October is Pastor Appreciation Month. A few years ago I served as a pastor for a while and grew very appreciative of pastors. I was what is now called a “bi-vocational” pastor which meant in addition to being a pastor, I had a “real job.” That meant my congregation felt no need to compensate me for my time spent pastoring. I have come to appreciate that most folks consider pastoring not a “real” job or at best a part-time job.
Most churchgoers believe that a pastor should be compensated but not more than the worst paid worker in the congregation. After all, these guys only work on Sundays, right?
I recently read that the average pastor spends 30 hours a week preparing his sermon. I don’t remember how much time I spent, but my wife teaches an hour class each week and spends that much time working up her teaching.
The gospel is really simple, but congregations expect the pastor to come up with a creative expression of it 52 times a year, never repeating. The sermon is supposed to be understandable to a child while provocative to a theologian. It’s supposed to drive a sinner to repentance, but give the saved comfortable security. It should be manly but sensitive, relevant but not worldly. It should be bold and call for revolution, but not violate IRS 501(c)3 guidelines. It should challenge but never offend. It’s an impossible task.
And it’s not the only task for the pastor. A pastor in addition to being a preacher needs to be a mediator, accountant, counselor, human resources expert, youth director, child caregiver, custodian, and yard man. He is expected to be at every medical event, social crisis, and educational achievement for every family in the church.
His entire family is on the payroll. When I was a pastor, we had no worship leader, my wife taught herself to play the keyboard and beautifully led worship. Yet she was under constant criticism because of the nature of the songs, the number of songs, the songs were too often repeated or not well known to the congregation. They were set too high or too low and were sung too fast or too slow. Criticize me if you must, but don’t say a word about my wife.
Even pastors’ kids are expected to be models of deportment but not too “special.” They are mascots for the congregation when little. They should attend every youth meeting and go on every mission trip. However, they shouldn’t be too pretty, handsome, smart or, worst of all, popular.
It’s important that we remember that, like Elijah, pastors are just men. James 15:7 “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. ”
Pastors need to give themselves a break. They are limited in what they can do. When things go great, it’s all God. For the rest of us, we need to give pastors a break. We also need to recognize that we also are just men, but that’s no excuse for not being used by God, for not being available. We are all called to make disciples, not just to have pastors who are charged, by us, to do it for us. It’s a personal job, a responsibility we can’t pass off. We should look to pastors for inspiration and leadership, but not expect them to do what we ourselves should be doing.
Pastors, we appreciate you for what God does through you and for your willingness to be available. Call us to task when we think we could never be Elijah while we expect you to be.