Ministry, Practical Tips

5 Common Misconceptions About Pastoral Ministry

{Special thanks to my pastor husband for collaborating with me on this post.}  My hope and prayer is that these words will be enlightening for church goers and encouraging for pastors and their wives.  We each have an important part in God’s church, and our ministry and outreach will be so much more effective if we understand each other and our respective roles. Here are five common misconceptions about pastoral ministry:

1. Missions trips are vacations.

Even if that missions trip takes your pastor to the vacation destination you’ve always dreamed of, his purpose for going is much different. Missions trips leave him with a full heart and an exhausted body.  It further frustrates him to be greeted upon arrival at the church door with “Hi Pastor, welcome back! My, you look so rested! How was your vacation?”  If anything, he probably needs a vacation to recover from the missions trip- a vacation that actually includes rest.

Instead of viewing the pastor’s time away as time when he wasn’t available to you, consider the benefits of a pastor who returns with an even greater burden for missions. Allow him to take the opportunities that God brings along to help sharpen him and keep him motivated and passionate about ministry.

2. If you can’t find or get in touch with the pastor during business hours, he must not be working.

His car isn’t in the parking lot? You called “all over” and couldn’t reach the pastor? He’s not answering his phone?

Pastors have many unique responsibilities to fulfill, both inside and outside of the church. From spending time alone with God to funerals to church vehicle maintenance to discipling a new believer at a local coffee shop to fellowship time with another pastor to delicate counseling situations-he’s a busy man. He’s not avoiding you- he’s just dividing his time with a lot of people.

Maybe it’s the opposite– you did see your pastor during work hours…but it wasn’t at the church {gasp}:

You saw your pastor at the grocery store during work hours? You bumped into the pastor’s family in town? From picking up fruit baskets to hospital/ home visits with the family to navigating a shared family vehicle, a pastor’s day can take on a number of interesting forms. Instead of assuming that he must not be working, give him the benefit of trust in his work ethic. Realize that he ministers in many different ways, and thank God that he is a servant to people.

The pastor’s work goes far beyond the desk in his office. In fact, desk work {and even study time} isn’t necessarily what changes lives and impacts hearts.  The essence of pastoral ministry is making intentional heart connections through the encouragement of the Word of God and prayer. It’s getting involved with people. And most of the time they don’t come to the pastor’s desk.

3. Since the pastor does a lot of counseling for others, he must not have problems of his own.

Ah, if only….But in many cases, the pastor’s family has more problems. Satan works hard to attack pastoral families. Some seasons of life and ministry can feel like a bombardment of overwhelming issues. Satanic oppression is felt at times when dealing with some counseling situations. The stresses and burdens that pastors face are unique and many.

The burdens don’t go away when the pastor goes home for supper.  

It’s just that he knows how to take church issues to the Lord, how to set aside his own personal trials, and how to turn his face and heart to you and listen to yet another burden from one of his beloved flock.

4. If a pastor has a personal struggle, he is not qualified for ministry.

Obvious disqualifications for ministry aside, your pastor is a sinner like the rest of mankind.  As in all of our lives, struggle brings growth and maturity. Yet often he feels pressure to appear as though he does not struggle with anything. If he does need help or counseling, he must be extremely careful about who he chooses to confide in. There are those within any church who are waiting to jump on a perceived weakness in the pastor. Many a pastor has been devoured by members and even peers in leadership because he opened up and admitted to a struggle.

Let your pastor be a human. Let him get advice and counsel when he struggles. Don’t destroy him through criticism, but rather support him through prayer and encouragement.

5. Pastors choose ministry because it is an ‘easy job.’

“Well who wouldn’t want a one day work week?!” We’ve all heard {or made} similar comments about the pastor only working on Sundays. While we acknowledge that hirelings are a sad reality, it’s not the norm. Ulike casinoer tilbyr forskjellige betalingsmetoder, men de aller fleste casinoer har flere av de samme betalingsmetodene

Good pastors pastor because they have a God-given desire to minister to the hearts and souls of people.

We might call it a “pastor’s heart” and it doesn’t go away, even between ministries. Many pastors’ wives write to me and say that their husbands “can’t do anything but pastor.” I don’t think they mean that their husbands would be incapable of learning a new skill or vocation. They mean that if their husband isn’t pastoring, he is miserable. It’s what God created them to do.

 I’m married to one of those. He worked at a farm for nine months in between ministries, and while he was thankful for the provision of that job, his pastor heart was grieving and empty. I’m convinced that this kind of heart in a man is a precious gift from God. It’s the motivation that keeps him strong through adversity and loving still when the sheep bite.

Let’s Chat: Have you experienced some or all of these misconceptions? What would you add to my list?


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12 thoughts on “5 Common Misconceptions About Pastoral Ministry

  1. Leah, I love your boldness to speak about the truths of ministry. The ministry has many blessings that cannot be contained but it also brings many burdens that cannot be explained. Only God knows. As a pastor’s wife, I have seen each one of these take place. I will add to the missions trip, conferences. Whether it be couples conferences, preaching conferences, etc. These type of meetings are very informative and helpful resource for us but they are also very intense and very scheduled. Not rest time. As a pastor’s family, we feel at times we live in a glass house. Everyone watching our reactions to or maybe our silence to a trial. I am honored and humbled to be in the ministry and thank The Lord for the opportunity to serve in in this way. Thank you again, Leah for sweet spirit in the way you write.

    1. Melanie, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are so right- it is a privilege to be in the ministry and I’m so glad that God gives us grace to go through the hard things. Blessings to you and your husband as you minister!

  2. Leah,
    I am a pastor’s wife and so appreciate your words! I love this role and seeing my husband fulfilled in the ministry God has called him too. But there are so many misconceptions.
    Looking forward to following along!

    1. Yes, I enjoy watching God use my husband as well- it’s special, isn’t it?! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂

  3. A wonderful and very true list! I think another common misconception is, just because you always “see” the Pastor and his wife together that they get to spend a lot of quality time together. All the door knocking, visitation, hospital visits, sitting in on counseling sessions with other ladies, ect. is not quality time together. Although I love helping my husband in those areas, his focus is not on me but serving others. Along with #2 mentioned above if you do see the Pastor out in the middle of a “work” day, (ALL days are work days for my husband), grocery shopping with his wife or at the park with his kids, it hurts when a church member sees you and makes a remark about not being at the office or out visiting someone. Our Pastors work hard from early morning to very late at night and the small amount of time you see him with his family may be the only time is able to spend with them that day.

    1. Amie-Marie, thank you so much for your comments. You are so right about the “quality time” issue. I will be adding that one to my next post about misconceptions. Ministry is so much more than 8 hour days- it’s a life. I think it’s hard for people to break out of the 8 hour day mindset and realize that ministry families live on call. Blessings to you as you minister and thank you for what you do for the Lord!!

    1. Hi Jen, thanks for visiting! I’m kind of out of the loop with the sits group…I think I put myself into the wrong category! 🙁

  4. Leah, thank you for sharing these. As a fellow ministry wife, I can relate to so many of them. Ministry families have such unique challenges. I appreciate you proclaiming truth.

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