Preaching is one of the most visible tasks of being a pastor. It’s easy to envision your pastor in his office, Bible open and pen sliding across his notebook, getting that sermon just right before sharing it Sunday morning. But being a pastor comes with many day-in-and-day-out challenges that are invisible to people in the congregation. Much of a pastor’s work (and stress) flies under the radar even to people who work alongside him at the church office.
Here are some things your pastor wishes you knew:
He Won’t Know You’re in the Hospital, Unless You Tell Him
Visiting the sick is a regular part of pastoral care. However, you might be surprised how often people simply forget to tell the pastor someone is in the hospital. Needless to say, that makes it impossible for him to pay a visit. In previous decades, pastors could call hospitals and ask how many Lutherans were receiving care. Hospitals can no longer divulge that information, due to changes in medical privacy laws.
It you want doctors to share information with your pastor, you have to formally give them written permission to talk to him on your behalf. And even if you take this step, he still has no way of knowing when you’re sick unless you contact him. The medical staff will not inform him.
His Family Doesn’t Get as much Time Together as they Need
Finding time together as a family is hard for everyone in today’s world, but it’s even more of a challenge for pastors, due to the demanding schedules they keep. If the pastor has small children, he might be able to attend the regular meetings of various ministries, but that probably means his wife will be watching their kids—most likely alone. It might be an appropriate use of his time, but if the expectation happens too often (or people want both the pastor and his wife to attend too much), it’s going to take a toll on family life.
His Wife and Children Don’t Deserve Extra Scrutiny
Think about your children for a moment. How much pressure they face from their friends, teachers—not to mention social media for the older kids. Now imagine everyone in a congregation watching your kids closely, analyzing their decisions and feeling entitled to judge them. For some reason, there’s still an idea that being a pastor’s kid means your childhood gets broadcast for the congregation. It’s simply not realistic to expect any child to be perfect or always stay in line or reflect their father’s career in daily life.
And when it comes to the pastor’s marriage, refrain from complaining to either of them about the other. Whether his wife is involved in every ministry or simply attends worship each week, respect her decision about her involvement and her boundaries. If you’re concerned with how something is being handled in the congregation, don’t needlessly involve the her.
Even if Office Hours are Posted, No One Knows the Pastor’s Schedule
He can’t be everywhere at once. That might sound obvious, but it’s one of those deceptive statements that’s easy to forget in the moment. If a pastor is out of the office, remember that he could be helping someone through a private issue. Also keep in mind that he often serves in evenings and on weekends. This means he won’t likely be spending 40 hours a week in the church office on top of that.
He Wants to Know What You Think
Sometimes, people hesitate to come to the pastor with ideas or concerns, because they find his education and years of experience intimidating. Most pastors welcome input from members and would welcome the chance to get to know you better. Everyone in the congregation has something valuable to contribute, and your pastor knows that.
Complaints Are Fine, but Handle them with Skill
If you have a concern about something, first ask yourself if this is a matter of acceptable theology or if it boils down to your personal preference. If it’s the latter, still bring it up, but use that to frame the conversation. Come from the perspective of “I think,” or “I feel,” rather than starting your sentences with “You.” This makes it easier to find a consensus and lets the pastor know you’re not accusing him of anything.
If the matter goes beyond personal preference, talk to the pastor directly and alone, in accordance with Matthew 18.
If you’d like to create a systemic support system for your pastor (and all the church workers in your congregation), contract Rev. Gene Wyssmann about starting a Congregational Worker Wellness Team. Learn more today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call (417) 766-2183.