It's pastor appreciation month! This is a time that is near and dear to my heart because church ministry is the vocation of many members of my family. My grandpa was a pastor. My Dad is a pastor. My father-in-law is a pastor. Two of my uncles do youth or music ministry. My husband served briefly as a youth minister. And my brother is studying to go into the ministry.
Having this many pastors in my family has given me a unique perspective and a great deal of respect for the people behind the titles. Unfortunately, too many people view their pastor and other people in ministry as saints who have achieved an unattainable level of perfection and holiness. This places unrealistic expectations and added stress on those in ministry. Parents assume youth pastors have all the answers and can fix their teens; church members often isolate their pastor because they don't allow him to be real. So here are a few things I have learned about pastors from watching my family members (specifically my Dad) serve in church positions.
First, a pastor's first ministry is to their family... not the church. God established the family before He created the church. Also, one of the biblical qualifications of a minister is that they must be able to manage their household. This includes striving to raise godly children. If I have learned anything from being a parent it is that godly children do not magically appear. Raising godly children requires a great deal of effort, attention, and prayer. I am blessed in that throughout my life, my father made it a priority to minister to our family first. To this day, Saturday nights are almost always reserved for family time.
Which leads me to a similar point, pastors rarely get days off work, especially if they are bi-vocational. Pastors don't have a strict regular schedule. They have late night phone calls from church members, emergency hospital visits, church committee meetings, counseling sessions, etc. Many of these things become essentially "overtime" work. For bi-vocational ministers like my Dad, they work a 40 hour work week like everyone else at their secular job, then fit in studying and sermon prep during their lunch breaks, early mornings, or Saturdays. The two days off from their secular job are spent preparing for Sunday and teaching Sundays.
Because of all this work, your pastor will at times get "burnt out," but because they are the leader, they can't check out of ministry. Believe it or not, your pastor is... human. I know, it's hard to imagine. Your pastor gets tired, at times feels overworked, and experiences the whole range of human emotions. Pastors get discouraged when they feel like God isn't working or when they don't see results from their work. Pastors don't always know God's direction. Just like everyone else, they experience times of struggle and times where they want to quit.
Another thing I have learned is that pastors know about the vast majority of any and all drama that happens in the church, and it can be a burden. Regardless of how amazing a church is, people will disagree. There will be personality conflicts. Couples will have disagreements, and children will be rebellious. Many of these problems will be taken to the pastor for prayer and advice. With this knowledge comes inevitable worry which is at times overwhelming.
So next time you are at church, I would encourage you to really take a look around at the people who serve. Whether it is the pastor, youth pastor, music minister, Sunday school teachers, etc., really look and see what they are doing for the church. Pray for them. Encourage them. And join them in service to lighten the load.