Several years ago, I spent several hours/week doing research (and meeting with other pastors) about pastoral health and vitality for my denomination.
I chose to spend some time doing that for selfish reasons. I was and am still learning how to take better care of myself in ministry (as evidenced by the scary picture above) – while completely acknowledging that sometimes, it’s not supposed to feel right. We all know that work…well…is supposed to be laborious. And those in ministry know that ministry in itself is difficult. There’s no way to get around it but…
What I learned was pretty shocking and heartbreaking but one of the conclusions I came to was that as ministry leaders, pastors and other pursuers of God’s work, it helps to understand some of the challenges ahead and to be proactive rather than reactive.
Yesterday, I posted Part I of this post entitled, Why is Being a Pastor so Unhealthy. The reasons are complex and I’ll acknowledge that when one looks for “doom and gloom,” you’ll find some discouraging things. I can focus an entry purely on the joys and blessings of pastoral ministry and feel confident I can write a compelling piece. But these statistics (and stories that many of us are aware of) and our personal stories are hard to ignore.
Here’s a summary of what I learned:
There are varying reports from different sources but I believe most will agree that the ministerial profession (life as pastors) is now considered one of the most dangerous or unhealthiest professions. It’s usually rated last or second to last. Read this from a local Northwest minister, Mark, on a comment on an earlier post:
“At the first church I served we had an insurance agent who was a member of the congregation. When I went to see him about some auto insurance needs, he said “Hey, wanna see something that will scare the crap out of you?”…He pulled out a form that had various professions rated for their risk of giving life insurance policies too…Anyway, to make a lengthening story shorter, he showed me that clergy members were in the same category as Deep Sea Welders and Loggers as the second highest risk group to give life insurance policies to. We were behind crab fishermen but ahead of munitions workers.
It was a little disturbing to know that statistically I was gonna die due to my profession before someone who builds explosives. This was back in 1994 the statistics may be better (or worse) now.”
If you don’t believe the above comment, read some of these statistics:
48% of them think their work is hazardous to their family’s well being. Another 45.5% will experience burnout or depression that will make them leave their jobs. And 70% say their self-esteem is lower now than when they started their position. They have the 2nd highest divorce rate among professions. Who are they? They are pastors. Here are some more overwhelming statistics from this article.
- 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with spouse and that ministry has a negative effect on their family.
- 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner once a month.
- 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
- 75% report they’ve had significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
- 58% of pastors indicate that their spouse needs to work either part time or full time to supplement the family income.
- 56% of pastors’ wives say they have no close friends.
- Pastors who work fewer than 50 hrs/week are 35% more likely to be terminated.
- 40% of pastors considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months.
Feeling dizzy? Take a breath. Here’s some more statistics:
- Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
- Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
- Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
- Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
- Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
- Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
- Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
- Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons. [compiled by Darrin Patrick]
While I love being a pastor and even more, being called to be a pastor, I want folks to know how incredibly difficult it is at times to handle the complexities and stress of being a minister. Finally, at the of 39, I feel more at peace at how to create boundaries, love my church, better care for my wife and children, support my fellow staff, handle criticism, etc. but there are times, I feel overwhelmed. I’ve been having occasional visitors from a blog started by and for pastors’ wives [couldn’t find one for pastors’ husbands]. Some of their comments have been difficult to read because they hit so close to home. I will not post a link to their blog here but here are but two comments:
“Oh, and the financial part is tough. We live on poverty level. I don’t know how we are going to pay all the bills sometimes, much less buy groceries. The Lord always comes through, though, and on a really tough week, someone in the church will anonymously give us a gift. We have no in between at our church. It’s either people trying to help us out, (it’s all there what we make each week – in black and white) or it’s people that have this attitude – ‘Pastors are supposed to suffer and sacrifice. It’s part of the job.’ Has anyone else noticed that mentality? I don’t know where it comes from, and it is one of my biggest pet peeves. Pastors aren’t supposed to drive nice cars, have nice houses, or buy new clothes. And we are always supposed to be worried about making ends meet I wonder if it is just half of my church that thinks that way.”
Here’s the second comment:
“Today my son approached my husband and randomly said “I guess you’re going back to church now.” And he wasn’t going anywhere! During seminary, he would walk around the house saying “Bye bye Daddy. Bye bye daddy!” So sad, but very true. It’s definitely a calling, isn’t it? I told my husband the other day: “In my classes that I took to prepare me to be a minister’s wife, they told me over and over again ‘it is the loneliest job in the world,’ but I never realized it until we were in the role…
While I feel solid support from my staff, my elder board, and the church as a whole, I know that many of my peers do not feel this way.
Simply, pastors are often underpaid, underappreciated, and at times, undermined.
There is strain on their marriages and families. Two other incredibly real factors that add complexities to the ministerial calling are:
- the cultural complexity and dynamic of the 21st century and
- the nebulous but real nature of the spiritual realm & battle.
The reality is that being a pastor is not just merely a job nor should it be one. Ministry is a calling. It’s both amazing and difficult. While it isn’t my desire to over dramatize the significance of ministry, I do believe that the Evil One seeks to impede and harm the work that is to take place through ministers and pastors.
As for the “cultural complexity of the 21st century,” I think this quote captures my sentiment:
“My viewpoint tends to be more organizational, so my take on being a pastor is that it is an impossible job. Here you are asked to be the lead preacher and teacher, available for counseling sessions, leading a staff of people that can span such responsibilities as missions and janitorial, serving as the public face for your organization in the community, networking with other leaders at Christian conferences and denominational gatherings. That’s a lot of hats! … Let’s finally consider the financial issues. I don’t believe pastors are paid very well, so that’s obviously a downer. And if you are paid well, and sometimes even if you aren’t, that has its own issues, for congregants can quite easily feel they own you, since they’re paying your way. What other organizations is the person at top in such an awkward financial relationship with his or her co-workers and clients?” [h/t Lee H]
My point is very simple:
Please care, pray, and love your pastors (and church staff) in your churches.
Seriously, give them a nice pay raise, more time off, regular opportunities to get away for even a day retreat to pray, buy them some dinner certificates, honor their spouses, love their children, pray for them, and regularly share your appreciation and affirmation.
Now, I know that this can easily be intended to perpetuate the victim language or mentality, but it’s a two-way street. Churches must seek to honor and care for its pastors and staff and build healthy structures to ensure such care. Similarly, pastors and their families must make choices to be holistically healthy! We must rest, Sabbath, enjoy God, love the Scriptures not simply for the sake of sermon preparations, be in deep friendships and community, exercise, work on your jump shot, continue to be a reader and learner, love and honor our spouses, nurture our children, laugh and have fun, eat healthy and drink good refreshments [use your imagination here], examine and repent of any possible addictions, and [add your contribution here].
