So - all of that being said, here are some things you probably know, and some you probably don't about why you should appreciate your pastor: (warning: all of these things don't apply to every person in every church, but I can tell you almost every pastor has felt each of these things at some point in ministry...)
- His life is 'on call' 100% of the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and he knows that. It is a decision that he has made to serve you. Sickness, check. Marital distress, check. Offspring issues, check. Death in the family, check. There's a number to get a hold of him, and he does everything within his power to be with, counsel with, or fulfill whatever purpose that is put upon him. And after he's talked to you on Christmas day, his mind ponders on it the rest of the day forward.
- His work hours are crazy. Refer back to number 1. All of these 'extras' often come after an 8 hour work day in the office, or on visitation, or preparing a message or three. There is no 8-4 work day, no, not with things to get done, people to talk to, meetings to attend, concerns to address, emails to return (or not return), and church services to attend. Sure, he usually gets an 'extra day' a week off (which is really just part of his two days off), but if he's anything like my husband pastor, Fridays and Saturdays always involve ministry somehow.
- On top of all of his other responsibilities, he has to communicate and commune with God constantly. I mean, what kind of pastor would he be if he didn't? Messages must be prepared at the direction of the Holy Spirit. Counsel must be given prayerfully and gently. As a church, we should pray that our pastor's spiritual life is his number one priority, which must be difficult with all of the responsibilities put upon him!
- On top of all of his responsibilities (for lack of a better word), he is expected to fulfill all of our responsibilities as well. If we had an administration committee, an evangelism committee, a discipleship committee, etc. etc. etc, he'd be expected to be the head of all of those, and we'd deem the reason why 'because that's his job'. Ehhh, wrong answer. Technically, scripturally, his job is to lead the flock, us church-goers, he gets to deal with us. Lucky guy. He prays and asks for wisdom for direction for our church. He leads us through God's word. He helps equip us to do all of the things we expect of him. That means he gets to make all of the evangelism outreaches, he gets to visit the nursing homes, he gets to make all of the hospital visits, he gets to talk to little Johnny when he feels God calling him to be saved... none of these are bad things, just things the pastor shouldn't necessarily have to do. Just imagine the rejoicing that could happen amongst a family if little Johnny's father led him to the Lord. After all, scripture says the father is the head of the household... right?
- Speaking of households. Let's just be honest... his probably suffers. Please don't misunderstand me. This is not always true, but find me a pastor's wife or pastor's kids who have never felt 'alone' from time to time. I firmly believe that a pastor's wife is called to be a pastor's wife. It takes a special kind of individual to accept every point above. It takes special kids to share their father with several other people, and watch him be treated poorly from time to time by those very people. (If you don't think they see it you are fooling yourself. I've had too many long talks with too many pk's who have been turned off from the church because of how the church treated their family. It's a tragedy.) I pray for Bryton and baby 2 everyday that God will give us wisdom to raise them, wisdom as to what they can handle and what they can't in the realms of Aaron's church work, and that God would protect them from this very aspect. The last thing I need is "church" turning my babies away from the Truth. The pressure to 'perform' is a demand put on the pastor's family by the church as well. They are often held to different standards, making faith difficult. One thing I learned from the road: God must come first, family must come second, and ministry / job must come next... if a man is struggling within his family, his ministry too will struggle.
- He walks on egg-shells... kinda. It's easy to preach a message that people agree with, it's difficult to preach one that people may be offended by, but it's even more difficult to deal with people outside of the pulpit. He must be nice to everyone, speak to everyone, show equal support for every ministry available in the church, have a good personality, say things perfectly and most of all, not offend. Okay, now let's get real, he's a human being, not Christ incarnate (who would be the first one to offend us by the way), it is completely impossible for him to do these things perfectly, in fact, it's virtually impossible to do these things well, but these are the expectations we put upon him. Then, when he fails to meet those expectations we confront him, email him, or all the better, quit coming to church all together. He most consistently finds himself between a rock and a hard place. It's impossible to always do the right thing, or even the thing God has called him to do when he is put under this kind of pressure.
- He thinks and thinks and thinks about everything. He's the one who feels the pressure when the church isn't booming, when budget isn't getting made, when one person is in conflict with another, when there are issues amongst staff, when administrative actions need his attention... he's the guy. He doubts when he knows God has led him one direction, yet the church is decreasing in size, not increasing, he questions the new programs initiated because no one seems to care about them, he has to preach on money sometimes, but how much is too much, especially when the church may be really needing funds... and at all the same times he's worrying about your family, your situation, and your spiritual health. He prays for revival and then searches how to make it happen. He gets confused, frustrated, and distraught himself. (But must appear to us to have it together, at least that's the stigma.)
- Kind of hit on this before, but can't end this without saying the one thing people actually acknowledge he does... he prepares messages. It looks like a 'speech' to us, but that 'speech' took a whole week or more of prayer, study (and I mean study, remember that thing we tried to avoid in school... yeah, that) he studies Bibles, concordances, commentaries, Bible software, the internet, previous messages by other pastors, and even a whole lot of cheesy illustrations and jokes on line to try to keep us entertained during the messages. That message that we often criticize was full of blood, sweat, and tears so to speak. The amount of work and effort is unexplainable.
Wouldn't you say we have a reason to appreciate our pastors... every day or week of the year, not just in October? I would...