The Challenges of Pastoring
Pastor Frank is pressed for time. In fact, he’s been pressed for time for the past 15+ years. The length of his time in three different pastorates has been 15+ years, ever since he graduated from seminary. Time is the one commodity he’s always been short on. Trying to juggle congregational demands and getting the best from his staff absorbs what seems to be all of his time. Oh, and then there’s his family. He’s steeped in guilt for not spending time more time with his wife and two children and at the same time, his wife piles on from her frustration.
The varied expectations of church members add to the confusion he experiences. Being eloquent in the pulpit and exercising fantastic pastoral skills are qualities that are difficult to juggle for anyone. Trying to keep all of the balls in the air at the same time is taxing on the pastor, and it makes for pressure that many can’t survive. Sometimes, the result is the end of a pastor’s tenure. Increasingly, it seems, churches end up with factions in opposition to each other. Sometimes splinter groups leave the church with bad feelings hanging in the air.
A broad area that creates pressure constantly before the pastor is trying to cope with relationships in general. Ministering to members of the congregation, generating a connection with the community, guiding the church staff and caring for his own family’s needs are a more than a full-time job. Perhaps a few simple investments in the maintenance of relationships can minimize problems. Simple habits often don’t add much, if any, time to the pastor’s schedule. While these ways of investing in others seem obvious, the overwhelming pressure one faces often obliterates the good intentions held at the beginning of the day.
- General rules of friendliness would seem unnecessary to be stated. At the same time, they should be in effect at all times. How do you feel when you see that person approaching who has been critical, offensive or boring? While being good friends on an intimate level with everyone is an impossibility for any one person, smiling, a polite greeting, showing interest in the other person and good eye contact are all commonly accepted investments in others that mean a lot to them. Take a deep breath when you see those difficult people heading your way and give them a few seconds of friendliness.
- Investing in people’s lives is so critical to keeping peace in the church family. It doesn’t have to take excessive time, and still, it gives such a good return for the time it does take. Carving out some time to help with a small project or to organize the effort for others to give assistance is a connection that goes miles in bonding congregants to the pastor.
- Openness and honesty about limits, needs and desires for time with family and personal time to care for self can be respected and appreciated by the church. Being honest does not mean having to be rude or disrespectful. Reasonable explanations for assistance in ministry and plans for balancing time are heard and responded to by church committees and members.
- Boundaries are necessary in balancing openness and discretion. Every detail of personal life does not need to be made available to the entire church. Giving reasonable information rather than keeping all needs and plans close to the vest will allow those who need to know information to be supportive. General announcements to the church as a whole can give them a sense of being included, but some information does need to be distributed cautiously.
In articles that follow, areas of challenge to the pastor in trying to minister to the church and keep it united will include investing in family, staff and accessibility by all who need to have time with the pastor.