From the book, What People Ask About The Church, by Dale A. Robbins
To preface my answer to this question, I've been privileged to serve
as a pastor of several congregations over the course of many years. For another decade
before that, I was a guest in the homes of scores of pastors and their families as an
itinerant evangelist. My opinions here come from first hand observation and personal
In today's society, all too often the demands upon a pastor exceed
what they really should. The pastor is traditionally considered a church's head
"everything." He's the spiritual and administrative head, the sole minister, the
legal corporation president and basically the know-it-all, do-it-all, "chief
cook and bottle washer." In many small churches, the pastor will conduct all the
services, lead the singing, do all the preaching, handle all the visiting, counseling and
spiritual matters, while he may also have to take care of the office work, bookkeeping, or
even the janitorial, maintenance or building repair.
In my years of traveling to hundreds of churches, I found many
pastors to be some of hardest working, most versatile, multi-skilled people I have ever
met. And for the main part, they pick up all these skills out of the necessity of their
circumstances having no hired staff or few willing volunteers to do these things
for them. In too many cases, the pastor has to do far more than he was ever called for or
even trained to do.
This really isn't the way it should be. Ideally the pastor should be
the spiritual overseer, devoting his attention to the higher priorities of prayer and
ministering the word, while delegating the load of administrative tasks, details and
responsibilities to other ministers, elders and deacons.
The early Apostles faced this same dilemma. They received complaints
that some of the widows of the church were not being cared for as they should. So they
selected qualified persons to delegate these tasks (believed to be the first deacons), so
they would not be distracted away from what God had really called them to do to be
men of prayer and of the Word. "...It is not desirable that we should leave the word
of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good
reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word"
The rewards of being a pastor are many. Without question, there is
no other position in the world that has a higher honor, than to be called of God to be a
pastor. However, it is a vocation of extreme contrasts. It can be sometimes wonderful and
sometimes terrible in the same package. Despite potential blessings of leading souls to
Christ, the job of pastor is one of the most difficult, agonizing tasks there is.
Some of the greatest challenges of a Pastor are:
(1) Being Misunderstood. For the most part, the
life and ministry of a pastor is not understood by the average layman. A policeman once
told me the same thing about law enforcement officers. He said, "The only one that
really understands what a cop does is another one." I could relate to what he was
trying to say. Sheep really don't have any idea what it's like to be a shepherd
only other shepherds. The average layman has little concept what a pastor is, what he
really does, the hassles he deals with and so forth.
Being a pastor isn't a job, it's what a person is. When God calls a
person to be a pastor, He places in him a shepherd's nature and characteristics to
love and care for his flock. He is a pastor all the time. It's what he thinks about, what
he lives for, his purpose on the earth. It's not possible for him to go home at the end of
a day and leave his job behind the way that most people can. His, is an all consuming
task. The pastor is on duty twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. He frequently
receives phone calls at home from morning to evening, and often in the middle of the
night. Most of his home activities are related to the church. Most social calls or
relationships are church related. A large percentage of his conversations with his family
involve the church. His home should probably be a refuge to rest or to have a life of his
own, but it's usually the only place he can hide himself long enough from interruptions,
to pray for the church or to study for the sermons he must preach there.
(2) Coping with Criticism. Like most other public
figures, a pastor and his family live in the public eye, like a "fish bowl"
where people watch them constantly, frequently viewing them with criticism and cynicism.
People who enter the ministry must be prepared to face much criticism, sometimes of a
brutal and cruel nature. However, all those who have risen in leadership or accomplishment
know well the sting of their critics. It has been said that "the only way to avoid
criticism is to 'Say nothing, Do nothing, and Be nothing."
People frequently find disappointment with pastors, largely due a
lack of understanding of what pastors do. Rarely does a church ever have a written job
description for their senior pastor, and if they do, it's usually too vague to help much.
And it seems that so many have a different opinion of what they think the pastor should
do. They usually hand him the keys to the church and assume that he'll take care of
everything that needs to be done without realizing the hundreds of details that it
all may require.