We need to lean on God; stop our self-sufficiency and repent of the idolatry to please all those around us. Easier said than done but it needs to begin somewhere. Why not now?
Some good news:
Despite the intense nature of pastoral ministry, it is also immensely fulfilling. Huh? It makes total sense to me. According to a recent survey, the top five professions are clergy, physical therapists, firefighters, education administrators, and painters/sculptors:
Clergy ranked by far the most satisfied and the most generally happy of 198 occupations. Eighty-seven percent of clergy said they were “very satisfied” with their work, compared with an average 47 percent for all workers. Sixty-seven percent reported being “very happy,” compared with an average 33 percent for all workers.Jackson Carroll, Williams professor emeritus of religion and society at Duke Divinity School, found similarly high satisfaction when he studied Protestant and Catholic clergy, despite relatively modest salaries and long hours.“
They look at their occupation as a calling,” Carroll said. “A pastor does get called on to enter into some of the deepest moments of a person’s life, celebrating a birth and sitting with people at times of illness or death. There’s a lot of fulfillment.” [read the entire article]
So, while pastoral ministry is at times exhausting, draining, depressing, and overwhelming, it’s also meaningful and fulfilling.
May God grant you grace, courage, and strength.
God bless you pastors. God bless your spouses and your children. May you bless your flock and may you be blessed by them. And together, may you bless the Lord as you seek to bless His creation.
* Please pass this on to pastors but especially to those who sit on boards, groups, and committees that help to care for the pastors and leaders of their churches.
101 Replies to “death by ministry?”
A lot of this was pretty horrifying stuff the read, but I do wonder whether something hasn’t gone wrong here in the money area. I can completely see how being a pastor on low wages in a church with people earning a lot is discouraging, but where is the challenge to the rest of the church to earn or “take” (i.e. not give away) less, to seek careers with a lower financial reward and generally consume less of the stuff that damages our communities and our reliance on one another.
I wonder whether this is more to do with the relative earnings between pastors and pastored, and the ability of many church goers to be biblical about the money they keep than the money they give away.
From experience, and I may be wrong, most pastors need to be told to take time to sabbath, study the bible, get out on retreat far more than they need to be given the “successful lifestyle” that gets in the way of God and church community. Otherwise, we just loose our salt, and any of that Acts 2:45 vision.
Let me give you some perspective – I am a college trained professional, working 50 hours a week, and I earn less than a person at McDonalds. I have no health insurance, and my kids and wife are on Medicare. I have enough money to live, so I can’t complain, but no minister is wanting to roll in a Bentley. We just would like to be paid a reasonable (and by reasonable most of us would still be accepting far less than the median income) amount.
Sigh…I need to pray for my pastor more. My comment yesterday was pretty stupid, in retrospect.
Thanks for sharing the stats. As a possible future pastor (that all of sudden sounds funny to me), I appreciate seeing the reality of what is to come. Sometimes ministry is painted too romantically and sometimes it is painted as the worst thing in the world.
Your presentation of the life of ministry, it’s difficulties and it’s blessings, is truly appreciated.
I attend a church that has many professionals with high-demand careers. I suspect my pastor works 60+ hours never taking a vacation or even a day off because he sees it as a calling and the Lord’s work never stops, and also because he doesn’t want to be seen as working any less than anyone else. Wrong, I know! Like Graham says above, pastors need to be told to take days off. Unless the congregation tells them, most of the time they won’t take a day off.
In college, I had the misfortune of being part of a very popular multi-school college church where most of the body disliked the new pastor so much they passive-aggressively drove him out in less than a year and did not find a replacement for over a year. Until then, I’d only gone to church with my parents, and been sheltered from most of the politics of church itself and the squabbles and gossip of church people.
What struck me then was just how much disrespect people who professed to love God could show a man of God. Until then, I naively believed personal opinions of a pastor shouldn’t affect the level of respect showed them, that whether you believed in what s/he was saying or agreed with what s/he did or preached, there should be some respect accorded because we’re all human, we all fail, but, in the end, if we come together to worship, we’re all trying.
That was, unfortunately, the last time I went to church regularly and the last time I let myself get incredibly involved in working for a church. As a freshmen in college, seeing peers much older, and at the time (in my mind), seemingly more mature than me treat someone so poorly with complete disdain, and without any straightforwardness left more of a bad taste in my mouth than years of attending a fairly malicious, gossipy Asian American church.
Reading this and meshing it with my own experiences, I can totally see just how being in ministry is a high risk occupation. I’ve heard a pastor say once that he’s married to his church and its people first, God second, and his family last. That the innate politics of leading a church meant in order to keep his job or have his family survive, he has to cater to the people within the church. It’s a sort of depressing way to view a job that still feels like it should be about love and education.
Like someone commented above, I should remember to pray for those who pray for me more frequently.
Thanks for sharing this, Amy.
Amen to your last remark. Without PRAYER, the Pastoring Assignment is doubtless ‘impossible’ like Eugene points out at the start of this write.
I’ll get up on my usual soapbox for just a moment to say that our expectations of pastors overall are just too high: “lead preacher and teacher, available for counseling sessions, leading a staff of people that can span such responsibilities as missions and janitorial, serving as the public face for your organization in the community, networking with other leaders at Christian conferences and denominational gatherings.” You bet this is a recipie for burnout, and neglect of important family relationships.
My question always is: why do we persist in expecting so many tasks from one person? I would love to see us move more and more toward a plural ministry model, where we see a group of pastors or elders as the body that can divide these responsibilities up, according to their gifting. Even though many churches have multiple pastors on staff, it still tends to fall to one individual to do the bulk of all of the above. We need to keep weaning ourselves off of the need for superpastors who we require to have all of the spiritual gifts.
I agree. Unfortunately it is often left to the pastor to lead this process, which often ends in pain and criticism that the pastor isn’t doing his job. An unfortunately Catch-22. If such a movement is to take place, it must come from the “laity,” many of whom feel ill equipped (or who are) or who are just lazy.
Clap, clap, clap. THX, Eugene! as a pastor and a pastor’s wife, I applaud you for helping us to take responsibility for our overload by remembering Sabbath & Balance, but also for reminding us although the stresses are high the satisfaction level is extremely high as well> It is a calling, a privilege, and a challenge.
I’m learning as well.
