Few people have a job like your pastor. It is the best job in the world.
They are paid to pray. Paid to study and preach. They are paid to care and serve. They are paid to be a moral person. And they are reminded, nearly daily, by someone, someplace, somehow, they belong to you, and not God; because someone reminds them your tithe pays for them to exist.
They live in a bubble of an expected set of parameters and are measured continuously by members, visitors, and denominational supervisors, alike. They are judged not only by their own actions but also the action of any of their family members. They are judged by their appearance, their dress, their public persona, temperament, social graces, where they live, what they drive, what they eat, what they drink, what they read, watch, and listen to, and even by their choice of favored Bible translation.
Understand, Pastor’s are called — not created. Your pastor stands in the pulpit, most weeks, not because they just “decided” to, but, because God brought them to it; often against their own better judgment. They are not innately gifted to public speaking or being a local celebrity personality. They are not closer to God than you. They are not less sinful than you. They are not more driven to God than you. In fact, they are you, just like you; broken like you, imperfect like you, and seeking salvation, love, and relevance, just like you! They are you, with an undeniable call on their lives. They, likely, like Jonah, have tried to run at some point in their ministry but failed to get very far. So now they serve you. Because they, above all things, don’t want to let Jesus down.
“They above all things, don’t want to let Jesus down.”
Oh! I know. Some of you are saying, “Not my Pastor. My pastor is just bad on purpose. He/or she does not care, he/she is a control freak, a bully, a fake, and a lazy no good drain on the church.” [Yes, sadly some people really talk about their Pastor that way]. If that is your pastor, and I don’t deny that there are bad pastors out there, then understand your pastor is broken, beaten, and bruised. Your pastor is trapped, defeated, and miserable. Understand no pastor wants to live life like that. To do so crushes them with the guilt of failing God. If this is your Pastor, then your Pastor is in trouble. Your Pastor could be in danger of losing employment, family, and maybe even eternal life. Understand, that pastor may need your love, care, support, and resources while they heal so that they can care for you better, also. Understand, your pastor is a member of your church too. The church needs to care about all its members. Even the one they expect the most out of, the pastor.
Why Some Pastor’s Struggle:
Carey Nieuwhof is a much sought out Church leadership expert, and founder of one of the most influential Churches in North America, Connexus Church. Nieuwhof says Pastoral burnout was the darkest moment of this life.
“Seven years ago, I entered into the darkest period of my life. I found the edge, and as I was falling, I knew that I realized this time I couldn’t pull myself back. I could get out of bed every day, and I did. I kept praying and reading my bible. But my speed decreased to a snail’s pace. And hope felt like it had died. My motivation and passion dropped to zero.” 
Was Carey Nieuwhof a bad pastor? Lazy? A closet sinner? No. He went on to build one the healthiest churches on the Continent! So what happened? He tells us.
“In caring for others, I had not adequately cared for my heart or soul, or let others, who wanted to care for it, do so.”
Sometimes, pastors simply give to the point where they have nothing left to give. Every battery dies if not re-charged. Maybe you met your pastor after they maxed out their output and simply no one has yet assisted them to recharge.
The reality of the “underbelly” of pastoral leadership
A sense of inadequacy
Critics and bullies
He not only seeks to educate the local church member of the dangers Pastors face from depression, but he assumes most pastors struggle from it and he urges church members and staff to directly, and defensively, pray for pastors to overcome it.
“Depression is real with pastors. It seems to be pervasive. May we who serve alongside them, staff and laity alike, take a few minutes a day to pray for our pastors.”
Philip Wagner, the Lead Pastor of Oasis Christian Center, a multi-cultural, multi-generational church, lists Pastoral work among the 4th hardest jobs in America. His list goes like this;
The President of the United States
A university president
A CEO of a hospital and
He claims his research shows that;
“Seventy percent (of pastors) say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.”
According to his article on Churchleaders.com, he lists criticism, rejection, betrayal, the loneliness of the occupation, weariness (fatigue), frustrations and disappointments as the hidden pains all pastors are forced to carry, robbing their effectiveness in ministry.
“I was on my way home from the last meeting of those five nights when I first asked myself the question, “Who pastors the pastor?” The next evening, I ended up in the emergency room with an angry appendix.”
Not only does the Pastor have no Pastor, but the pastor’s family, spouse, and children also have no pastor as well. Oh, we expect them to pastor their own family too? Great! Does that mean spending evenings at home with their family counts as pastoral ministry hours now? I bet not, in the minds of most church members, or even pastors. However, stop and give that thought. Seriously, have we considered what we are doing? We leave the most influential member of our churches without any pastoral care, for themselves or their family, expecting them to be spiritually flawless, moral, and positive while producing great sermons, and growing difficult churches. Then we have the gall, to wonder why churches don’t grow, and pastors fall out? Shame. Shame.
“Stop and give that thought…We leave the most influential member of our churches without any pastoral care…and wonder why churches don’t grow. Shame. Shame.”
What You Can Do To Help:
I am so glad you asked! The solution is quite simple. Love your pastor. Embrace their ministry. Listen to their ideas, even if you disagree. Sometimes, being heard is all people require. But most of all give your pastor permission to be human. Respect your pastor as a highly trained and educated professional, and a valued member of your community.
