I am very blessed to have a lot of ministry friends. These people span across various areas of ministry from staff, to lead pastors, to professors, to missionaries. The people I know in all these different fields of ministry are so different that you would think they do not have a single thing in common. In some ways this is VERY TRUE. However, over the past month, many of the conversations have sounded so very similar. In talking with these different leaders, we process through so many different contexts, situations, and pain. Even though some of these people live on the other side of the world, the same concepts keep coming up.
When I suggest they start being more honest with the people around them, everyone basically says the same thing... they wouldn't understand. What's even worse is some even say no one would really care. I don't know if that is true. So, here we go. Let's talk about.
DISCLAIMER- I'm not talking about your ministry leader. No way! They are in such a good place. I am sure they feel rested, loved, and honored. I'm talking about the folks across town. (sarcasm is my spiritual gift.)
1. They are exhausted in a major way.
The pace of life slowed down for a little while because of COVID. In my own life, I noticed how out of hand my pace had become. Out of that difficult situation I promised I would never get so unhealthy again. That lasted about a year. Now, the pace seems to be faster than ever. The demands on my time are greater and everyone is so quick to tell me all the ministries that our church can/could/should/need to be doing.
The weekly demands on pastors and ministry leaders continue to mount and many feel like we simply cannot handle the strain. There is a weariness that is matched only by the pace of the world around us. Please be patient with us. We are walking with a lot of people through a lot of things... including our own issues.
2. They struggle with people that don't want to do anything unless they get paid.
Let's start with saying that people are worthy of being honored for their hard work. Of course! Sometimes getting paid is appropriate and possible. Yay!
However, there was a time when people served out of a sense of honor and doing ministry was a privilege. We paid people as we could and as a way to honor their hard work. It was a gift, not an expectation. These people were not looking for a side hustle or a career opportunity. They wanted to serve in the house of the Lord and we supported them so they could equip us. Now the first question is, "How much do I get paid?" This is usually followed with, "I know my value." (head slap) Then, depending on the person, we might hear, "You get paid. So should I."
This is usually a good time to take a deep breath and remind ourselves they simply do not understand. They do not know how long we served for free. They have no idea how many hours we worked, came in early, and stayed late without ever asking for a dime. It was only after years of faithfulness that someone insisted we be honored for that faithfulness.
So, after a minute of introspection, we engage with that person again and talk about doing ministry together and serving out of a heart of gratitude. Then, we are accused of gaslighting. The end result is people feeling "too good" or "too valuable" to serve without proper compensation. These are also the same one who complain because the church is not doing more.
3. They feel like you don't want them to lead you. You just want an enabler.
When you read the Bible, it speaks straight to the sins that cripple our hearts. As a pastor and/or ministry leader, we want to speak to those issues as well because we see what they do to us all. We know what they have done in our own lives and we want freedom for all. However, when we dare to step into that uncomfortable space, we encounter resistance. In the end, if feels like you don't want us to pastor you. It feels more like you want a weekly cheerleader. Don't get us wrong, we believe in you. We believe God wants great things for you. But, we need to also tell you the truth. We need to tell you that watching Game of Thrones is ruining your soul. We need to tell you that gossip is killing your relationships. We need to tell you that we see how you look at the person who is not your spouse and your integrity is worth making things uncomfortable. God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. We have the unfortunate honor of standing in that space with you. Will you allow us to do the hard things for the right reasons?
4. They need you to stop comparing them with YouTube stars.
We all love the YouTube preachers and their ministries. They are great. However, they are not what 99% of us are. The rest of love Jesus and do what we can with what we have been given. When you tell us how much you LOVE your favorite YouTube preacher, we celebrate with you. But, we do not need pointers on how preaching like them would get more people coming to our church. We are not trying to be them. We are trying to use the gifts God gave us. We know this comes from a good place. You are only trying to help. However, pray for us to grow and encourage us to use our gifts. Without realizing it, you are agreeing with the voices of inadequacy that are already speaking inside our heads. If God wanted us to be like them, He would have made us like them. Celebrate who we are and that your pastor is not a YouTube star. That means you get to know them peronally. You don't know the YouTube preacher personally and probably never will.
5. Ministry leaders are the most "church hurt" people you will meet.
No one 'hates' a bad pastor more than a good pastor. Every time a bad pastor does a bad thing it makes our job just little bit more difficult and it hurts the people we are called to love. It breaks our hearts every time we hear about a bad pastor because we know what hurt feels like. The most hurting christians around are good pastors. Every time someone leaves their church, they feel like it is their fault. Every time they invest in someone, spend time with them, and encourage them only to have them go down the road, it hurts. They will be part of your church for years only to ghost you and start posting on social media how amazing their new church is.
If people respond at all, ministry leaders often hear statements like:
- We just needed more for our kids.
- We just needed a change.
- We weren't getting fed.
- The larger church down the road offers more small groups.
- The other church has a better worship team.
- The other church was better for my family.
- You weren't there for my family.
- It wasn't personal.
All of these hurt a pastor's heart because we want to be everything for everybody. We just can't. We don't see our relationship as transactional. We thought we were becoming a family. Imagine saying those same things to a family member.
"Hey bro, I know we promised to come over, but our neighbor's family has better food. It's not personal."
"Hey bro, I know we were coming to your house this weekend and I know you have been working hard to get it all ready for us but... we have some friends who have more games for our kids. It's not personal."
"Hey bro, I know you've been reaching out to us and we are really thankful for helping our marriage when we needed it last year. But, we're better now and your just not doing it for us now. It's not personal.
These are the things pastors hear all the time. They do the best they can only to be immediately discounted and discarded when the next new shiny thing happens. Pastors and ministry leaders carry that weight. Are they unnecessarily insecure? Probably. But it still happens. So, be kind. They hurt more than you can imagine because the good ones are not trying to build an empire. They are trying to build lasting relationships. That's why, to them, it is VERY PERSONAL.
7. The very best thing you can do to help your ministry leader is to love Jesus, love the church, and love them.
We do not want to build a pyramid scheme or a fortune 500 company. We want people to love Jesus, love their families, and create a family legacy that lasts. We dream of families raising God-honoring kids who raise kids of their own. We want to walk with you, cry with you, and share life with you. So, give us grace to mess up. Walk with us. Let's do life together. We are working in the same world as you, but trying to build something better. Help us by falling in love with Jesus, catching the vision of your church and staying with it, and love us. We are not perfect. We are all still growing.
Finally, remember this is not coming from your ministry leaders but from ministries I am connected with all over the place. It is a general cry from many in ministry who want to do this thing called "life" better and point others to Jesus. Join with us as we all try to reclaim the Church and find our new footing in this new world.