And learning how to better care for my staff. I don’t want to be “that guy” that his staff criticizes when he’s not in the meeting room.
Thank you, Eugene. Thank you for enlightening me and for doing what you do so boldly. It’s important to see that pastors are not superheroes and that both sides of the pulpit need prayer.
Every time I open the coats closet or put shoes away my son automatically said “Daddy you go?” even if I just got home… he would say “daddy you go?” Now he says “Daddy you go to church?”
As a pastor I fully agree and have experienced many of the things in this blog. Thankfully my church right now is extremely gracious in this respect. They gave me 2 weeks paternity leave in addition to my 4 weeks vacation. They are always telling me to go home and not help with set up and clean up for church events. So they are great.
But I can’t help but to read this blog in light of the missionaries massacred in Afghanistan last week. Like I said, I fully agree with Eugene, but I just don’t know how to make sense of it in light of martyrs in our midst.
My reflection is specifically on the “Death by Ministry” title of your blog… death by ministry for people like us vs death by ministry for the doctors and nurses who were killed in Afghanistan… Again, I don’t know what I think about it but just not comfortable calling what happens to us “death” while our brothers and sisters are actually being killed…
I appreciate both of your comments and I agree – especially w/ the first comment that sometimes, it’s possible that it’s possible to over-accentuate our trials – especially in comparison w/ others. having said that, many of these numbers are real.
your comment about the title – again – makes me think and ponder the wisdom in choosing those words.
well, but I think there is an element of the wrong kind of death in ministry you’re talking about. It’s one thing to die because you entered a danger zone and knew where you were going in following the Lord (not saying that’s just ducky, but saying this is the truth sometimes), and another to kill ourselves by trying to live up to impossible expectations. You leave out something in this discussion that is part of my stress: the overbearing enthusiasm of all the church-growth stuff that comes across the Internet and in the mail. I pastor a very small church – I get the message almost daily that I’m wasting the Lord’s time by doing so, and it’s up to me to “be a leader” and make everything change. Along with the preaching, teaching, counseling, being at the death bed, visiting the hospitals, dealing with the mentally ill, managing all the building issues, and being the Head Marketer. Reasonable boundaries on all these things are hard to find and keep. But you remind me that people are watching me to learn how to live in Christ, so if I am really just trying to please a million idols, I’m truly failing.
Hi-thank you so much for bringing these issues to light. They’ve been ignored by the church at large for too long. My pastor (Pete Scazerro) wrote a book called “Emotionally Healthy Church” and subsequently “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” both of which came out of awful experiences and how God has been healing relationships (especially marriages) in our church. They speak to a lot of issues you mentioned. God has really been transforming our church in incredible ways these past few years. These are great resources, and I highly, highly recommend that everyone in ministry read them! http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/ (ministry site) and http://www.newlifefellowship.org (church website)
i’m spoken at same places as pastor pete but have not had a chance to meet him in person.
i think i even have his book…somewhere. might be a good time to read it.
Sorry that my previous comment sounds like an informercial. =) I am just really passionate about this issue and can personally testify to transformation in my own life as well. If anyone wants or needs more information, please e-mail me: email@example.com (If you’re in the NYC area, let’s meet up!)
I see a lot of the same things that many commenters have already pointed out, so I won’t repeat them except to say that I agree wholeheartedly.
I would add 3 points that are hopefully more than casual critiques or easy answers.
1. In my experience, I see that there’s a large number of ministers who fit the mold that we’ve described here. But I also think I see just as many, if not more pastors and staff who don’t pull their weight when it comes to ministry, which puts even more stress and strain on the first group. This may not be true with smaller churches and church plants, but I’ve observed this phenomenon quite a bit with large churches and organizations. Some of the staff see themselves as mere employees, and others see themselves as ministers of the Gospel. And in order to compensate for the people who only really work 20 hours a week, somebody has to pick up that slack.
2. In my own life, a fair amount of my stress and overworking is due to wasting too much time on the front end, prioritizing tasks poorly, etc. Could a bit of “getting things done” training go a long way in helping pastors?
3. Finally, related to point 1, could the overworking of pastors be a symptom of the underworking of the body at large? Maybe the ultimate solution is to find better ways to prepare the saints for the work of ministry. That’s easy to say and hard to do, at least in my own professional and ministry experience. When we’re put in positions of leadership, it can be so difficult to let go of certain responsibilities and delegate them to people who maybe don’t seem as capable as us. When have you issues that need to be addressed now, it’s hard to tackle them and at the same time throw a cloak around someone else to tackle them with you.
Again, these are just thoughts, with no easy answers. Thanks Eugene for facilitating the conversation.
My parents would say to us, “Thank God you guys turned out OK!” Yes, I thank God for His grace upon our family. Looking back, my siblings and I practically grew up by ourselves as, yes, my parents were truly busy with their ministry for and with the Korean immigrant churches.
As a preacher’s kid, I attended three high schools because our family was at the mercy of the Church’s budget for parsonage. As a Korean immigrant pastor my father (and my mother) is a true example of what it is to be faithful to God’s calling. He even told me he was asked by his friend to join his wig company in the ’70s, and drop his ministry altogether seeing that we were struggling mightily. He said no.
Call ministry what you will, be it a profession or whatever, it is God’s work. It is tough! It can be very lonely. But, it is a blessing nonetheless. Sure, it can and will cause serious health issues. But, no profession is immune to health issues. Still, at 64, my father went through a 5-bypass heart surgery after experiencing tremendous stress and obstacles while restoring once a thriving, mega church so broken that only way to tell that it was a church was the cross in the chapel.
My parents retired from ministry in 2004, but have heeded to many calls from God since. Recently, they moved to a cheap apartment for 6 months to help restore another “sick” church. It’s not easy to see 70-something parents make such a sacrifice, yet they gladly did it. In those 6 months, my mother went to the emergency room twice. I was concerned for their well-being, but in the end it was God who pulled them through. My mother recently had surgery, and is recovering well. Hallelujah! My father thanks God for making him useful even at this age.
I have to be honest. Seeing and experiencing the hardship my parents went through coupled with my tremendous disdain for many selfish and uncaring parishoners while growing up has led me to a decision to never go into ministry. My father is a third generation United Methodist pastor. But, never say never! I’ll be going to Seminary this Fall to pursue a Masters of Arts in Ministry while working as a lawyer. God never gives up on you and me! 🙂
In recent years, seminaries across the country have taken note of this very issue. Seminary students and pastors are made aware that they need to take care of themselves, especially their physical health. It truly is important. However, here’s where I do have some ambivalence with the topic at hand. As someone has mentioned above, I look at the 10 slained missionaries in Afghanistan in recent days, and so many others who have tirelessly sacrificed their life for others. Then, I am also reminded with some pastors who do seek to preserve themselves before taking care of the flock. Yup, it’s hard!
