Almost five years ago, Dr. Will Browning, Lead Pastor of a Journey Church in the Charleston, SC, area, wrote this post. Because my own findings show that his conclusions are still accurate today (if not more so), I’m re-posting it again. To learn more about Will’s ministry, go to www.willbrowning.com and/or www.journeychurchsc.org.
Every pastor needs a healthy place to vent, though choosing that trustworthy ear to bend must be a careful decision. Many pastors feel freer to be most transparent with someone who has walked in their shoes, namely, other pastors. Throughout the last month, I asked dozens of pastors this question: “What are the things you say to other pastors that you would not dare say publically?” With their permission, I want to share their answers.
- I hate people! – I said this once in a sermon. Needless to say, my elders had to sit me down to have a conversation. Many pastors are just overwhelmed by the challenges associated with ministry, causing their mire to be misappropriated.
- Most Mondays I want to quit. – After Sunday’s adrenaline rush, Mondays often feel like a hangover. That, accompanied with the grind of “doing it all again,” can be draining.
- I am fighting an ongoing battle with lust built on the sins of my adolescence. – I don’t mean to paint your pastor in a bad light, but he is fighting some of the same battles you are fighting. The difference is he has nearly no one he can safely share his struggles with.
- My marriage is so strained I’m not sure we will make it. – The divorce rate for pastors is striking, yet somewhat predictable. People who are unable to admit their struggles and unwilling to seek help are set up to fail.
- I’m scared to go on vacation. A story every pastor has heard (and fears will become his reality) is the one where the pastor goes on vacation, the leaders meet, and he comes home to a pink slip and a notice to be out of the parsonage ASAP.
- My greatest concern is that my kids will leave my home resenting me, hating the church, and rejecting Jesus all because of their experience of being a pastor’s kid. – I heard this from almost 100% of the pastors I spoke with.
- I’m depressed, and I have to manufacture joy to do my job. – From David to Elijah, Augustine to Luther, Spurgeon to Brainerd, many pastors suffer silently through depression behind a well-manicured smile.
- My wife begs me to leave the ministry for a more “normal” life. – Many pastors and their wives dream of a different life where their kids are not under a microscope, they are paid a fair wage, and they have a job with a predictable schedule.
- Most of the time I have no idea what I am really doing. – What other job description requires a man to be proficient in oratory, marketing, research, computer information systems, management, finance, and human resources, all while having impeccable theological expertise? Oh, yeah, by the way, you are also expected to raise perfect kids and have a perfect marriage.
- If everyone knew how insufficient my devotional life was, they would all leave and I wouldn’t blame them. – The emails that await us every morning, the work necessary to develop a quality sermon, and the unpredictable schedule ministry brings—these factors often crush a pastor’s devotional life.
I hope two applications come from this post. First, I hope pastors reading this post will seek out a confidant with whom they can safely vent frustrations, fears, and concerns. Second, I hope church congregants reading this will make it a priority this week to encourage and pray for the pastors of their church.