As I’m shaking hands with church goers after worship one Sunday, I talk with a congregant about meeting him during the week. His reply?
“I thought pastors only worked one day a week!”
Truth be told, we full-time (and part-time pastors) do not work one day a week. I work anywhere between 35 and 75 hours a week. My congregation expects a full-time, ordained, college educated, graduate school 90-credit hour trained, and spiritual pastor to lead the congregation. And so, I provide that. However, there are unspoken and unwritten expectations: my wife and children share in the full life of the congregation, I give 10% (and more) of my income to church, I’m available 24/7, be an excellent preacher, sound teacher, be a chaplain, be a theologian, providing counseling, give financial leadership, bring people to church, and sometimes even clean up a mess in a common area.
If you ask me or my colleagues, it’s tough being a pastor.
If you think I’m just complaining and think I have cushy job, don’t take my word for it. Take Forbes Magazine’s top 9 toughest leadership roles into consideration:
#9: CEO, lots of pressure for profit
#8: Congressman/Congresswoman, everyone (sometimes including your mother) hates you
#7: Newspaper editor, sorry that your job is almost extinct
#6: Mayor, “Unlike most politicians, you actually have to make sure that garbage gets collected, snow gets shoveled, and things get done.”
Other than #1 on the list, Forbes collected the most cons of being a pastor:
“Being a pastor is like death by a thousand paper cuts,” says Rev. Dr. Ken Fong, senior pastor at Evergreen Baptist Church in Rosemead, California and a program director at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. “You’re scrutinized and criticized from top to bottom, stem to stern. You work for an invisible, perfect Boss, and you’re supposed to lead a ragtag gaggle of volunteers towards God’s coming future. It’s like herding cats, but harder.”
I can identify with being scrutinized and criticized from top to bottom. I was once criticized for the actions of someone taking their independence in voicing their harsh objections in a meeting. Can I control them? No. Can I ask them to stop being so harsh? Yes, and I did. Another time, I was held responsible for the lack of toilet paper in a bathroom on a random Sunday.
Honestly, I love what I do. It is a calling. I have worked hard to qualify with four years of college and three years of full-time graduate schooling. In addition, I fall under ethical and biblical guidelines of pastoral work. I have been examined and ordained in the tradition of the American Baptist Churches USA. I spent 8 years working for churches before I became a full-time ordained pastor. I serve God and preach the Gospel. I teach others about Jesus Christ and lead a church into vitalization. No privilege can compare.
Being a pastor/minister is a challenging in an age where people don’t have much interest in church or God. Churches and lay people should try to understand the tremendous pressure pastors are under to meet everyone’s needs (a totally misguided belief). You cannot make everyone happy, but we ministers try. We have some of the highest burn out rates and some of the most costly health problems.
What is number one on the list? Stay-at-home parent (my wife is one). Valued at $100k of labor, it is a thankless job. Much like ministers, stay-at-home parents have many responsibilities and try to meet everyone’s needs. What makes someone successful at such a job? Perception is in the eye of the beholder… especially at church.