I have come across pastors of this generation taking this subject to heart, but perhaps too far. I know, I know. I’m being critical – Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I recall having this conversation with a senior pastor once. I requested that he take more time to visit parishoners as they are in desperate need of pastoral care. To which he responded by saying, “You know, I work 40 hours a week and I need my rest too.” Of course, he does! But, I was taken aback with his attitude more than the truth behind his response. As it were, I was thinking to myself, the deacons also work 40 hrs. or more and, yet we never thought to calculate the actual hours of service. Another pastor I know took a long leave of absence, especially in a time when I thought the church needed his leadership more than ever. And, another pastor shuts his cell phone off on Mondays, esepcially when there’s no assistant pastor. I know (and hope) they are in the minority, but this world we live in is ever-changing for the worse, and the Evil one knows his time will soo be up. So, he wretches up!
For pastors, I pray that they seek God’s lead in all of this, and ultimately rely on God’s grace and provision daily, and not necessarily rely on their own assessment of their needs and desires. In the end, we would all want to hear God say, “Well done, my faithful servant.”
In our legal profession we have to be careful with giving any appearance of impropriety. I believe, for pastors, they ought to be careful not to give an appearance of selfishness. Yup, again, very hard.
Finally, I’m reminded of this verse though I don’t know how fitting it is: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39.
I still think this is symptomatic of a very large paradigm problem. We’re stuck in a proverbial hamster and can’t get off.
What a concept in the scriptures – everybody’s a “priest.” How innovative is that? When you’re paid to do something, it heightens expectations on the payee, while at the same time it obstructs the necessary flow of mutual participation. Why does this continue? We can’t divorce ourselves from the platform/pew; performance/passivity dependency.
AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!!!
I completely agree. This is the obvious (yet super innovative) solution from Scripture. Something we hardly practice at all and the consequences are shown in the blog above.
However, I have no experience or data to back this up. Can we at least try it, Church? It seems like all the traditional/pay churches look down on & call heretics those who are trying this.
Here’s why, they’re addicted to their pay system. They want to make it a living b/c it’s fun to be the big man, and be up front, and control the ship. And it’s much easier for the rest of the congregation to acquiesce and follow one strong leader while doing little more than attending on a Sunday. Our current situation is PERFECT for accomodating 1) self-important, strong leaders who want to do everything + 2) lazy Christians who want to do very little = sad, lazy, dysfunctional church =(
May I suggest a new title: “Life by Ministry?” 🙂
Responsibility + lack of trust = stress, sacrifice, and death. Ministry is not the only place where this happens, but it certainly is a lightning rod for it. Not surprising, though, considering we have been called to follow the One who bore the sins of the world, but the world knew him not.
Still, it’s hard to watch my husband suffer. I try to focus on the hope of resurrection, and look for little promises of it even in the midst of pain. Long obedience, same direction…
Have you read this article in CT? http://www.christianitytoday.com/globalconversation/august2010/index.html
It offers a different perspective. I wonder how it fits into this conversation. I’m in the member care profession and I believe in preventative care for pastors and missionaries–I see what happens when Sabbaths aren’t taken, criticisms and expectations are harsh. Still–this article is intriguing to me… I’d love to hear your response, Eugene.
Linda, thanks for the link to Christianity Today’s article. I am in agreement with this article, 100%!
Eugene, well done.
As a pastor, I struggle with these issues a lot.
As it pertains to money, I don’t make a lot at all. I have a car, yes, and an apartment, but my apartment’s a studio and I wouldn’t be able to upgrade and eat anything other than Ramen. I live simply (not because my church expects me to, but because that’s how I feel God wants me to live). I spend a lot of my personal money on ministry. But I’m still plagued with questions: My pension is very small — but should I be building that or trusting God to provide when I’m older? My church is not in a financial place to give me a raise — I’d love to stay there forever, but not having any sort of financial cushion adds a level of stress on top of normal pastoral duties. But should I desire a financial cushion — or should I desire to live as Jesus did? Again, these aren’t questions my church is demanding I consider — if anything they want me to be financially stable — they’re questions I want to ask myself.
Secondly, I’m single. I don’t have a spouse, or kids. When I take personal time I’m sleeping, or reading, or sitting on my porch, or hanging out with friends. It feels like it would be a little easier to say, “I can’t answer that text right now, I’m having quality time with my daughter” than to say, “I can’t answer that text, I’m reading the novel that’s been sitting on my bedside table, or I’m watching Project Runway because I want to unwind.”
For the most part, I feel like I do a pretty good job keeping a balance and good boundaries, but I also do a good job feeling guilty about it. I’ll see my phone ring and think, “It’s my day off, but what if this kid really wants to talk?” I’ll be watching a movie and think “there are a million things I could be working on/praying about right now, and a million people I could be meeting with.”
I don’t really have a conclusion for this. Just sharing some of my personal thoughts/struggles.
Xtina – Thanks for sharing some of your personal thoughts & struggles. I know it will bless someone…
i am currently reading “Mad Church Disease” and it speaks to the same issues you raise here. the health of the church and the pastor are coming out of the darkness and into the light. i’m looking for more material that speaks to the healthy change in leadership structures happening in light of the statistics you mention.
thanks for this article. I think a lot of pastors have these issues and it is good to see them discussed.
a couple of things I haven’t seen mentioned yet is that
1) many people (though certainly not all) who go into ministry are not healthy to begin with. They may already have issues with lack of proper boundaries, control, overwork,self discipline, emotional health, etc., and find “ministry” as a place to hide from their problems. As I said, this is not always the case, but I’m often surprised at the general lack of spiritual and emotional maturity of people who are drawn to ministry. It is a “helping” profession, and like all helping professions, often draws people who have a fair amount of personal dysfunction that they’re trying to work out through their job.
2) Many pastors are not well led. Either because they are gifted and therefore pushed along the ministry track without good accountability and discipleship, or because they are supposed to be the “spiritual” one and aren’t often appropriately cared for by others, many people in ministry float along giving out much ministry to others while not receiving much leadership themselves. Of course some are also arrogant and refuse to be led or taught.
