"Minsters don’t know anything about real life." "When are you going to get a real job?" "So, how does it feel to only have to work one day a week?" Comments and questions such as these are often directed at those of us in ministry. Yes, many times they are said "tongue in cheek," (at least the two questions), but even then they show the misconceptions that many have when it comes to the ministerial profession.
Let me let you in on a secret: we ministers have our jokes as well. I often tell people that the ministry is unique among professions. It is the only profession that requires a graduate level education while it pays the wages of unskilled labor (in a vast majority of cases). I guess that is OK, because generally everyone in the congregation knows how to do our job better than we do anyway.
Vance Havner used to say that to be a minister one had to have the intellect of a scholar, the heart of a child and the hide of a rhinoceros.
Let me take an aside here and remind some of you who may be even now making your pastor’s job more difficult than it already is, to be careful. I’ve been in ministry long enough to know that many of the after church clutches serve roast pastor as the main course at their lunches, and I’ve seen the devastation that can be done to ministry and to ministers under the name of Christ. I personally have learned that when someone starts a sentence with, "Pastor, let me tell you this in love" what is about to follow is anything but love. But you who may be causing turmoil in your church by attacking the pastor, let me remind you of the warning in Hebrews 13:17, which reads in the New Testament in Modern English, "Obey your leaders and recognize their authority. They keep a constant watch over your welfare, and they have great responsibility. Try to make their work a pleasure and not a painful burden — that would be no advantage to you."
Enough of the commercial, back to my original thought. As I write this article, I have already in the New Year, held the hand of a friend whose husband passed away, counseled three families in crisis, responded to numerous requests for financial assistance, and even as I write this I am preparing for my first funeral in 2010. For those of you who think we ministers don’t really know anything about life, realize that most of us see more heart-ache and devastation and loss in one month than most will ever experience in a life-time.
What about our time use? While it is true that we ministers have a more flexible schedule than most, don’t assume that flexibility equates to recreational or inordinate amounts of what we might call down time. We ministers are on call 24/7, and believe me there are some who take regular advantage of that. Over my years in ministry I have found that there are some, who upon discovering that a minister may take a certain day off make sure that they choose that day to call upon him for help. We ministers have had to change vacations (or cut them short) to answer a crisis, or, if not that, people call us on vacation for counsel and advice — and sometimes for issues that aren’t even that pressing. I’ve had people call me on vacation to ask me if I knew the number of another member of the fellowship and sadly they have admitted to calling me because they didn’t want to be bothered with looking the number up for themselves, even though they knew that I was on vacation. I kid you not. The average minister works more than 50 hours each week. And in a survey done not too long ago most ministers admitted that being in ministry had destroyed their own self-images (one can only take so much criticism before it takes its toll) and 80 percent have stated that being in ministry has negatively impacted their own families.
I share this with you to ask you to do your pastor a favor. Instead of talking to others about him or her in 2010, why not take time to talk to God for him or her? You might be surprised in the change you see in them.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.