Every job has its pressures. The challenge isn’t finding that job without pressures. It is finding the one with the pressures that you are uniquely equipped to handle.
I have come to the point in my ministry in which I am quite comfortable in emergency wards or intensive care units in hospitals. I rather enjoy sitting at my desk preparing a sermon. I like the challenge of vision casting. I can even wade my way through the various administrative tasks that are part of a pastor’s job. But put me in a classroom with twenty young children and I wouldn’t last any time at all. I would not be able to take the pressure.
In a pastor’s job there are the pressures that everyone knows about and that pastors handle as simply being part of the job but in this entry I want to look at some pressures that aren’t as obvious. In some ways these pressures are more taxing than the ones that are out there for everyone to see.
Every pastor knows that the work week doesn’t end on Friday. It ends on Sunday when the last person leaves the church after the morning service and you have preached that sermon that you have been working all week to prepare. The problem is that once the sermon is preached, you can’t use it again. I know that that is just part of the job but almost every pastor that I have spoken with identifies it as a pressure. Every week there is a new sermon staring him in the face. No matter how busy a week might be the people expect a brand new, high quality sermon come Sunday morning.
I found that preaching through a series relieved some of the pressure in that I knew my topic and the scripture from which I was speaking weeks in advance. I’m not sure that I could handle the pressure of having to come up with a new topic the week before I deliver the sermon. Even knowing in advance though, there is still that pressure of having to start over again every Monday morning.
Weekends: What are they?
Have you noticed that most fun things happen on weekends. If an event involves people, the weekend is the time to hold it. After all that is when most people are free to attend. Apart from a pastor’s holidays, pastors work every weekend and if there is any distance to travel, they just don’t get to attend the event that they would so much like to be at.
I know that other people work weekends although those on shift work don’t usually work every weekend. Usually they get more weekends off than they work. Most pastors realize that this is part of the job and I have heard very few complain about it but it is part of the job that adds pressure to the pastors’ lives. I found that while it was primarily on Sunday that I worked, I spent much of Saturday thinking about what was coming on Sunday morning.
Holidays don’t start on Friday evening. They start on Sunday afternoon.
Most pastors have to preach that last sermon before they start their holidays which means that they get two less days than anyone else. I’ve never heard a pastor complain about this but it is a reality of the job. When I felt this most was when I only took one week off and would have loved to have had those extra two days.
The goldfish bowl
I have been very fortunate over the years to have pastored churches made up of wonderful people who have given me a lot of freedom to be myself. I refused to put expectations on my family that were different from what every child faced and people have given me the chance to do that. Having said that though I have lived most of my life knowing that whatever I was going through, people were watching. I had a responsibility to demonstrate how Christ would have acted in that situation.
My wife’s father is in hospital as I write this and we have been told that he will not get better. We are prepared for him to die. We have so much to rejoice over. He is 89 and in poor health. He is totally ready to go and to be with Jesus. In fact he is eagerly waiting for that to happen. I’m not sure what happens in heaven but I like to think that he will be reunited with Mom. We have so much for which to be thankful.
On the other hand I realize that people are watching. They are watching to see how we react. I don’t mean that they are intruding into this personal family time. I just mean that they are wondering how their pastor handles rough times in his life. It is an opportunity for me to demonstrate that my faith does make a difference.
You aren’t alone
I hope that this has not raised new pressure points in your ministry. My purpose in writing this entry was to let you know that you aren’t alone in going through these pressure areas. I share this out of my own experience and the experience of many other pastors with whom I have spoken.
What always impresses me is that most of you are so intent on serving God and serving people that you don’t even think about the holidays that you might miss or the weekends that you have to work. If anything that I have shared rings a bell with you, send me an email and share your story. I would love to hear it.