(3) Faced with an Overwhelming Task. It's been said
that 80% of the work of the church is done by 20% of the people. But when we realize that
the majority of American churches have fewer than 100 people, you can imagine that the
pastor and his family often make up a great portion of that 20%. As we have mentioned, in
many of those churches, the pastor is often faced with having to do jobs he was never
trained for everything from plumbing to desktop publishing... and besides this, he
also must be the well studied preacher and teacher. Beyond these demands, his life will be
one of constant distractions, receiving dozens of calls and letters each day, and expected
always to drop anything he's doing to sympathize, counsel, or encourage those who ask his
help. The pastor seldom has enough time to do everything time is always one of his
I can remember being in many a pastor's home, joining with him in
tearful prayers for God to send helpers, workers and finances to lift the heavy load on
him and his family. Ironically, I would think back to one of my college textbooks on
church administration it was written on the lofty example of a congregation
numbering 1,000 in attendance, with a staff of dozens, though to my knowledge not one of
those students went on to pastor a church of that size. Many pastors will never know what
it is to have a paid staff, and must pray for volunteers to train and delegate
responsibilities. Unfortunately, for most churches, the pastor wears more hats than he
should endure, physically and emotionally. According to researcher George Barna, among the
most discouraging aspects for pastors is the extensive range of duties they must fulfill
that exceed their mix of gifts and talents.¹
Author James Rutz says that the average pastor often feels
overwhelmed and lonely in his task. "He beats out his brains in the pulpit week after
week to make a difference in people's lives. But sometimes he feels like he's been
condemned to a lifetime of futility, trying in vain to motivate a sullen pack of foot
dragging spiritual adolescents who never quite seem to see the big picture, never get
excited enough to shoulder responsibilities, and never come anywhere close to a full 10%
(4) Resisting Manipulation . For many, this will
sound unbelievable. But the pastor is a frequent target of manipulation and control.
Sometimes people unintentionally take advantage of a pastor's willing heart, and make
requests and demands that begin to dominate his personal life. And then there are others
who view the pastor like a politician, trying to lobby his favor or influence to attain a
position, to favor their opinion, etc. But there are those who have a definite personality
profile that feeds on being in control, and if they can't get the pastor to do what they
want, they'll often turn on him and try to run him out. A prominent pastor once said,
"There's an old saying about pastors: If they can't run God's man, they'll try to
Because of this or other sour experiences with people, pastors will
sometimes distance themselves from close personal relationships. They may even refuse
favors or monetary gifts directly from persons, unless they are given anonymously, since
such gifts often have strings attached perhaps unintentionally, the giver will
often expect preferred treatment, recognition, or to have a "special influence"
in the pastor's decisions.
(5) Coping with Emotional Conflict. During the
ministry of a pastor he will face challenges and strange conflicts in his emotions that he
was never prepared for. This unique man most likely entered the ministry out of his divine
calling, and his love for people. But he was probably surprised to learn that shepherding
people was a life filled with wounds, hurts, and disappointment.
As the pastor faces his daily tasks, he will begin a ride an
emotional roller-coaster. With each person he counsels or prays with, he will experience a
momentary bond with their circumstances or burdens. During the course of a day he may
console someone with a terminal illness, listen to trivial complaints, meet with a couple
to discuss their marriage plans, or find it necessary to correct someone for their sinful
lifestyle. He will go from one contrasting situation to another, and then within a short
period, he will have to find a way to restore his composure from all these concerns to
preach an encouraging, heartfelt sermon to the congregation.
Most others who deal with repeated crisis or trauma eventually learn
how to develop a callousness in order to cope with the emotional upheaval of their jobs.
Paramedics, police officers, or emergency room workers understand this all too well.
However, when a pastor deals with a daily assortment of similar urgencies, unlike other
emergency workers, he cannot distance his feelings from crisis. He cannot allow himself to
become callous to protect his emotions from becoming involved. Its the nature of his
calling and his job to care. His flock expects him to be sensitive, a person of genuine
compassion, to feel their hurts and to share their burdens.
(6) Coping with Disappointment. Furthermore, during
his ministry, he will experience many disappointments and heartaches with people. Many
will fail to do what they promised and disappoint him. Others will criticize, judge, speak
against him, betray him or even seek to ruin him or his family. Some will try to gain his
friendship for ulterior motives to manipulate his influence for their own agenda.
Many he loves will eventually leave the church for some reason... some will move away,
others may backslide, become offended, or simply reject his ministry. Dozens of times, he
will experience the loss of beloved members of the flock through death. Many, many are the
wounds of a shepherd, that the flock never really understands.
(7) Dealing with Satanic Attack. The pastor and his
family are targets of Satans greatest attacks. The enemys strategy is highly
intelligent. If he can overturn the shepherd with temptations or trials, he can likely
scatter the sheep. According to insurance statistics, ministers experience an unusually
high rate of stress related illnesses (such as ulcers and nervous conditions), depression,
marital difficulties, conflict with their children or family, financial problems, and so
on. To complicate matters further, if he does face such challenges, some will criticize
him as a spiritual failure.
(8) Perseverance. There will be numerous
temptations for the pastor to simply quit. He must be a person of tremendous faith and
prayer to overcome the many challenges to set his face as a stone, with unflinching
determination and steadfastness. The average layman will never realize the price his
pastor must pay to be his shepherd the heartaches he will endure to minister to
mens souls. Jesus, the Great Shepherd was a man acquainted with grief and sorrow,
despised and rejected, and His under-shepherds and pastors also identify with these
characteristics. How necessary it is that we pray for him, encourage him, show him love
and not add to his list of wounds.
¹ Today's Pastors, George Barna
This article is copyrighted © by Dale A. Robbins, 1995, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA 95949. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.You may download for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain published quantities of this title, .
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