By Josh Weidmann
By definition, a pastor is one who “shepherds his flock.” You know this means he preaches, officiates weddings and probably has meetings in his office to explain some theological question; but what is the role of pastor really like? Here are 14 surprising facts you may not know about pastors:
- We fight the balance between pleasing people and pleasing God every day. We do what we do because we love God…and people. Trying to please both is a common reason for pastor burnout in part because people and God don’t always want the same thing. Pleasing God wins, but living with the pressure of pleasing people can be extremely draining.
- We often hear more negative than positive feedback. People assume pastors get praised often for their good sermons. Not true. We hear complaints often and more readily than we hear compliments. Healthy pastors can live without a lot of compliments (at least they should be able to) but the reality is we often hear much more negative than positive feedback on the preaching, worship service, theological points, etc…
- We say “no” because we love our sheep. Pastors have families and lives too. We have to say “no” sometimes in order to be a good dad, a present husband, a good friend or for self-care. When a pastor says “no” to a church event, it should not be received as an indication that the pastor does not love the sheep, but as a protective measure for the greater good of the church body so the pastor can continue serving them well.
- Our families feel the weight of our calling more than they will ever tell you. My kids are young, yet they feel the weight I bring home at times. So does my wife. Pastor’s families are well aware of what they do and even the youngest member will feel the weight of what it means to lead a church. Be mindful that pastors are not called to serve without it affecting the family who is called, even if by default, to be in the ministry alongside them.
- Eating well, exercising well and sleeping well is hard work for us. Pastors are often selfless to a fault. We will more quickly go serve someone than to work out, sleep or prioritize self-care. While it may sound nice for a pastor to be selfless and think of others first, there is a balance to be practiced or it will not be good for the pastor or the person being served.
- Many of us are “Professional Extroverts.” Pastors have to do a lot of deep thinking and study. We are used to being alone and actually love it (most of us). We enjoy our time with people too, but we are often professional extroverts, relating to crowds and leading people out of a secondary set of gifts.
- We know we could get paid better doing something else, but we don’t want to. We can’t do anything else…we could…but we “can’t” because this is what we love the most and are called to do. We stay even though we don’t always feel it. Having a calling is more than a feeling—we grapple with that reality regularly.
- Spiritual warfare is a way of life. The devil hates all Christians. I used to say that there is no way he “hates” or targets pastors more. But the longer that I do this, the more I realize that the widespread repercussions from a leader who falls puts an automatic target on the pastor’s back for the enemy to lob his arrows. Spiritual warfare is just part of the occupational hazard for a pastor.
- We are always fighting our own sin too. Pastors are far from perfect. We have our own sins that we are always fighting. Be patient with us. Pray for us.
- It takes us about seven days to “unplug” for a meaningful and true vacation. It is REALLY hard for pastors to unplug. When we go on vacation, it can take up to a week for us to unwind before we are fully present. I try to take one two-week vacation a year just so that I can have one week where I am really unplugged.
- It is hard for us to have friends. People assume we have lots of friends. Most of us don’t. Think about it—our church is our place of worship, our place of work and our friend circle; not three different contexts—all the same one. The leadership role of “pastor” is not a hat that can be easily set aside in those contexts. That makes it difficult to have friends. We also struggle with people who treat us as a friend and not “pastor.” It is not impossible for us to have friends, but it takes effort and sometimes our best friends are not in the churches where we serve.
- We work more than one day a week. People joke with me (almost weekly?) that I “only work one day a week, what is the big deal?” I know they are joking, but it is obviously not true. Due to most modern pastors being expected to fill roles that are both spiritual and administrative; most of us only have one day off a week. It takes a lot of intentionality for us to have two days off a week. Pray for your pastor in this and if you can, help him have times of rest. He needs them.
- Our greatest joy is when our sheep “Get it.” When people understand what we are discipling them toward, or when a person “gets” salvation, we love it. That is why we do this. We want them to love Christ and we love it when they “Get it.”
- We are rewarded by being invited into a full spectrum of life’s big moments. Think about it, what other roles get to be an intimate part of births, deaths, baptisms, marriages, salvations, sacred holidays, struggles and victories? A physician tends to births and deaths. A counselor tends to struggles and victories. A pastor has the privilege of being invited into a full spectrum of the “moments” in lives of people he loves and serves. It is deeply rewarding, and is the one of the special gifts that makes it all worthwhile.
Josh Weidmann is the Discipleship Pastor for Mission Hills Church in Denver.