Recently I’ve been sharing some joys and weights of being a pastor. While being a pastor isn’t necessarily harder than other jobs, it is different. In fact, I cringe when a pastor says that they have the hardest job in the world, but that’s another topic.
I’ve been sharing these so that those who attend church can have a better understanding of what their pastor walks through and how to best support their pastor, but to also help pastors process what they live with and how to handle it.
Weight #3: People Under You Are Counting on You
While everyone has people in their lives that are counting on them, I’ve noticed a different feeling among pastors. While you have those who work for you, you have to worry about their livelihood, paying salaries and the bills of a church. You also have your board that you are a part of who oversees you.
There is also the unwritten expectations that people have in your church. These are always the most dangerous and toughest to handle.
Whether it is from their last church, what they think the Bible says about a pastor or what they saw someone on TV say or do when it comes to preaching, all of these things converge in people’s minds, and they want you to be all of these things and more. The reality is if you had your church list five things a pastor is supposed to do, you are only gifted at one or two of them. While team ministry is the biblical approach and the one that works, it doesn’t make it any easier.
Everyday a pastor ends his day with this knowledge: there is someone else I can call, someone else I can counsel, another meeting I can go to, I can write/research more of my message. There is always one more thing.
Whether this pressure actually comes from people, our own thinking, or both, it is real.
One area this bleeds into and can cause a great deal of pain is in the pastor’s family. Expectations that people have for the wife and kids of a pastor are often so overblown it is crazy. The pastor’s wife is not an employee. If she is, then she can do her job, but if she isn’t paid, she is just like everyone else in the church. I’m often asked what a pastor’s wife should do in a church. The answer: what everyone else does. She’s a follower of Jesus like everyone else is. Yes, her role is unique and different from others, but she is a follower of Jesus before she is anything else, so that shapes what she does.
One thing I’ve learned is to be very honest about expectations (as honest as I can be). I once ran into a situation where a group of leaders had an expectation for me that actually went against what the Bible calls pastors to do. This happens a lot and is very difficult to bring up.
Here are some things you can do:
1. Know who you actually answer to. What does your immediate supervisor ask of you? As long as they are on your side and feel like you are hitting the agreed upon expectations, that can save a lot of pain.
2. You need to have some clear boundaries. Too many pastors have absolutely no boundaries when it comes to their schedules, meetings, e-mails and phone calls. On my day off, on family day, the computer stays off, the phone is off and I don’t have meetings. This can bleed over into being lazy, but for me, when it is time to work, I come with my game face on and throw down. But when it is sabbath time and family time, I enjoy every moment of it.
3. Teach your church. You will also have to teach your church what a pastor does, what they are supposed to do and what the church is supposed to do. Many of the things people think a pastor should do, in reality, the church is supposed to do those things. If just the pastor did those things, we would actually rob the church of being able to use their gifts.
4. Talk with others who understand. No matter what job you have, it is helpful to spend time with others who have the same role and responsibility. Only a lawyer can really understand what it is like to be a lawyer. The same is true for pastors. Get some friends who are pastors so that you can have someone who understands what you are walking through and can give wisdom from that perspective.
5. It’s not your church anyway. At the end of the day, while this weight is real, we as pastors often make it heavier than it is supposed to be. It is not your church. Those are not your people. Yes, you are responsible and accountable, but it isn’t yours. You aren’t building it, you didn’t die for it, you didn’t rise from the dead for it. Stop acting like you did.