It's a one-day-a-week job and other mind-boggling myths

October 23rd, 2018

I’ll never forget the time I visited Miss Randolph, a homebound member of the church. As the associate pastor assigned to pastoral care, I made a point to visit this grateful member at least once a month. One time, after I prayed for her, she asked me a mind-boggling question: “What do you do for work?” 

“Lady,” I wanted to cry out, “I visit you! What do you think I do for work?” Luckily, I held my tongue. Turns out she hadn’t realized the church had an associate pastor, since it was a fairly new position. But it reminds me of other mind-boggling questions asked by parishioners.

  1. Being a pastor is just a one-day-a-week job isn’t it? If you only knew, I have wanted to say. 
  2. What? You shop for food? This one always comes at the grocery store when I am pushing my cart down the aisles. I cringe as I realize I have thought the same thing when I’ve seen other high-visibility people in the grocery store. 
  3. What are you doing for the holidays? Again, lady, I’m making sure you have holiday services to attend! Poor lady. 

In this month when we intentionally appreciate pastors, I would like to de-mythologize a few not-so-obvious things, and recommend five tips:

  1. Insist on time off. Your pastor is dedicated to you and to the life of the church. Their calling is more than a career choice. Most full-time pastors put in far in excess of 40 hours per week. Most part-time pastors work more than the 10 or 20 hours you are paying them for. They often work seven days a week. Yes, they are overworking. No, this is not healthy in the long haul. Make it do-able for them to take a weekly day or two off, annual vacations and intermittent rest times away from the congregation.
  2. Recognize their humanity. Your pastor is a person first. He or she gets hungry, angry, lonely, happy, tired, energized and excited just like you do. Take them off the pedestal and recognize their humanity. Even as you acknowledge the mantle of authority they have received to lead the congregation. 
  3. Acknowledge them on holidays. Your pastor likely doesn’t go away for the holidays. Putting together special services, writing sermons and developing worship materials intensifies at the holidays. That’s true not only of Christmas, but Easter and Thanksgiving, too. Invite them for a meal or a party; or give a holiday gift or a card with money at the holidays. This will be appreciated. Sometimes, creating space so they can enjoy their family at the holidays is also welcome and appreciated.
  4. Celebrate and pray. Your pastor has been anointed, appointed, authorized and is an accountable ambassador of Jesus Christ in your community. Be sure to celebrate their contributions to your congregation and community, and to uplift them in prayer.
  5. Don’t triangulate. If there’s a behavior you don’t like, or a critique you must deliver, go directly to your pastor. Don’t triangulate by talking to everyone else about it first. Creating emotional triangles complicates things and won’t lead to quick or easy resolution. Have the courage to speak directly with them. Be kind as you do so. Be willing to listen to their response.

In a world of shrinking church budgets, pastors are an increasingly rare gift. Respect and appreciation go a long way toward creating cultures of renewal.

comments powered by Disqus