In my early days in ministry, I thought of the Apostle Paul as a Ministry Mutant. He was wholly different than regular people and was Holy Ghost hardwired for the rigors of ministry.
This was absurd.
By making Paul “nothing like me” I conveniently excused myself from being “anything like Paul.” As long as Paul was a freak of nature, there was nothing further required of me!
Over time, I came to understand that many people see pastors like I used to see Paul. Ministry Mutants. This is equally absurd. Pastors are not mutants; they are just folks. Called? I hope so, but just folks.
Here are eight things about pastors you may find surprising:
1. Pastors have feelings
It is always open season on pastors. Hurtful things said often get back (some people consider this their ministry) and it does damage. Over time, it does a lot of damage.
2. Pastors get discouraged
I believe pastors need nineteen pieces of encouragement for every piece of harsh or unfair criticism they receive. Times are challenging and many pastors don’t know what to do moving forward. I know many good and gifted pastors who simply quit ministry because they were discouraged.
3. Pastors actually operate out of a sense of call
Pastors care deeply about what they do and struggle to balance their personal lives with the demands of their congregations. I don’t know any pastors who see ministry as a “just a job.” None.
4. It’s always personal
When people quit a church, it hurts. When attendance and giving are off, it hurts. When our churches are slow to rebound after our collective COVID reopening’s, it hurts. When criticism comes from unexpected places, it hurts. You can tell a pastor “It’s not personal” all you want. It is personal. You can apologize all you want. It still hurts. Ministry is not just what we do, it is our lives.
5. Pastor’s spouses suffer all the stress of ministry and few of the rewards
Being married to a pastor is a tough gig. Period. Fried trust receptors seldom regenerate. This point is not helpful; it is just a fact. Cut clergy spouses some slack.
6. Pastoral ministry is hard on marriages and families
Some congregations think their pastor is “on call” 24/7/365. It is not a realistic expectation. The pastoral divorce rate is too high. Too many PK’s go prodigal. Pastors see the good and the bad; pastor’s families normally just see the bad. Pastors often unwisely choose “the needs congregants over the needs of family.” The emotional cost is staggering.
7. Pastors don’t have pastors
Who do pastors talk to when they are hurting? It is an excellent question. They really can’t talk to parishioners. Denominational supervisors? Be serious. It puts everyone in a bad place. The normal answer is “no one” and pastors are often lonely and isolated.
8. Being a Pastor in a pandemic is tough (and it was tough before the pandemic)
This is no playbook for leading post-pandemic. This is no playbook for leading in a sharply divided and highly politicized country. There is no playbook for leading as mainline denominations explode and Christians fight one another rather than the devil. And let’s face it, churches were declining BEFORE the pandemic!
So here is the deal. Being a pastor in 2021 is hard. 2022 will be tough as well.
Pastors are not Ministry Mutants. It would be so much easier if we were…
Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.