Being A Pastor is Excruciatingly Lonely.
Ever been at a party and felt completely alone in a room full of people?
Imagine walking around feeling that way most of the time.
That’s your pastor’s life.
Everyone knows who he is but very few if any people outside his home actually know him deeply. Imagine if every time you went to a party everyone awkwardly hid their glass of wine or told their husband to “stop cussing”, or wanted to ask some deep theological question they’ve always wondered about. The truth is when you’re a pastor, people see you like an animal at a zoo to be marveled at and to be careful around. The problem is they unknowingly put you in a cage where it’s nearly impossible to be a regular person. Here’s how you can help. Treat you pastor like you would any other person you meet. Don’t immediately dump all of your emotional/spiritual baggage on them “because it’s their job.” That would be weird and considered oversharing in any other circumstance. Act normal and offer them a beer occasionally. God knows they could probably use one.
They Aren’t Business Geniuses
More than likely your pastor was trained in a seminary or bible college. Those institutions are phenomenal for teaching them to study the scriptures, write sermons, and dig into good theology. One thing they aren’t designed for is producing business acumen. There are no accounting or budget classes in seminary. There are no HR courses, no building code seminars, no capital raising lectures. Your pastor’s training has prepared him to lead the congregation spiritually not administratively. Give him some grace if he struggles in this area.
Their Family Is None of Your Business.
This isn’t going to be popular but it needs to be said.
How your pastor raises their children, the level of involvement of his wife, where they go on vacation, or any of the other things that have to do with the private life of their family are none of your business.
The only Biblical requirement that should concern the church is that their pastor should be faithful to his wife and that He is a father that leads his children well towards Jesus. The more a church meddles in their Pastor’s family life the more likely it will negatively impact them.
If Their Decision Seems Cold-Blooded, It’s Probably Not.
Your pastor didn’t fire a staff person because they didn’t like them.
In fact it was probably far harder for them to do it than it is for you as a church member. They don’t like cutting ministries or saying no to a do-good member wishing to launch a ministry.
As a leader they are in charge of making very difficult calls for the health of the organization.
They often will have to make decisions where there is no clear right or wrong answer.
We have to cut the budget by 10%. Do we take it from Kids Ministry, Missions, or Senior Adults Ministry? Whatever choice he makes will hurt someone. Each ministry can use scriptures and theology to make its case and all of them are right. You pastor has to make decisions that are unpopular and it’s not coming from a place of indifference.
They Don’t Know Every Verse and Story In The Bible.
When I was an associate pastor I’d have someone come up to me at least once a week and play out this conversation.
Church Member: “Pastor, I was reading in 2 Chronicles this past week about when
King Jehoshaphat appointed judges and I wanted to get your thoughts on it?”
Me: “Long awkward pause….ummm yeah.”
The Bible has over three quarters of a million words. If it were a regularly spaced novel like you see a the books store, it would be over 3000 pages. To put that in perspective, War and Peace is only 1100 pages. Forgive your pastor if he doesn’t have every inch of the book memorized.
He’s a lifetime learner of the scriptures, just like you. Don’t judge him too hard if he blanks on some Bible passages from time to time.
More than likely he has a few books of the Bible that are his favorites. He’s probably got a really good grasp of Genesis, the Gospels, the Psalms/Proverbs and the Epistles. The rest is going to be more fuzzy to him. That’s the honest truth that he’d probably never tell you. He’s not superman. He’s a person just like you. There are days where (gasp!) he doesn’t read his Bible. There are probably even more where he doesn’t feel like it, but does anyway.
They Don’t Live Up To 90% of The Things They Preach About.
Most sermons your pastor preaches are not about you. They’re about him.
God has been crushing his soul all week with His word and revealing all the areas where sin still exists in his life. His sermons aren’t given from the perspective of a righteous man looking down on the sinners in his congregation (at least they shouldn’t be).
His sermons are from the perspective of a struggling, stumbling follower of Jesus trying to encouraging others. His message isn’t “follow me” it’s “follow Jesus.” 90% of what he preaches he doesn’t live out. Yet if he is faithful to the Bible, he’s not going to lower the bar so we all feel better. He’ll point you to the grace found in Jesus.
They Could Really Use A Raise. And They’ll Never Ask For It.
Okay so maybe this doesn’t go for Joel Osteen, some branches of the charismatic church, or many mega-church senior pastors but nearly every other minister I’ve ever spoken with is nearly criminally underpaid.
If you tried to pay someone in a non-ministry job the same salary for that workload they’d never even consider taking the job.
If you can’t afford to pay a pastor a truly fair salary then find ways to be creative. Give him more time off or have a bonus structure worked in for growth in giving, attendance, or discipleship. Any other field would expect to give inflation raises each year of 1-3%. Consider building this into a pastor’s salary. Far too often we see pastors go years between any sort of raise in salary despite their cost of living continuing to increase. You wouldn’t want your employer to do this, so don’t do it to your pastor.