You may be reading this because you are a minister, or because you are married to a minister, or because you are having trouble with a minister. Speaking from personal experience, I know what the life of a minister is all about. So first I would like to address the ministers.
People in congregations put you up on a pedestal right? And in their minds they have a certain criteria that you must meet. Some of them have you right up there with God, or almost equal to God. And because of this, you live in a "glass house" and are expected to do all things perfectly.
You not only are expected to visit every sick person in the hospital ten times a week, but you are supposed to run the building committee, be an expert in church finances, be able to fix anything in the church that goes wrong mechanically, look impressive, preach what they want to hear, (and not preach what they don't want to hear), visit every Sunday school class, every woman's group, be at every church function, head up the youth group, head up vacation bible school, or your wife is, sing, etc. etc. and need I go on? You are expected to be able to do everything in the church and be qualified to hold every office if they cannot find someone to do it. And the same goes for your wife.
You are NOT ALLOWED to drive a car that looks like it actually costs you something, you are NOT ALLOWED to take expensive vacations, and you are NOT ALLOWED to use certain rooms in the parsonage OR have pets. Does any of this sound familiar?
WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
What you and I know is that you are called by God to preach to this congregation EXACTLY what God thinks they need to hear, whether it makes them comfortable or not. You are not their employee, you are their spiritual leader, called by God to minister to them as you are led by God to do so, and not as the "board of directors tells you to" or the "parsonage committee" tells you to. And God is the one who employed you, not them.
The same holds true for the Baptists who call their own minister individually. Even though they have chosen that minister, God still is the one who tells him what to preach.
Many ministers can burn out very easily trying to be "all things to all people" and trying to make everyone happy and everyone like them. You could be burned out because they are gossiping about you and your family, or there is a movement under foot to have you replaced. Or they don't like your wife or your children, or you. Or your children do not smile enough or dress right, etc. The list is endless and usually very petty.
YOU LIVE IN A GLASS HOUSE !!!
And then your realize that it is not really your house, it is theirs and you are just "in it." And if you need anything replaced or repaired they have to have a meeting to decide if THEY THINK you need it fixed or repaired. And then, nine times out of ten, they will replace it with the cheapest thing they can find, or better yet, they will find something in their attic that works. Never mind that it makes the entire house look like you live at Good Will.
Actually it is kind of like being President of the United States and living in the White House only YOU do not have any power to hire or fire disgruntled church members, and you don't make the same salary that he does. So you have no power and no control.
And then there are the "ruling cliques" that you find in most churches, composed of the people who THINK they really run the church, and who tell you "in no uncertain terms" that you should never preach on money again, or tithing, or you will loose the wealthy family in the church who are also the major contributors to the building fund.
The "ruling clique" is usually the group that shows up on your front porch the first day with baked goods. And the day you finally leave, they are your "arch enemies" who went around and circulated a letter to have you removed. What you don't know, and the next minister coming in does not know, is that unless he does as he is told, he is the next one on the chopping block.
If you dare take a vacation to somewhere like Hawaii you are not only criticized for taking one in the first place while so and so is in the hospital, but you are NOT SUPPOSED to have that much money in the first place because you "don't have to pay rent on the parsonage" like the rest of them do. In fact, they say "all you have to do is buy groceries."
How about......"this IS my house while I live in it, and you CANNOT tell me what I can or cannot do in my own home." Or treat me like a "second class citizen."
Somewhere in all of this, you are supposed to maintain a smile on your face, never raise your voice, never show anger, never look hungry or poor, never complain, and ALWAYS be perfect. And that goes for your wife and kids. Oh, and preach sermons from your heart that share love and kindness and talk about loving your enemies.
I do believe at one point, Jesus called a group of people he was preaching to a "Brood of vipers."
There are wonderful things about being a minister as well
There are also many wonderful things that go along with being a minister. And that is the sense of satisfaction and gratitude that comes from being called by God to preach to the sick, the poor, and the hurting.
There are also many wonderful people in congregations that you will remember for the rest of your life. And there are also people that you can learn from who would give you the shirt off of their back.
Being a minister is one of the hardest jobs in the world. You walk a "fine line" every day of your life, knowing that Jesus too was criticized and ridiculed, and finally "nailed to a Cross."
But the power that some congregations wield over their ministers is "way out of line," and can drive some very good ministers right out of the ministry.
If you would like some help in your ministry, please contact me by following the instructions below.
Patricia Jones, M.A.
According to the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership (2007)
• 77% say they do not have a good marriage.
• 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
• 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
• 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
• 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.
According to the Ministering to Ministers Foundation..
• Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.
• Nearly 1 in 4 pastors experience a forced termination at least once during their ministry.
•Only 54% of pastors go back into full-time church related positions.
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