3) Finally and probably most importantly (and related to the other 2) many pastors are terribly lonely. They often don’t have any friends. Whereas people in other high pressure professions can often take off after work to blow off steam over a beer with colleagues or have a mutual gripe session over the watercooler, there is no such outlet for most pastors. In fact they are “on” even when they’re “off.” Time not spent in ministry is time spent caring for family, which even though that is vitally important, it isn’t quite the same and still represents a place that is sometimes NOT restorative. The pastor who comes home from a difficult conference and then has to care for a spouse who is feeling lonely and isolated, or a teenager who has problems in school, or a sick parent, or any number of other issues is not coming back to a place of restoration. Many of these pastors don’t have any actual friends to whom they can really unburden themselves, who will pray for them in a personal knowledgeable way, who will challenge them when they are sinning, or just share a cup of coffee with them without asking “when will you take out the garbage.”
I remember meeting with one korean pastor who, over lunch, basically just blurted out his desire for me to be his friend almost like one would expect from a 3rd grader. it wasn’t because we had built up any particular rapport, it was just that he was desperately lonely and needed some place to just be a regular person and since I was also a person in ministry, but not the pastor of another church, he felt I was a safe option. There are so many in the same position. I think the loneliness of the job exacerbates the other stresses 10 fold.
I didn’t become a Pastor for many of the reasons mentioned. I do not think it is fair that so much of ministry is treated like a burden and one placed on the Pastor. The role of the Pastor should be somewhat similar to Paul, he is there and supports, but really it is up to God and the community to keep growing.
Whenever I move I make sure to tell my Pastors how much I appreciate them and how thankful I am to have them serving the Kingdom. While I can never do what they do, I sure hope to continue to grow in my faith to help lift the burden off of them. A church is not built on the Pastor alone, sadly this is the model many churches go for.
Thank you Eugene Cho, while you are not my Pastor, you are serving the same Kingdom. We all have one goal, I am thankful that you are better at the job than me.
Glad I read this just after putting the last item in the car, preparing for our family vacation and weekend off. . .
I’m off to fish next week…
1st of all ,I like this piece and think more like it should be written by other leaders,and what I’m about to share is only my opion .One of the things that caught my eye when I saw your status on Facebook was that you researched for your denomination about this topic,I think that is the primary concern that causes confusion in the Body of Christ,denominations presents groups,that form their own views ,that causes controversies,that brings about confrontation ,that creates division,that eliminates any opportunity of unification that could bring any resemblance of a body that’s working cohesively to build hope for people in dire straights.As long as the the enemy causes these issues in the church ,there can never be real productivity to command change and restore hope ,that gives sinners a chance for salvation,NOTHING PERSONAL ,JUST MY OPION
Thank you for the reminders. As an MK, I know the pressures that are on the families serving the church. I’ll lift up our pastors more often.
A few thoughts from a former pastor and missionary (me):
– Too many people who are NOT called go into ministry
– Many who choose ministry are NOT prepared adequately
– Most pastors serve in churches of less than 100 people (read: no money)
– These stats are one-sided, most could apply to the average work environment
– Most pastors I’ve met ALLOW the church to come before their family
Its very easy to jump on the “post-mordern, churches are bad” bandwagon – but we all know there are two sides to every story. I think its fair to say many churches in America pay their Pastor pennies on the dollar and expect that both he and his wife be available 24/7 in addition to preaching, teaching, counseling, and leading community outreach. Clearly the statistics show that many in ministry allow the church to take advantage of them and overrun their lives, families, and more.
It is my opinion both positions are wrong and lead to the high rate of “death by ministry.” It is deeply saddening that people in the church have such unrealistic expectations of their pastors. But its equally as sad that pastors allow their lives to be destroyed by their churches. What would happen to the church of America if pastors stood united and refused to work unless the pay and benefits were commensurate with the workload? I think a few very wonderful things would happen:
– churches without a sustainable model would have to close their doors
– those who are truly called would still find ways to minister
– the health of remaining ministers and churches increases
I wonder if such a movement by those called to the ministry might actually bring a true revival to the church of America. Churches who can’t afford (read: have unrealistic expectations of) a pastor would be forced to reevaluate their existence. They would either have to adjust their expectations or find God on their own. Many would realize they have been sitting in their seat for years with little to no interaction with Jesus. They might realize the emphasis of their church is to have a pastor who’s only job is to make them happy, satisfied, and comfortable. Perhaps they might realize they have neglected to do the work of the ministry themselves by ignoring the great commission to “go and make disciples.”
While being a pastor is demanding, challenging, difficult and rewarding, the choice between healthy and unhealthy ultimately lies with the pastor not the people. Sure he(or she) might be out of a job, but its still their choice.
Thanks for writing this article. I’m a late 30s lead pastor. Love my church, and feel very supported by my staff and elders. Still, the article resonates deeply and here are my current struggles:
1) Your listing of the multiple hats. This is huge. You can talk delegation all day long, but I think inherently, the guy speaking on Sunday is is perceived as the guy to go to for anything. The list of needed skills for a modern pastor is daunting!
2) For many in my congregation, I am in three relationships: pastor, friend, taskmaster. Being a pastor taints every friendship within the church. Being the taskmaster adds tension. “Hello well meaning volunteer – remember when you said you’d do this thing and you’ve not done it? Yeah, oh and how about lunch on Friday?” Sucks, is the best word to describe that difficulty and I want to be frank here – it isn’t just difficult for me, but also for my friends. No other friend of theirs is also their pastor and taskmaster.
3) I have found spiritual health in submitting my life to a calendar that can rarely be changed. I’ve had to build a rhythm of retreat (daily, monthly, twice annually) and days off to survive. Without this set rhythm, I wouldn’t still be in ministry,
Thanks Eugene – what a great article. I’m curious – how do you interpret the seemingly opposite data of depression and unhealth verses job satisfaction in your surveys?
best wishes to you
thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. i cried when i read it. as a former pastor’s wife we’ve experienced most of what you wrote about. it sucks! it’s our family’s mission now to be a blessing to the pastoral staff wherever we go.
WoW! I had no idea how dangerous my own profession is. I thank God that only a couple of these factors have so far affected me, nothing major. My prayers go out for fellow ministers who face these things.
Hi Pastor Eugene,
Thanks for the post. (By the way, I’m originally from Seattle and am a United Methodist pastor who did some teaching at the pre-TG Conference in LA.) I think the point of your post is well taken, but I got to say that I have a hard time believing the statistics compiled by Darrin Patrick. What are his sources? A statement like, “Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression” doesn’t sound like a statement that is based on well designed research. (The word ‘constantly’ being the red flag.) There’s been enough written lately on how statistics within the church can be misused that I raise this note of caution. Having said that, I appreciate your post and will share it with others.
