Part 2 in a Series
BY DR. STEVE DUNN
We continue our discussion about what many consider to be the best job in the world, but in practice is one of the most difficult–the job of pastor. Frustrated clergy are ripe for burn-out or serious depression, vision numbing cynicism, dysfunctional lives, and resignation. Let’s see why pastors get frustrated.
1. It is a lonely job. The fact is that you do much of your work out of sight of the congregation as a whole. Your work puts you under pressures that even your closest partners in the church don’t see unless you tell them. You are privy to information about the dark side of your church and its members, but required to keep confidences. People keep their distance from you and except for a spouse, you have no one to unburden yourself to without risking problems or blow-back in the church. The prophetic portion of your job puts you at odds with people’s preferences and cultural “gods” – constantly tempting you to keep silence when your heart cries out for truth.
2. People don’t understand your job. Few people actually believe the old cliche that you only work one hour a week, but most people in the church only really know what they see and what affects them–the pulpit, your presence,and your visits. They don’t know that for most pastors writing a sermon involves many, many hours. Today’s pastor, especially a solo pastor must be a leadership developer, a program planner, chief purchasing agent, office manager, community liaison, one-on-one discipler, member of conference commissions, marriage counselor and officiant, funeral speaker, hospice partner, chief strategist and communicator for vision, conflict manager and problem-solver, student of new tools and trends for the church, communications expert, worship planner, crisis counselor, student of the culture and …. the list goes on. And most don’t understand that Ephesians 4 says your chief role is to be an equipper. People do not have a clue of the complexity of your work and its demands.
3. Your church has too many expectations that control your priorities.
“Would you be sure the church is open for this event?” “Would you go see my second cousin twice removed in the hospital?” “Could you find substitutes for the Sunday School because our teachers are getting burned out?””You need to take communion to all the shut-ins. They won’t accept it from anyone but you.” “Would you attend the Women’s Prayer Group and pray?” “You really need to spend more time with our youth.” “When I came by the church you were not in the office.” “Can you pick up the pizza for the church supper?” “You really shouldn’t delegate that job. It’s what a pastor should be doing.”
Too many pastors suffer from the tyranny of the urgent–what is urgent to everyone else–cutting into prayer time, Bible study, coaching leaders, etc.
4. The leadership does not have your back. Your elders inform you that such and such is complaining about you but they make no attempt to correct that person themselves. You are asked to carry out a difficult task by the Council but they don’t share the task or try to separate themselves from the action because their friends might get mad at them. They vote for things that need to be done or new policies but then don’t own those things themselves in their words and actions.
5. Churches are more interested in maintenance than mission. Taking care of the members first, doing evangelism and outreach with what’s leftover of time, people,and financial resources (if anything is left over) are just two signs of this. Everything is done to minimize risk rather than operate by faith.
6. Your church does not want you to lead, they want you to chaplain. The old model which many people who are from the Builder Generation and the children of these people expect is to see the pastor as a spiritual care-giver giving personal attention on demand to everyone as they request it. Don’t spend a lot of time and energy in equipping the church to carry out its God-given mission. Pay attention to Jerusalem but don’t really think both with Judea and Samaria, or the unchurched.
In the next post we’ll finish the list and then supply some solutions. But remember pastors, these posts are intended for you not to read and ponder them in your heart but to share with your leaders.
© 2018 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org