God did not call pastors to give until it kills them. They are called to be Christ-like not to be the Christ. If your pastor is tired, or in need of a break, give them verbal permission to skip an event. Affirm their need to go off and be with their family or have outside interests. If you are a board member, elder, or deacon, insist they take their vacations and days off. If they refuse, you take them out and do non-work related fun things with them, in order to prime the well of relaxation.
Your Pastor, for a number of pragmatic reasons, and past experiences, may limit the closeness of your friendship. However, if you build a bond with your pastor never betray their trust and confidentiality, or stab them in the back. Nothing destroys ministry like having someone you love and trust hurt you. It is always ok to disagree with a Pastor. Disagreement is not betrayal. In fact, it is proof of a healthy relationship. I am talking of betraying their trust and not respecting them as a person enough to discuss and inform them of disagreement; that is where the hurt comes.
“The solution is quite simple. Love your pastor. Embrace their ministry. Listen to their ideas.”
Advocate for them to have a pastoral figure to minister to them and their family. Lobby your board, or denomination, to provide pastoral care for the Pastor and family, even if it has to be contracted out. Have you considered contracting with another pastor in town, or counselor to be a caregiver to your pastor? While not at all ideal, because of the need to share candidly and personally with one’s pastor, but if no other resource can be found or afforded, have the elders, deacons, or even yourself, give regular spiritual care to your Pastor and their family. They, too, have needs to be ministered too.
Lastly, put October on your calendar, and never forget it is Pastoral Appreciation Month. While your schedule is open, add their birthday, their spouses birthday, and Christmas as well. Gifts, money, and tokens are not required or expected. But heartfelt love, respect, and appreciation is.
Top 5 Things That Hurt Me Most As A Pastor
This is my list, one being most hurtful, and five being the least harmful (but still annoying). As you get to know your pastor, build trust, and care for them, ask them to produce their own list so you can be more aware of their personal needs.
Members who say, “Nice sermon,” at the door but live like they never heard a word of it. Loud shouts of “Amen,” and “Praise the Lord” in my sermon with no intent to follow through when the sermon is over, cuts me to the core of my being.
Volunteers who repeatedly let the pastor and church down, by failure to show up, engage the duties they agreed too, while always having a perfect excuse as to why it is not their fault their lack of dedication hurts the local church and cause of Jesus.
Members who think I am the plumber, IT tech, copier repairman, building superintendent, sectary, parking attendant, doorman, staff, employee, and not a caring professional, theologian, or leader. You show which I am to you, by what you ask of me most.
When people whom I called friends, fail to see their deadly attacks emotionally impact me, too. It takes real alone time with God and the Holy Spirit to heal when wounded by your friends, and people you deeply care about, and whom you only wanted to serve. “Friendly fire” is always more deadly because it is so close and unexpected.
When you rob me of the dignity of being a whole human and reduce me down to a mere title. My name is not, “Pastor,” I am not a title, I am not a job, I am not my vocation, I am a Child of God! Pastor is my title, not my being. I don’t take you out to lunch and refer to you as Mechanic Drew, Nurse Terry, or School Teacher Loren, but even in the most remotest of settings, my title remains my name.
I use to have a pastor who gave some wise advice. When people complained about the church he’d say, “When you find the perfect Church, don’t join it! Because, if you do, it will no longer be perfect!” That was some wise advice! However, I want to flip it on its head, “When you find the perfect Pastor, don’t call them to your imperfect church, if you do, you’ll just end up hurting them, scaring them, and making them imperfect just like you.”
I leave you with this: Pray for your pastor. Be kind to your pastor. And when you can’t be kind, or you can’t pray for him, pray for yourself because that proves your pastor’s prayers, for you, don’t work.
Statement of Dedication
The blog is dedicated to all the overworked, underpaid, highly criticized, often struggling, Jesus loving, grace-filled, mission-driven, people propelled, Holy Spirit filled, self-sacrificing men and women who serve in the often thankless Ministry of preparing souls for the kingdom of God. Don’t give up, but do engage in self-care, and if no one else remembers you, in pastoral appreciation month, know Jesus is polishing stars in your eternal crown. I love you all, for what you do for the Kingdom.
Lastly, this blog is offered in loving memory of a fallen soldier who did not win his last war. Pastor Andrew Stoecklein lost his battle with long-term depression while pastoring the Inland Hills Church. May he rest in peace, and may Jesus lovingly remember him in the resurrection.
Pastor Andrew Stoecklein
The Perfect Pastor
By an Anonymous Author
The perfect pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes.
He condemns sin roundly but never hurts anyone’s feelings.
He works from 8 AM until midnight and is also the church janitor.
The perfect pastor makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, drives a good car, buys good books, and donates $30 a week to the church.
He is 29 years old and has 40 years experience.
Above all, he is handsome.
The perfect pastor has a burning desire to work with teenagers, and he spends most of his time with the senior citizens.
He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his church.
He makes 15 home visits a day and is always in his office to be handy when needed.
The perfect pastor always has time for church council and all of its committees.
He never misses the meeting of any church organization and is always busy evangelizing the unchurched.
The perfect pastor is always in the next church over!