First of all, WOW! That is quite the daunting list!
Just shows how the enemy never rests in his attempt to cripple the church at what should be its strongest point, the leadership.
My immediate response to stats like these is, “How did things get this way and what do we do to change it?”
Perhaps this blog would have been better titled: “Death By Definition”. I think the role of the pastor and of the congregation has been detrimentally miss-defined in the mainstream of Christian culture.
Ehhh, how to be brief.. I feel a book coming on. 🙂
In Matt 11 Jesus calls to himself those who are heavy laden carrying great burdens and He says, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light”. Is it possible that as spiritual leaders we take on burdens that aren’t in our heavenly job description?
Moses faced the same issues that many pastors today are facing. He was the Go-to guy for a huge group of immature, ungrateful, backstabbing people and he couldn’t handle the pressure of the job. It was at his crumbling point that Moses made one of the smartest moves of His life. He got advice from a spiritual authority; His father-in-law.
I wonder how many pastors out there are lone rangers? Every pastor needs a spiritual father for covering, accountability and encouragement. Larry Stockstill’s book ‘The Remnant’ really expounds on how damaging the lack of fathering is in church leadership today, and what God is wanting to change about the whole deal. Highly worth reading. 🙂
I think that the advice Moses’ father in law gave him is the advice God would give to pastors who find themselves in similar situations today:
“What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people-men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain-and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.”
There’s this weird term rolling around through church circles. Maybe you’ve heard of it: “Lay People”.
I don’t get it. Is God saying that we should have a couple leader guys and then everybody else just “Lays” around and lets the few “Chosen ones” build the kingdom? I’ve been looking but I can’t find this principle anywhere in scripture. Do we really think so little of the body of Christ, our congregation, that we title them, “Lay People” and assume all the responsibility of carrying out the great commission ourselves? No wonder we die early after having our families and ministries fall apart around us!
Death by definition. We die early because we’ve miss-defined our God given role as pastors.
I see the church as an army. We have Generals, Captains, Majors, Corporals, Sargents, Privates etc.. Let’s call our pastors “Generals” and newly saved people “Privates”. Most everybody else should be some sort of officer.
The role of a General is to lead the officers directly under him. It is through them that he leads and guides the direction of the Army as a whole. Generals rarely interact with lower ranking officers or Privates because they’ve delegated those roles out to their higher ranking officers.
It’s just like with Moses. You have leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. With the new system of delegated leadership in place, the Israelites didn’t need Moses cell-phone number cause they could call the guy who was their point leader.
In smaller churches its a different feel, but the principle remains the same. If we position ourselves to be the Go-to guy, that’s what we’ll always be. If we raise up leaders under us and they raise up leaders under them, our load gets lighter and lighter and our church grows as a result.
Everything rises and falls on leadership, not good sunday messages. If we see our congregation as lay people, that’s what they’ll be. If we see them as an army and equip them to lead themselves and others, we can take our cities. Lead alone and you’ll always struggle. Empower others to lead alongside you you’ll be an unstopable force.
I often say that my goal is not to gain and maintain as many followers as possible, but to equip and release as many leaders as possible.
This is the future of The Church.
Emily, “lay people” refers to the term “laity” which traditionally has been simply a descriptive term to articulate the church or – the mass of people who go to the church – from the “clergy”. Cordially…
Oh, haha, I’m smart. 🙂
I guess its the idea of “Lay People” not really having a specific role other than attending that bothers me. Every member should be engaged in making church a success. It’s an ownership thing/leadership thing. If we build a culture where each person sees it as THEIR project to grow the church, they’ll sacrifice and do whatever it takes to help the church to become all it has the potential to become. Every member is a leader, either present or future. It’s just a matter of whether or not they are being developed and launched into their individual callings.
-But I’m only 22 and just a servant, not a pastor yet, so maybe I shouldn’t be so opinionated… 🙂
Just because you are ‘only’ 22, don’t think you can’t do great things.
regarding ‘lay people’ I think we have all seen ’em laying around…you are right in that they need to be taught their callings and how to operate in them. What a great class that would be…I would love to teach it!So many people have been so discouraged or hurt in a church setting that they are afraid to step out. It is hard to separate from the past, but necessary.
Oh Emily! I love the army idea! What a great word picture. We need to raise up leaders under the leaders who each will teach those under them how to lead in the area of their gifts. Yes!
I appreciate this in light of the fact that I am a pastor.
I think a large part of the blame falls on the system: one person (or a small group of people) who ministers to the masses. Why are Pastors or missionaries the only ones in ministry, doing God’s work? Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, are we not all called to be prophets, ministering to one another?
The system of looking to one pastor to minister to the rest of the church is designed to fail and also reflects an inadequate Biblical theology. Because of the work of Christ and the indwelling of the HS, the responsibility to lead, teach, counsel, etc should not placed on any one individual.
Things have changed over the 30 years of my ministry. Expectations are so demanding rather than trusting. Loving parishioners is sometimes easy sometimes hard but always right. And I’m not a full saint yet.
Great article. I can say I’ve observed a lot of this in my own life and in the pastors around me.
I’m cautious to put all the blame on parishoners though. I think as a peer group we pastors can put pressure on each other. I’ve been to pastors’ conferences where one would claim a 60hr work week as a badge of honor, or one would almost brag that they hadn’t had a day off in months (would we brag about violating any of the other 9 commandments at a pastors conference?)
Part of it comes from the concession we make to cultural forces. If we can’t have a payday then at least we want the glory– so we overwork and stress ourselves out to get bigger numbers, more prestige, etc.
The pendulum can swing the other way too. We’re frustrated from criticism and worn thin by frustration and small paychecks, and there is often little accountability for our office hours– so time gets wasted on the internet, we arrive late and go home early, “phone in” the sermon for the week, etc. I’ve been in both places, and neither are healthy for the pastor or the congregation.
Sadly, I don’t yet have any silver bullet for finding that healthy balance of life and ministry.
Eugene, thanks for the information and giving a “shout out” to folks who think pastors/ministers have it easy. You article mentioned loneliness. So true. As an assoc. pastor in Texas, loneliness is very real for me and my wife. We dont dare confide too deeply with members of our church and other relationships we’ve cultivated over the years are with people who live too far away. In a very real sense my wife and I must continue to find strength, contentment, and confirmation from the Lord. I wish I could be better at this. Anyway…thanks again.
