In order to appreciate another person we have to learn what their life is like and understand their struggles. A local pastor has a rough job, and since it’s pastor appreciation month (apparently) we should start by knowing what it’s like to lead a church. Here’s just a few of the things that can make the job annoying.
1 – The Whining
Being a pastor is sometimes like working in a complaint box. It seems like everyone just knows exactly how the church should be run and is eager to tell the pastor about it. A constant barrage of whining about how it was done in the good ol’ days (“Why aren’t there more ferns on stage, like in Branson?”), or how the church should adopt more modern methods (“We should sell our church and meet under a bridge, because that would be so real.“), is the reality of running a church. The pastor will have no choice but to disappoint most of these people and continue hearing their complaints. Yay.
I’ll bet these soldiers don’t gripe about how their church is decorated or which hymns they sing.
Furthermore, if immature people in the church don’t get along they’ll go to the pastor and try to get them on their side. It’s like dealing with children.
2 – The Gravity of Failure
When a pastor isn’t listening to complaints, he’s dealing with our society’s most difficult problems. They’re counseling people who want to kill themselves, or advising a homeless person who just wandered in and might be dangerous. What happens if the person they help doesn’t get better and hurts themselves, or someone else? What if the pastor can’t figure out how to help the senior citizen who can’t pay their rent? Ministers deal with high stakes issues, and they’re expected to always know all the answers. That’s a lot of pressure.
3 -The Job is Actually Really Hard
A pastor is expected to be a theological genius, a profound speaker, a comedian, a counselor, and an administrator. (And a saint.) This is a lot of work in many different disciplines. The amount of hours put into each of these responsibilities taxes a pastor, leaving little time for friends and family. And, for some reason, everyone acts like being a pastor should be easy.
Pastors are expected to drop everything (even their kid’s soccer game) to help someone who is upset about losing their job, or to fix a plumbing problem that happened when a child at the church building tried to flush a toy down the toilet. They have responsibilities every day of the week and their own family life is always sacrificed to help everyone else. It’s not a one-day-a-week type of job – it’s all day, every day.
4 – The Expectations
Pastors aren’t perfect, but they’re expected to be. I’ve seen ministers get fired because they were caught looking at pornography, even though nearly every person in their congregation had done the same thing at some point. They can’t get upset and lose their temper, even once, or they’ll never live it down. It’s a constant battle to appear perfect which can make a pastor feel lonely. We have to allow our leaders to be human and not expect them to be flawless public figures.
5 – The Money Problems
People like to think that ministers are highly paid public speakers who live in luxury, raking in money from their poor congregation, but that’s not how it works. Most pastors work at small churches and barely manage to get by. They often work a second job and sometimes even depend on welfare to make ends meet. I’ve even known ministers who couldn’t afford to buy themselves food and would have to ignore their own hunger while dealing with their congregation’s problems. A pastor can be among the lowest wage earners in a small town, but that won’t keep the locals from expecting them to meet all of their needs.
Larger churches can afford to pay their ministers more, of course, but comparing their salaries to similar jobs in the corporate world shows that being a pastor doesn’t pay as well as being a CEO. (Unless you’re a crook who pretends to be able to heal the sick if they send money to your mansion.) I earn a pretty average salary from my job (for which I’m incredibly thankful – I love my work), and it’s higher than the pay of a lot of ministers I’ve known who, unlike me, were usually providing for a family.
There are good things about leading a congregation – it’s not all bad – but you can see that your local pastor is under a lot of pressure. Think of a way to let your church leader know they are appreciated, and go easy on them because they have a really tough job.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)