So while those in your congregation may not be fully aware of the common stressors each pastor deals with, remember that pastors are not called to be God but to model what it looks like to follow him. That’s one truth you can be comfortable sharing with them.
As a pastor, every Sunday you stand in front of your congregation, telling funny stories and explaining important principles. As your congregation watches you listening, reassuring, and welcoming, it’s easy for them to assume you have it all together. Some of them see a little behind the scenes, but few of them really know us. And few of us really feel known.
This is partly because the work of a pastor is unlike any other work. It is a vocation, a calling upon our whole life, requiring complete engagement. Even when we’re resting, it has something to do with our work. And while we are working, we do a huge amount of resting in God.
An Impossible Job
The role of a pastor shouldn’t be entered into lightly. David Hansen, author of The Art of Pastoring, knew being a pastor was an “impossible” task for him, so his prayer was, “Lord, being a pastor is impossible, so if you will be with me all the way to help me, I will be a pastor.” But unlike Hansen, many pastors don’t realize how impossible their work is until they’re deep into it. Even the most transparent pastor knows that it’s inappropriate to share themselves fully. But when they do share in a healthy way, some things still remain theirs alone to carry. As a result, pastors often feel lonely. In an effort to break through that pastoral loneliness, I’ve asked various pastors to share behind the scenes of their lives and work. Here are some things they said they’re not telling their church members.
- We Feel Pressure to Live up to Your Expectations
Pastors shared that they often feel the presence of previous pastors hovering over their work. “The greatest challenge was dealing with the church’s expectations for their pastor,” Graham shares. “Churches usually don’t look for the unique gifts and strengths of their current pastor. Instead, they take the top strengths of the last two to three pastors combined and expect the current pastor to excel in those areas.”
- It’s Hard to Tell You What You Need to Hear
Other pastors feel torn between their perceived obligation to keep people happy and their biblical calling to voice godly challenge: “I think every pastor deals with the balancing act of being both pastoral and prophetic,” Howard says. “We love people with such a whole heart that pointing out things that need to change can be difficult.”
- We Put a Lot of Pressure on Ourselves
Many churches place high expectations on their pastors, not realizing the many expectations and pressures pastors also have of themselves. “We have an image, or a hope, of what the church could be,” Rob says. “When the church responds with apathy or anxiety, that can feed our own apathy and anxiety. It’s incredibly hard to be a source of stability for your congregation and community without tying your personal identity to it.”
- We Long to Know We’re Making a Difference
- Many of Us Struggle Financially
- Church Life Can Be Hard on Our Kids
- This Work Is Emotionally Draining
- We Have Needs Too
- We Are Often Lonely