Eugene, you sound like a very committed pastor who gives a great deal of yourself to your congregation and your ministry and I’m sure they very much appreciate it. But, you really need some perspective on how blessed you are to have the privilege of making a living (even if it is a modest one) while pursuing your calling.
*ALL* persons who serve those less fortunate are underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked. Think being a minister is stressful? I’m sure those blessed souls who lost their life in Afganistan while providing civilian aid were very stressed at the guns and violence they saw in their last moments of life. Upset about the financially modest life you lead? Try being a poor people’s lawyer–the profession of law requires incurring more educational debt, out of pocket expenses, and wardrobe obligations than pastors. Finding it hard to establish boundaries? You’ve got nothing on social workers with outrageous caseloads who cannot skip challenging or dangerous home visits.
The idea that one can have a job that is low-stress, financially comfortable, 50 or fewer hours a week, and spiritually fulfilling is naive and unrealistic for the vast majority of people. Why you should be paid more, work fewer hours, or have less stress or more familial harmony than your poorest congregants? Or your fellow servants in different fields?
You, my earnest brother, are one of those extraordinarily lucky persons whose job is his art, passion, and calling. Most people who have the goal and inclination to serve others must struggle to make room for the time to do that after working the job that pays the bills, caring for those depending on them, AND contributing their treasure, time, and talents to their church. Most people don’t have the time to devote to those things about which they are passionate because all their time goes to earning a living. And while weariness and the occasional twinge of jealousy, envy, or buyer’s remorse is to be expected because we are all human, you really need to be grateful that you were fortunate enough to be able to make the choice that your profession would be to serve others, your church, and God.
And if that feeling of fortune does not overwhelm the negatives, than you should find either a job that feeds you or allows you to have the lifestyle you want. If you find both, let us know. Many of us servants would flock to it.
It took me years to really see my pastor as anything other than a pastor. Get to know your pastor as a friend, realize they have needs and vulnerabilities. Think about how refreshing it would be as a pastor to be asked what YOUR NEEDS are!
In the months before my dad passed our family pastor was with us at the hospital at least one day a week for months and this time together really brought us to the same level. Get to know your pastor as a person and the relationship will be so much more rewarding for both of you.
As a PK I’ve seen the damage being a pastor can do to the pastor’s health as well as his entire family’s. Thanks for shedding some light on this, Eugene. Your take is honest and mature.
I’ve been in pastoral ministry for almost 20 years and know exactly what Eugene is talking about. That’s one of the reason I became a life coach so I can help pastors and church employees. If you want to be present to others and minister to and with them you have to be at your best. The only way to do this, is by taking care of yourself first and this has absolutely nothing to do with selfishness. Once you take good care of yourself and set limits to your pastoral schedule you become the best you can be, you become, what
God calls you to be.
Wow. I can relate to much of what has been shared. Five years ago, I flamed…complete burnout. The same happened to my husband. No, we weren’t pastors but I was the head of a ministry in the church and my husband was on the board, did most of the repairs and new construction while holding down an outside job with at least 20 hours of overtime each week. And all our work was never enough. I allowed myself to be used and used up because I didn’t have the courage to speak up and try to stop it. My position in the church had been a well-paid one; when I was asked to step in the pastor decided not to pay me because he wanted to save some money. We haven’t been a part of any church since then. We were ‘pew sitters’ for two years after the burnout and the pastors at that new church (there were three of them) understood and just let us heal. Now we don’t go to church anywhere and I miss it a lot. I think I am looking for an impossible church – I want a church where most of the people in the church work together, not just the 10% doing 90% of the work. I want a pastor who is balanced and trusts those that work under him/her; who recognizes and encourages what gifts one has instead of forcing them to do what they have not been gifted to do. I want the church to be mission oriented – as in ministering to the local community with a food bank, classes in parenting skills, budgeting skills, single parent classes, using the extra property for a community garden, and much more. I guess I am expecting too much but truthfully, if I found a church like that, I would jump in with both feet! For free!
Sounds like God has given you a great vision. I have a feeling He might be showing you these things because He’s specially designed you to bring them about in the church. Don’t let the enemy use the past to determine your future. God doesn’t have a plan B for your life. He’s all about redeeming plan A. 😀
I think It’s time to jump back in the waters. You have greatness inside of you!
Wow, thank you Emily! Has anyone told you that you have the gift of encouragement?
You are right, I KNOW it is time to jump back into the river. Now all I need is a building (church) to jump from!
New motto: NO PLAN B
Thank you for this article. I read it and said, “This is my life!” I knew it was rough, but never realized it was a universal thing. I hope more church members and ministers read this. For me, it shows me that at least I am not alone.
i found your entry interesting thus i’ve added a trackback to it on my blog.
Love this posting. Thank you.
PE – this is the first post you’ve put up that has made me cry.
Thank you for loving people and going above and beyond church ministry to minister to the world through ODW and more.
Josh and I will do better at loving back and with you as you continue to give.
As a Pk that drove his father to the hospital with a stress induced heart attack when I was 15 (and he was 36) I understand some of the ways people do not care for themselves.
As a former Deacon Chair who called and called on the three different pastors I served with to account for their time publicly, be accountable for taking time off and strive for a mutal understanding of role among the church elders, I was continually disappointed when the pastors I served with just would not do any of the three steps that I thought needed to be done to have a health working relationship.
Within six months of me moving and leaving my role as Deacon chair the pastor was fired. I think there were issues on both sides. But if you voluntarily make your work life known, lead by example caring for your family and make sure there is a shared vision, I think life is much easier. Sure that is hard, but it is part of being a leader.
As a side note, I do some evaluation and have worked with demographic statistics. I think some of those stats are probably bogus. I am not debating that pastoral health and care is not important, just that my guess is that some of those numbers are not all that accurate, or involve very small study groups that are not very representative.
Just taking one, 50% divorce rate. The divorce rate for regularly attending couples in Evangelical churches is closer to 15%. I find it hard to believe that pastors would have a divorce rate more than 3 times the rate of regularly attending evangelical parishioners. Also the divorce rate of all all masters level or above educated people is about 20% (most pastors fall into this group as well.) Barna did a study and found that 13% of currently serving pastors were divorced. Even if you count pastors that left the ministry over divorce I would find it hard to believe that it would bring the divorce rate to 50%.
This was very timely for me personally and I know that many others feel that same way. You both challenge and encourage me in this article.
being a pastor kid i dont really feel blessed even though many people say that i should be
right now my family is going through a financial crisis and for four months my father who is a pastor did not bring any money and this month he only received $400. There are five people in my family. I am currently 16 and right now we are so poor that even I have to earn some money to support my family.
