Life Lessons, Ministry, Relationships

5 {More} Common Misconceptions of Pastoral Ministry

Last week’s 5 Common Misconceptions of Pastoral Ministry was so well received that I decided to do a second post on this topic. Some of my readers emailed their suggestions to me, confirming my thoughts that this list could go on and on. So I’m going to cap it off at 10 total and maybe someday amalgamate the two posts.  Here are the misconceptions that I feel really need to be voiced {and thanks again to my husband for helping me put this post together}:

1. Because pastors work at a church, they don’t have any idea what it’s like in the real world.

Maybe it seems like your pastor can’t possibly know what you face at work or school because he spends his time in a “Christian bubble” 24/7.  Maybe this is so in some rare cases. But I would submit to you that your pastor might possibly be more “with it” than you think.  He’s done the counseling for drug addictions and substance abuse. He’s called the police upon discovering child abuse in the church. He has gay friends and family members.  He’s answered the doorbell day after day and found a drunk man on the doorstep. He’s heard the filthy language in the bus ministry. He’s faced satanic oppression many times over when trying to help a marriage or a crisis situation. He’s gone to the hospital in the middle of the night and seen the trauma. He’s preached the funerals for unsaved people. He’s tried to convince that girl not to get an abortion and then counseled her when she decided to get it anyway.

His heart has broken again and again. I assure you- he gets it.

2. Pastors don’t need to save for retirement. 

One pastor’s wife emailed me to say that churches expect the pastor to silently accept whatever the church offers them for salary, no matter how small. This is a broad topic that I don’t have space to embellish on in this post. And while I agree with a pastor not obsessing over money or becoming greedy or always asking for more, when did it become wrong for a pastor to get a side job if he wanted/needed to?  What is the problem with him planning ahead and saving for retirement? Is it the end of the world if his wife gets a job?

Instead of having the attitude toward your pastor of “Bless God, he ought to be content with whatever we give him,” allow your pastor to make the financial choices that will benefit his family both now and in the long term. Just because the pastor’s salary is common knowledge to every church member doesn’t mean that you have free access to criticize his money matters. Give him freedom and privacy with his finances, just as you would like to enjoy.

3. Whenever the pastor and his wife are together they are getting quality time.

This is another “if only” in ministry. While most pastors and wives do ministry together often {visiting, counseling, hospitality, etc.}, this does not equal quality time as a married couple. When we were new to ministry, we somehow managed to have a date every week. As our responsibilities have increased, it has become harder to get that quality time that is so needed in marriage. It doesn’t help that in this phase of life our babysitting options are few, but that is only half of the issue. The other half? Time.

Many pastors that I know schedule time with their wives into their day planner. It may be at 1:30 in the middle of the work day, yet it is just as important {or more so} as the counseling session that he just had at 10:00. Don’t assume that just because you saw your pastor and his wife at the hospital making a visit together, that they “have it good because they get to spend so much time together!”  Don’t begrudge him of quality time with his wife by expecting him to schedule a church activity on every night of the week just to keep him busy. A pastor can get another church, but he can’t get another family.

4. Young pastors need to be held in check

From all around us comes the call for Godly young men- men who will exhibit strong character and integrity, and who will take the torch from the older generation and be leaders worth following. This is a noble goal, yet another voice arises wherever there is youth; it’s the voice of discredit because of age.

My husband became a senior pastor for the first time at age 23. I watched God enable him in so many amazing ways. I saw God answer his fervent prayers for wisdom to lead. I still believe that God has gifted him with wisdom beyond his years, and it’s a wonderful thing amidst this day of general immaturity in young people. Yet there always have been those {and always will be} who think a young pastor is “cute” and “just a young thing” and “oh, look at that young pastor. Bless his heart!”  I’ve even heard it said that a man can’t have true Godly wisdom until age 25. Really? I don’t see that in the Bible anywhere. In fact, I see God using young people often- children even- in the biblical accounts of history.

For some reason, some older folks think that they have the responsibility to “keep that young pastor in check” instead of recognizing God’s call on a young man’s life.  They assume that youth equals immaturity. Yet in so doing they often end up making more foolish mistakes than the young pastor they discredit. The difference? The older folks ride on life experience while the young pastor recognizes his desperate need for God’s power and enabling. These same older men will despise youth until they see a gray hair on the young pastor’s head. And then something confusing happens: they start calling for young men again. All the while that young man they’ve been looking for was right in front of them!

Do you have a young pastor? He may be unproven, and he will make mistakes. But making mistakes doesn’t mean that he is automatically untrustworthy. Pastors of every age make mistakes. They are human. Give your young pastor grace. See his heart and encourage him.

5. Pastors are always spiritual

Your pastor may appear as the picture of spirituality, but he isn’t always. Pastors have tempers and they get irritable at times. They have to say “I’m sorry.” Pastors are tempted with pride and self dependence. They have to nurture their relationship with God just like you do. Pastors tend to worry and carry burdens that they don’t really need to carry. They have to choose to believe and to trust God. Pastors don’t always pray as much as they should. They have to do a reality check at times and refocus on eternal things. Pastors don’t always want to read their Bible. They have to choose obedience over feelings. Pastors get frustrated with people. They have to resist criticism and cynicism. Pastors are tempted with discouragement and depression. They have to learn to find their joy in Christ.

Pray for your pastor. He wants to be a Godly leader. Satan wants another ministry casualty. Help to hold up his hands in the battle.

Let’s Chat:  What do you think can be done to bridge the gaps and help pastors and their people understand each other better?


4 thoughts on “5 {More} Common Misconceptions of Pastoral Ministry

  1. These were two good posts but I have to say I don’t agree with a pastor having the right to go out and get a side job if he wants to. A church has hired this man on to be their pastor, not to be their pastor/gas attendant or whatever job he has taken on. If he’s going to be the pastor he needs to have his attention on the ministry and that can be at all different hours. What if he has an emergency at the church but is supposed to be at his other job…which one takes priority? The side job probably isn’t going to let him not come to work because he had something else come up. On the other hand, if the church cannot afford to pay the pastor all that he needs to get by and asks the church if it is alright to get a side job to make ends meet…by all means I’m fine with that. I only disagree with him thinking he has the right to get a side job to save up some money if he feels like it.
    All in all though these were 2 good posts. 🙂

  2. Jennifer, thanks for sharing your thoughts. As I said, finances is a broad topic and I couldn’t possible cover all of the scenarios. I was referring in that context to a pastor who is not paid full time, yet is expected to “get by” on what the church gives him. Also, some churches have the mindset that a pastor should never retire, and so consequently should not need to save/plan for retirement. Both of these expectations are extremely inconsiderate of the pastor’s needs, both present and future. Regarding the second job issue, I don’t know many pastors who would even have the time to get a second job “just to save up money” if they are already employed full time by a church. I think we are on the same page, just maybe coming at it from different angles. Hope this clarifies what I was saying. 🙂

    1. Yes, I think we are on the same page 🙂 I thought you meant a full time pastor and not a part time one, my bad lol

  3. I am just starting out as a pastors wife and would love to have all the help and encouragement I can get!

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