There is a weight that pastors feel that I don’t know translates into other jobs. I think that people in churches can know about it but not fully understand it. I know that as a youth pastor I didn’t truly understand the weight of pastoring until becoming a lead pastor. For no particular reason it just worked that way.
While there are many weights that a pastor carries, some of them are just human weights that others carry (including parenting), but I thought up five that I think pastors particularly carry on a daily basis because of what they do each and every week. There is an important distinction here: these are not pains. These are the weights of pastoring. There is a huge difference between pain and weight (so no one misses that).
Over the coming months I wanted to share some of the weights and joys of pastoring.
Weight #1 for a pastor has to do with preaching and the responsibility of opening God’s Word.
Weight #2: Seeing people make bad decisions and living outside of God’s design for life.
This does not mean that pastors don’t make stupid decisions or even make decisions so that we live outside of God’s design for life. I make plenty of stupid decisions. However, as a pastor you have a front row seat into people’s lives, whether it is through conversations at church, in a meeting or in a counseling session. You often get to watch the sin unfold in people’s lives, and you know that they know they are making a bad decision.
It is like watching your child make a dumb decision, knowing they are making a dumb decision, but not wanting or not being able to stop them.
I remember numerous times talking with someone about a problem in their life, seeing the pain in their eyes, hearing them talk about wanting freedom, only to have them come back in a week and tell me they were back in it. To see people decide on instant gratification instead of integrity. To see people do things that make you scratch your head and think, “Are you serious?”
Pastors get a bird’s eye view into others’ lives, and because of that we often see the end before it starts. We know how most stories end because we’ve seen so many play out.
At the same time there is also the pain of feeling helpless while watching people bring pain into their lives or experience pain because others have brought it into their lives. We can’t stop people; we can pray and counsel, but ultimately people live and make their own decisions.
This is hard for anyone.
In Luke 15 Jesus talked about the prodigal son and how he left his family and went to a far off country. Sometimes the people around us (and sometimes we) need to go to a far off country. It’s hard to let them. We want to stop them. Change them. Fix them.
But that isn’t our job.
Our job is to be there when they come back from that far off country.
That’s weighty. That’s painful and difficult. It opens us up to hurt and pain. Many times a pastor will meet with someone and know exactly how it will end and what will happen, much like a parent watching their child make the same choices.
Like a parent who wants the best for their child, but who also knows their child must make choices as they grow older.
If you’re a pastor, this is what you signed up for. Don’t forget that. Don’t overstep that and try to work your way around it.