I have to agree with everything that this stated. My parent’s relationship is falling apart and two days ago, my parents anniversary passed and they were not able to do anything because we have no money. My father was not able to get anything for my mom on her birthday either.
My father always come home late around 12 or 1 in the morning and has to wake up 5 or 6 in the morning to go to church. He has a very tiring job not to mention that many people do not go to my church. The church members in my church are also very selfish. They say that they want to reach out and bring more people to my church but they do not do anything and blame everything on my dad.
My mom is also very lonely. She has no real friends that lives around her because we had to move for the new church. There is no one that she can trust because they will gossip about her and my family and may result in kicking my father out of his job. There are countless of times that my parents wanted to leave the church but they can not do so because they can have no another job. Recently my mom told me not to marry a pastor because she does not want to see me ending up like her poor and have no affection with her husband.
Being a pastor has many risks and has no benefits in this world. Without money nothing is possible. Money is power and without money we can not function. We can not eat, clothe ourselves, shelter ourselves, support family members and many more. I think that being a pastor is very depressing and is not worth the trouble. Being a pastor just ends up having no money, horrible relationships with your family members, no vacation, overworking oneself with no or little pay and many more. want to be a pastor? think really hard about it
I feel your pain and the suffering your family is going through. I’ve been where you are now when I was about your age. I too am a pastor’s kid. I want to lift you and your family up with prayer to God! Don’t lose faith – it’s a gift from God. Pain and suffering is part of life here on earth. This morning, God again spoke to my heart: “Don’t despair! I’m with you.”
Have been following your blog. Have been truly blessed by your journey that parallels my journey. Keep up the good work. I have learn a lot from you!
Check out an article I wrote in response to Cho’s “Death by Ministry”. I take a look at some of the issues and purpose some ways pastors can lead a healthier life. Blessings
I have read these statistics a few times and it is very said that God’s chosen shepherds are suffering. I am glad to hear you find some sense of satisfaction in being a pastor, but I know it can also be very wearisome and discouraging. I sent you a post about this very thing a few weeks ago. I don’t know why pastors are treated they way they are. Shame on all of us for placing so many high and unattainable expectations on our pastor’s. Not to put a downer on anything Eugene, but I heard this sermon over the internet at a pastor’s conference a couple of years ago. Chuck Swindoll talks about some very hard things. But I believe his message was timely and neccesary for church leaders today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyo4RwyjjRg God bless you Pastor Cho for all you do. I would only add to what you’ve said about Pastor Appreciation Month is that we are too love and honor our pastor’s and their families year round. Also, here is link http://www.suite101.com/content/clergy-appreciation-supporting-and-appreciating-your-minister-a290450 to an article I just wrote about appreciating our pastors. Thanks again Eugene for being bold enough and humble enough to share your facts and thoughts on this high calling. God bless.
BTW, regarding the photo of you at the top of the screen, I’ll buy the haircut. Ha ha.
I have written a book on praying for your pastor. It is called, “The Key to Your Church’s Vision: The Practical Guide to Praying for your Pastor.” You can get a copy at Amazon.com. Feel free to contact me at 229-977-6749.
The day I read this, I spent a 12 hour shift ‘ministering’ to a man who has spent his life in prison, and now on his deathbed (Hospice)- still in his right mind, mind you- has two armed guards by his bedside, chains shackled to his hands and feet (met…al chains rubbing open, bleeding sores into his skin from the penetration). He has no family. No friends. He is going to die this way- having a nurse (me) to come in and treat him with respect and dignity as a human being- To take the diaper off of him and clean the feces off of his skin, and yet to still make eye contact with him and tell him that “no…”- he is not a burden. Ministry outside of the realm of institutionalism that focuses on one eternal purpose- that is what I feel is my calling. And yet I’m not a “minister” so this article does not apply to me. And thank God for that because I love what I do and though I don’t get paid much, and there are a lot of complications, ultimately my greatest reward is to know that I have helped someone. PS- You should really stop feeling sorry for yourself, bro.
Among the many answers that could be offered, I would recommend something we’ve come to call “friendship before function.” If a pastor cultivates such an atmosphere among the elders and deacons, the staff, and the rest of the congregation, if he fearlessly disciples a local church into a “family of friends,” leading the people to actively and passionately know and love one another (including the pastor and his family), and if he presents such bold community as foundational and non-negotiable, most of this toxic dysfunctionality will simply disappear. And if the pastor climbs down from his lonely pedestal and teaches with all his heart the priesthood of the believer, calling everyone out of the stands and onto the field, he and the rest of the church family will come alive to the Great Adventure of New Testament team ministry as never before. Our current model of the pastor as “the Man” and the congregation as the audience is exactly what the devil wants. But the local church as an army of heaven-filled disciple-priests storming the gates of hell together as a band of devoted friends… that makes him shudder. It awakens the believers from their fitful slumber, giving them a new sparkle in their eyes and a new skip in their step. And it puts both fire and laughter back in the belly of the pastor.
Greg, above, makes an extremely good case for what SHOULD be the condition of the local church. Yes, I absolutely believe all the horrific statistics about pastors given int he original blog posting. I am not a big Dr. Phil fan, but one thing he likes to say seems very appropriate here—you teach people how to treat you. I absolutely believe God calls some men to be pastors. I don’t for one minute believe God calls those men to be unable to pay their bills, to be clinically depressed, to be unable to take care of their families, to be at their wits’ end, etc. A pastor was never meant to be all things to all people in the church. Regardless of what some parishioners may think, God never intended one man to stand up in front of all the rest and be their whipping boy, and the caretaker of all their spiritual wants and needs. We are ALL Believers and we are in this together. We are a BODY. Whether you are a pastor or a teacher or a fireman or a dentist, you can’t do it all by yourself. Please forgive me if this sounds harsh, but I believe a not insignificant number of pastors have serious issues which have nothing to do with how they are actually treated by the congregation. Yes, some people will take advantage of you if you let them—it happens in families all the time. No one would willingly remain in a secular job that treated them the way it is described here. Pastors are there to lead, not to be abuse victims. And let’s be perfectly honest—for every pastor who works 60 hours a week for slave wages, there is a pastor who has become wealthy from the ministry. The New Testament is replete with teaching about what the role of a pastor is and what limits there are on it. If a man’s marriage is on the rocks because of his pastorate, something very, very wrong is taking place, and he needs to leave that job. I realize pastors are martyred around the world for their faith. If they are being martyred in America by their congregations, it is happening with their own tacit consent. God NEVER asked for this.