pastors’ spouses especially feel this one, when several women want to think of themselves as her best friend.
Truth is, most pastors know that their closest friends often must be found outside the congregation—an interesting challenge since most of their lives must be lived inside the church. Often congregation members don’t understand why they can’t fill the best friend slot, but most pastors are left to find their closest relationships among those they can spend little time with.
But that doesn’t keep pastors from loving people and finding friends among those they lead. Some people see the challenges their pastors face and they respond with love, respect, support, and encouragement. And these are the people that pastors love doing ministry with—they are more than helpers or ministry aides. They are missional friends who share their pastor’s heart and his load.
These are the people that pastors are desperate to find. Hope you’ll be one.