There is much to be thankful for this holiday season. Hopefully each of us takes time to reflect on the many gifts we’ve been given, all of which we did nothing to deserve––we are not owed this day let alone the good things that come along with it. While there are many things in the world that demand our attention and Spirit-filled response, let us not forget to live lives rooted in thanksgiving!
For 10-years I was a full-time pastor––the first 5-years in student ministry and the second 5 leading a church. During this season, I’ve been reflecting on that time and once again finding myself very grateful for the many who pastor.
Now, there are some pastors who inappropriately align with politics, voicing their views to their congregation as the “Christian” view, and others who end up supporting neo-Nazism and child molesters in the process. Nevertheless, those individuals do not represent the whole. Fortunately most pastors sincerely invest in their community and extend love to all, regardless of religious views, economics, politics, and a whole list of others. To the thousands and perhaps millions of those pastors, we are so very thankful.
A Pastor’s Job
Understandably, most people are unaware of what a pastor’s job is. When I was a student pastor––although people asked me this when I pastored a church as well––I was regularly asked, “So, what do you do for a real job?” In other words, the assumption was I pastored on the weekends for fun but worked a real job during the week. Of course, sometimes the people would go ahead and answer their own question without letting me go into the whole, “Well, I actually pastor as my job” routine by asking, “Do you mostly just play video games all day?”
Pastoring helps you stay humble.
So what in the world is a pastor’s job if not video game playing and the like? Let me try to explain by giving a very incomplete list of expectation:
- A pastor must challenge the people who have been Christians their whole lives (think “feeding” them) while also presenting a message easy enough to grasp by someone who’s never been to church.
- A pastor’s sermon must be both forceful and gentle.
- A pastor must be funny and serious…simultaneously without overdoing either.
- A pastor must tell stories about her/his family, but, come on, not another story about your kids!
- A pastor’s sermon must be very structured, with three alliterated points, but also fluid, narrative in nature, and conversational.
- A pastor must use powerpoint, unless she/he shouldn’t.
- A pastor should and shouldn’t follow notes.
- A pastor must use culturally based examples in the sermon, while only using the Bible.
- A pastor must preach a fresh, compelling, exciting, new vision constantly since we’ve all heard last year’s vision…
- Regardless of how precise the pastor was with her/his sermon, every congregant heard a different message…somehow.
- A pastor must be able to counsel anyone about any topic every conceived of.
- A pastor is responsible for fixing everyone’s problems without any outside support.
- A pastor must be able to conduct weddings professionally and beautifully, somehow also including a detailed and compelling presentation of the Gospel because, “most of the people at our wedding will never go to church again”…so no pressure.
- A pastor, staying on the wedding theme, must be funny during the ceremony, but goodness, this is a wedding so be exactly the right amount of funny!
- A pastor must be able to respond perfectly to tragedy and death, always saying the one thing that soothes every pain.
- A pastor must also be able to conduct a funeral with the same parameters as the above mentioned wedding…exactly…
- A pastor must be available whenever it fits the congregants schedule, even if that is typically dinner time, kids’ bath time, bedtime, a holiday, etc.
- A pastor must visit congregant’s family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, associates, and distant acquaintances who are in the hospital, having surgery, or have a routine doctor’s appointment.
- A pastor must be in prayer 40 hours a week and fast…which, to be fair, is also helpful financially since pastor’s don’t make much money (“no money was good enough for Jesus!”).
- A pastor must also hold down a “real job.”
- A pastor must be an organizational savant, able to create perfectly functioning intricate systems that unite all congregants, volunteers, pastors, community leaders, international partners, local officials, and denominational leaders.
- A pastor must know when to give responsibilities away and to whom while also never giving anything away.
- A pastor must be the best accountant the world has ever known.
- A pastor must be the greatest fundraiser the world has ever known.
- A pastor must be the greatest project manager and contractor the world has ever known.
- A pastor must be the greatest time manager the world has ever known.
- A pastor must be the greatest volunteer coordinator the world has ever known.
- A pastor must be the greatest motivator and encourager the world has ever known, especially since the church is only able to function because of kindhearted volunteers.
- A pastor must be the greatest at everything at all times in all contexts.
- And, most importantly, a pastor must be the greatest wife/husband and parent the world has ever known…relatedly, have a perfect spouse (who never gets credit for the tons of work they constantly do!) and children.
To the people who just wish their pastor would _________, and then, THEN!, the church would be really great, I encourage you to stop thinking that. Yes, you should share your thoughts with the pastor, in a very loving way, striving to understand just how insane her/his job is. But, please extend the same compassion and grace the pastor constantly gives to all those under her/his leadership.
Imagine for a moment, a job that consists of 50% complaints and critiques (many of which are very personal and therefore hurtful), 40% caring for every conceivable need, 30% preparing to preach, 30% leading a staff, 25% leading volunteers, 25% caring for the community outside the church, 20% random tasks like buying supplies, making food for events, and cleaning toilets, 20% traveling to a thousand different things, 20% balancing the books, 20% cleaning (yes, another “cleaning” reference), and 100% caring for the everything in the world.
And if you’re thinking, “that’s way over 100%! You’re terrible at math, Joel”, you’re exactly right. I’m not great at math, and a pastor’s job is crazy.
So, plain and simple: thank you pastors for the way you constantly (CONSTANTLY!) give to others. We love you deeply, even though we need to show it more/better/at all. We are so very thankful for you.
Note from the Editorial Team: Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.