Anyone who has ever served on a ministry staff for any measurable amount of time knows the twin realities of the incredible joys and the exhausting difficulties. Perhaps this tension is part of the reason why there is such large drop out rate among pastors and other ministry leaders in the American Evangleical Church. Ministry is a tremendous privilege, to be allowed to be with people at both their best times and their worst, but it carries with it inevitable frustrations and hurt feelings, which frequently seems to lead to burnout, exhaustion, and isolation.
Part of the problem may be the disconnect between what those in pastoral ministry do, and what those in the congregation assume – and want – their ministers to do. Just like some of the memes of various professions that one may see on Facebook or some other social medium suggests, there is often a difference. Misconceptions easily become a source of tension.
Recently I re-read an article by Jason Boyett that I find helpful, reminding me to look at things from the other side: 5 Things Church Members Wish Pastors Knew. it reminded me of one of Stephen Covey assertions from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:”seek first to understand, then to be understood”. While I may desperately want to be “understood”, I have little to no control about what people may understand about me. But I do have the ability to try to see things from the other side; to understand why people may not appreciate the same things I do, or agree with all that I may believe and say.
So, for my fellow ministry leaders, here are Boyett’s five assertions:
- Who you are reflects upon your membership. Churches reflect the character of its most visible pastors and ministers. “It’s not always fair,” one church member told me, “but people associate churches with the pastor.
- Churchgoers have lives (and ministries) outside of church. “I don’t eat and breathe this church,” a parishioner said.
- They value excellence but not showiness. Everyone makes mistakes. Every speaker, worship leader, or musician can have a bad day on-stage. Church members realize this, but at the same time appreciate good preparation.
- They want to be led…with honesty. Stories abound of churches that embarked on an exciting new vision only to backtrack a few weeks into it for a variety of reasons — too few volunteers, lack of funds, complaints from prominent church members, or some other kink.
- Sometimes, it looks like you have it easy. Anne Jackson, the author of Mad Church Disease and a former church staffer, once blogged about the perception — which she felt was well earned — that church staffers can be lazy. The post’s comment section should be required reading for pastors and ministers across the board.