I want to re-introduce you to a pastor friend of mine. Phillip Slaughter is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Mansfield, Arkansas. You can read more about his faith journey in this series of posts.
He posted the following on Facebook, and after I read it and nodded my head throughout it, I contacted him and asked if I could repost it here:
I’m pretty open about my struggles and insecurities. I enjoy life, and I enjoy my job, but sometimes things get really difficult. I have no problem talking to my close friends (Brandon C. Massey, Michael Pettiette, Austin West, Brett Lee, BCM family, etc.) and the leaders at my church about these things. I’m not sharing this as a call for help. I give those all the time 🙂
Even before I became a pastor, God gave me a burden for pastors. Many of you reading this have ministered to me (Jeff Noble, Mike Bronut Bell, Bruce Venable, Joe Cole, David James, Lynn Loyd, Bit Stephens and MANY more friends), and this helped grow a love in my heart for pastors and ministers in general. This post is pro-minister, but not anti-church. I love God’s Church. I cannot imagine where I would be without her. God has used the church in my life in so many positive ways (maybe that’s another post).
I’m sharing this because many pastors out there do not have a support system. If you do not know, it’s a tough job. Don’t get me wrong; some pastors can be lazy, not qualified, or unfit for a myriad of reasons. Worse, some pastors are evil and do evil things. However, most pastors I know work tirelessly for God’s sake and the sake of their church. I’m about to list some of the reasons why ministry is so tough. I’m doing this to educate those of you who do not know how hard it is, but primarily to encourage you to encourage your pastors. Feel free to add more difficulties in the comments, or tag your pastor with an encouraging word.
Reasons being a pastor is difficult (in no particular order):
- The hours can be brutal. There are weeks when I only work 40 hours, but there are just as many weeks when I work 80. The work never stops. Budgets, hospitals, funerals, weddings, building repair, counseling, meetings, missions, community volunteering, I could literally add a hundred more things to this list. There is always more to do. The stress builds and affects every part of life.
- Have you ever experienced deep concern for the physical and spiritual well-being of your kids or a family member? Multiply that feeling by the number of people in your church. That’s the pastor’s struggle.
- It’s a dangerous job. People call ministers when they are out of options. Many people come to the point of self-harm or the willingness to harm others. Whether it is caused by depression, domestic issues, or whatever the case, I cannot recall all the times when I legitimately thought I might not make it out of a situation.
- The heartache. You long to see people fall more in love with Jesus. You know he can change them, but like me, people are stubborn and lazy. We enjoy comfort or hate change more than we desire Jesus. Therefore, as pastors we continue to watch the people we love reject Jesus or keep him at arm’s length, rather than surrendering. I cannot imagine the number of times your pastor has cried out to God with actual tears for you.
- Everything is a reflection of the pastor. I’m not saying it’s healthy, but it’s often true. Is something wrong with the building? Someone’s children not following Christ? The music too new or too old? Your church has to obey the law (real example)? A change is made or not made? It’s often blamed on the pastor even though he might not have the ability or the authority to do anything about it.
- The weight of the issues. Holding someone’s hand on their deathbed. Visiting someone in jail (again). Watching the effects of the chemo. Officiating the funeral. Officiating the argument between spouses considering divorce. Wanting to hold the child who has been abandoned or abused while simultaneously worried about if that compassion will lead you to accusations because of laws for which you understand the need.
- Criticism. Every job receives criticism, but few receive it as abundantly as ministers. People have cursed me, screamed at me, called me a terrible pastor, talked about me behind my back, tried to create factions within the church, and more things that won’t fit in this post. I’m blessed. I cannot tell you the number of people in my church and other family and friends who support and encourage me, but there are many men and women ministering without that support.
- Family. Your public job means your family will have less privacy than the average family. They will also have cultural expectations to be the typical pastor’s spouse and kids. A pastor should fight back against the stereotypes with gentleness and tenacity. God has created you and your family uniquely. Help create an environment where they can be who Christ created them to be, not necessarily who your church wants them to be.
Please be aware of all your ministers do. Encourage them. Ask how you can help. Don’t do the negative things listed above! Show respect. And most importantly, pray for them!