Friends, the pain and burden that a pastor has to deal with is unlike any area I've ever experienced. I worked in the banking industry for eight years and was in their management training program...that pales in comparison to the burden, stress load and weight of serving as a pastor today.
I'm not complaining. I asked to be here. I enlisted. I signed up. I prayed this through. However, learning how to navigate through the rigors of personalities, problems, politics, people etc. can sometimes leave you asking, "Did I sign up for this?" (SMILE)
In any given week I may deal with: marriages on the verge of divorce; people who are struggling financially and are at their wits end; parents who are dealing with rebellious kids; infidelity; sickness; death; terminal diagnosis; suicide tendencies; addiction to prescription pills, alcohol; drugs; runaway children; home foreclosures; hunger/no food; homelessness; depression; etc.
I served on staff as a youth pastor for many years as well as a district youth director before becoming a senior pastor...and there isn't a class in the universe that can prepare you for what is coming your way...both good and bad.
It's sometimes difficult to get pastors to open up about their pain or struggle. Some refuse to for fear of being viewed as weak or unstable. The very thought of telling their congregation "this job is tough" is petrifying!
I've come to this understanding with myself. I don't care what other people think about me being transparent and open about my struggles, feelings or pain. Of course, I don't get up in the pulpit every week and tell all my business...but I do find people of good reputation, of whom I respect highly, to share my burdens with. I'm OK with being REAL.
Being real comes with a price tag. You will be complimented and criticized for your willingness to be vulnerable and honest especially amongst your peers. By the way, BFWC, this isn't necessarily a blog just for you...but it's for all those servants of Christ out there who may be hurting.
There are several areas we could easily address....
1. Loneliness - If you're a staff member at a church...I can identify with you. I have served other leaders for many years. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself thinking, "I do just as much as they do, and I don't think they deal with any more junk than I have to deal with." Friend...that is a WRONG ASSUMPTION based on arrogance. Trust me when I say that only a pastor can understand the pain of another pastor. (SPOUSES INCLUDED!)
Believe me - your family won't understand the weight of your calling either...especially those who've never been raised in a pastor's preacher's home. They may have an inkling of the burden you carry but they'll never understand the load, demand, weight or the burden you carry. You really can't expect them to. But whatever you do...DO NOT unload on them! They are not equipped to carry your calling...if so, they'd be carrying it to. If you make the mistake of unloading on them, you'll be planting a seed in their heart that can easily manifest as disgruntledness for the church, the pastor you serve or others in the ministry.
Ministry has been described as lonely. Pastor...you need another pastor to talk to, to vent with, to pour out your heart to...they can understand you better than anyone else...because they too, have experienced loneliness at your level.
2. Criticism - this just comes with the territory. Sometimes it's justified and other times it's not...but the thing most people don't realize is that IT ALWAYS HURTS. Especially when someone begins by saying, "Now don't take this personally, but..."
People will criticize you for the silliest things...the car you drive, the house you live in, the shoes you wear, how much you sweat, how you preach, your waist line...you name it. You seem to receive criticism better from the people who know and love you better than the people who feel called to the ministry of interference. Wounds from a friend can be trusted...but...
Why is it that people who don't even know you think they have some God called ministry to attack you via Facebook, anonymous emails, etc.? They haven't even had a conversation with you. By the way...I've said this before and I'll say it again...I HAVE ZERO RESPECT FOR SOMEONE WHO LEAVES A CHURCH VIA EMAIL. I don't even waste my time responding such immaturity. If you don't have the decency to look your pastor in the eye...the same pastor who has prayed and fasted for you, spent time shepherding you, counseling you, loving you...etc. - then that speaks volumes about where you are in your faith. JESUS teaches us better than that.
I've even had people take a portion of my sermon and twist it completely out of context and then have the nerve to misquote me all over town. LOL Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
Pastors, you will be misquoted and misrepresented by those who lack the courage to take the time to get to know you...or MAYBE even hit their knees for you if they are so convinced that you are wrong.
Friends, someone who continually attacks you and /or your ministry just isn't normal. Who has time to go around trying to tear other people down? Not me! I refuse to waste my time on them. There are too many people that need me to stay focused on the vision. Those are the people I'm going to give my time to.
3. Unrealistic Expectations - No matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to get everything right. You'll forget people's names; forget they were in the hospital; you'll preach too deep for some and too shallow for others; you'll miss their calls taking other people's calls; your every move will be scrutinized. Honestly, some people will place expectations on you that they would never be willing to live up to themselves.
This can be the reason that many pastors families fall apart - they cave to the expectations placed on them by selfish, self-seeking church members who expect them to do everything - but never lift a finger to help...and forgetting something that most people never actually stop think about - pastors are human beings with real feelings and a real heart.
Truth is truth...and it doesn't really matter what anyone thinks. PERIOD. Church member, staff member, volunteer, etc...PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR! Believe me, he/she goes through it.
Let me be VERY CLEAR - I am blessed to serve at BFWC! God has called me here and He has called me to pastor. But I'd say what has probably shaped Beverly and I the most is PAIN. Pain is not avoidable as a pastor - it's real. Anytime I fall into thinking that my life should somehow be easy all I have to do is read 2 Corinthians 11:22-29.
I love what I do! I love what God has called me to do! There is nothing I'd rather be doing! BUT...with the calling comes a cross to carry. BUT IT IS WORTH IT!
- It is worth it to be faithful.
- It is worth it when we see people come to Christ.
- It is worth it when we see marriages restored.
- It is worth it when we see the excluded included.
- It is worth it when we see people receive hope!
- It is worth it when we see addicts set free!
- It is SO WORTH IT!
Jesus didn't quit and neither should we! He has given us this assignment! Pain may be part of the process but it can shape us to be more effective for His glory!