Why I’d Be Hesitant to Go Back to the Pastorate

Some months ago, I posted on “8 Reasons I’d Love to be a Pastor Again.” Since that time, I’ve had folks ask if I’d post something on the opposite: “Why I Would Not Return to the Pastorate.” I’ve given that topic considerable thought, and to be honest, I can think of no reason why I would absolutely not return to that role.

On the other hand, I can think of some reasons I might at least hesitate.  So, to respond to the request for my reverse thoughts, here goes:

  1. Church folks can be a headache.  So can folks in any ministry setting, of course, but the pastorate usually means you’re dealing with the headaches recurrently.  Too often, overcoming the headache requires somebody’s leaving.
  2. The salary can be low.  That’s not always the case, but it’s accurate in many cases. I recall one church whose overall belief was that the pastor should never make more than the lowest paid church member. 
  3. The work often requires evening meetings and unplanned ministry.  I understand that church members who work during the day need to meet at night, but busy evening schedules get tiring. The emergencies that happen only add to that stress.
  4. Weekly sermon preparation is grinding.  I love studying the Word and writing about it (in fact, I invite you to subscribe to my daily devotions), but preparing sermons each week is – and should be – time-consuming and gut wrenching.
  5. The role requires regularly coming face-to-face with pain.  The agonies of life seem never ending. Sin issues. Broken families. Wayward children. Uncovered secrets. Congregational conflicts. Unexpected deaths. After a while, the pain is overwhelming.
  6. I don’t like doing ongoing counseling.  I understand that many pastors limit their counseling, and I likely would, too.  Nevertheless, many other pastors find themselves in situations where they are still primary counselors. That work is tough, especially if your training is not in that area. 
  7. Legal issues will probably make church leadership more difficult. You know some of the issues we’ll likely face in the future. The issues of marriage and sexuality may be just the tip of the iceberg.
  8. I’ve seen too many other pastors get hurt. Many of these have been my graduates.  Sometimes they brought the pain on themselves, but at other times they just ran into evil.  When somebody you love gets hurt in a pastoral role, it’s harder to want to be a pastor.
  9. Many churches are inwardly focused.  In reality, they’ve been inwardly focused so long that trying to turn them around seems like an impossible task. At least, it would take so much work that I sometimes feel like the work would drain my Great Commission passion.
  10. I’m highly introverted. You know this truth about me if you’ve read these posts. I truly love the people of God, but fellowship dinners drain me!!

With all that said, though, here’s the bottom line: none of these reasons (or even all of them combined) would stop me from being a pastor again. Cause hesitation, yes.  Lead me to reject the possibility, no way. 

I’d still be happy to be a pastor again.

11 Comments

  • Gary says:

    Very accurate for many hurting brothers that I talk with. Thank you for sharing.

  • John says:

    Amen, brother! These reasons show issues that many churches have tgat should be addressed. Pastoring is a partnership between the pastor and staff, and the pastor and congregation. When one partner negatively contributes, the ministry suffers, and the pastor usually gets all the blame.

  • Kyle Noffsinger says:

    I’ve been a pastor for 13 years, since I was 21. When I survey all factors, both in the church and the culture I do not marvel that the church is struggling. I actually marvel its doing so well!

  • I had to laugh, as I read the posting. As a retired teacher, and from a family of teachers, the comments that you have made apply to the career of teaching, also. I spent my career giving of many hours for which I never received monetary gains. I sincerely hope that the people with whom I made contact gained in a positive way from that experience as much as I did. And, yet, knowing now, what I did not know then, and seeing the current demands on teachers, I would not enter the field of education again. Van and I are enjoying your postings. Keep them coming!

  • Leslie Puryear says:

    Your comment about being an introvert resonated with me. I, too, am an introvert. This can be difficult in ministry because everyone wants a pastor who is an ectrovert who is loaded with charisma. That’s not me. I love the Lord and my church just as much as anyone else but sometimes it doesn’t show. As an introvert, I get drained emotionally when I am around people for an extended length of time. After preaching on Sunday morning I have to take a two or three hour nap to refresh before Sunday evening service. I’m sure I’m not the only introverted pastor. I would love to see a column or two on the unique challenges of the introverted pastor.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Les, I’d encourage you to do a search at Thom Rainer’s site (www.thomrainer.com). Thom and I both are introverts, and he’s written about his own ministry in that light.  

  • Tom Jamieson says:

    I agree mostly with #10. That is something I share with search committees that are interviewing me, right up front. I even educate them on the differences between introverts and extroverts if they don’t already know those differences. I tell them they can expect lots of passion for the Lord and his church, but not so much charisma.

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