I Have a Question

Every July, I take several weeks of vacation as well as several weeks of study to get ready for another year.  (I tend to think school year as opposed to calendar year.)  Today, I have been thinking about the perception which many people have toward pastors/ministers/preachers etc.  I am curious as to what those of you who are not in this role think about the role itself.

What is there about this kind of ministry that strikes you as fascinating, interesting, stimulating, etc. In other words, what do you think you would really enjoy about this role?

What is there about this kind of ministry that strikes you as difficult, troubling, frustrating, etc.  In other words, if you were in this role, what do you think you would not like?

How would you like to think that you would spend a typical day?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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12 thoughts on “I Have a Question

  1. What would I enjoy about the role of minister?  1)  More flexible schedule.  (I work an 8-5, M-F job. I don’t have much flexibility.  I realize there’s a down side to working the way a minister does, though, basically always on call and EVERY weekend! :))  2)  Time to study. (When I take time to read and study I almost feel guilty because there are so many things I should be DOING.  As a minister, I imagine that study is a large part of what you do.  I think I would really like that.)  3)  Conferences and seminars.  (Again with the study!  But, also the travel would be interesting.)  4)  Being present and an important part of significant times in the lives of the people to whom you minster.  (The downside is that everyone EXPECTS the preacher to show up for everything.  No way you can do that, so I imagine some people are disappointed with you.)  5)  Being present for the "aha!" experience when a person really, really, finally "gets it."  And knowing that you contributed in some way to that process.  Maybe it’s something relatively small, like understanding how a particular verse applies especially to them.  Or, maybe it’s when someone’s heart is opened and she finally accepts Christ as Lord of her life.  Knowing that God is using you to accomplish His purposes in the lives of other people must be very thrilling (in a good way) and humbling at the same time.  (I realize that we can all be used by God, but it seems that God uses ministers in a very big way and the rest of us less frequently and in much smaller ways.)
    What would I not like?  1)  Always having to be "on" at church.  (This may sound odd, but I think it would be hard to worship with the assembly if I were a minister.  I would always be thinking about how things were going, the timing of everything, etc.  I imagine it’s hard to worship with those kinds of things running through your head.)  2)  The unrealistically high expectations people have of ministers.  It would be difficult to be who you really are for fear of disappointing people.  3) I imagine you may at times feel rather isolated.  No one really understands what you do exactly.  🙂  4) Having to be accessible all the time to everyone, even people you don’t like very much.  It would be difficult to set boundaries, but you’d have to do it or you’d go crazy!  5)  Lack of job security.  Someone can get her nose out of joint about something you say or do or don’t say or do and next thing you know you’re called in to the elders and packing!  (I get the impression it’s not that way where you preach now, but I’m sure some of that kind of pressure may be there.)

  2. Dear Mr. Martin,
    I’ve visited your blog for a while, I appreciate what you share and how you share what you’ve learned through your own life experiences. It seems to me you have a wonderful heart.
    These are wonderfully, tough questions, and questions that I feel would benefit a congregation, in order to "open up our eyes" as to how we behave toward on another, to get the full effect, push the thought process to include all of the other roles. There seems to be a part of me that likes life out on the edge of a cliff, yippee!
    1. What I would really enjoy is the challenge to learn, while not losing sight of the very simple "truths" that make us the body of Christ.
    As I’ve read, studied from the bible and many Christian men and women and prayed for wisdom, I’d then want to share this information in order to help others to grow spiritually and find their place in the fields of God in which serve, sacrifice and to never grow weary of doing good. To live this service out in joy and hope, to judge less and love more. I’d love for us to understand that suffering for the sake of Christ isn’t a bad thing, but a necessary thing,in order to grow spiritually, it’s a wonderful thing that will push your faith and trust past all of the comfort zones you’ve created. Ah, the joy of discovery, perserverance and knowing God’s got it all covered, then, now and for all time.
    I’d enjoy having relationships with other ministers, men and women from other denominations, Christian and other faiths, as I want to learn to love more perfectly, as we are all created in His image and I fall short of that perfect image.
    I’d enjoy seminars. I’d enjoy going to meet and talk to the people who run all of the services in the area in which I live. I think I’d like my church to see the value of community, collabrative efforts in which to serve. They already have the funding, the "know how" and a lot of them are looking for help. Preaching the "word" isn’t the only way to share the gospel. We are usually limited by our very own vision.
    I’d never want the study of the bible or other books to lead us to think we know everything about God, that we have Him all summed up. If that’s the case, we will close our minds and hearts, we will lose the sense of majesty, power, holiness and soverenity of God, we will no longer seek to grow spiritually because we know all there is to know about God. We will no longer seek to wonder what it means to be created in His image because we will think we know what that image is.
    I’d set up study groups for the purpose of learning prayer, meditation, fasting, confession, solitude, worship, etc. I’d love to participate in groups that read these topics and tons of other relevant topics.
    I would enjoy praying with others, encouraging others, sharing the vision of hope and joy of what God has done, through Christ. I’d enjoy the celebration of the body in worship. I’d enjoy the challenge of conflict resolution, if not possible, then let go in peace for the sake of the body, unity isn’t uniformity for goodness sake. I’d enjoy the teaching and encouraging of each of us to let our brothers and sisters enjoy the freedom they have in Christ.
    2. What would be difficult, troubling and frustrating is the church would expect things of me and my family that they wouldn’t expect of themselves or their families. That I’d see they speak of love very easily, but don’t really know how to apply that of which they speak so easily, into action. I’d be expected to be servant of all for all. We are all called to serve, no one person can do it alone, find your gifts.
    What would frustrate me is people who read their bible daily, but not see that complaining or criticizing me, my family or lessons, might be a problem. They’d wonder just how many hours a day I spend on the job. They’d wonder if I was being paid too much!
    I’d be frustrated because it would seem that no matter how much we read, prayed, or studied, this group seems to be stuck in the mud. I’d wonder what I was doing wrong or if I was the wrong fit for this group.
    I’d be troubled by the fact that some who come to church, think they are not sinners, while others think they have no control over the sin in their lives. I’d wonder how I could begin to show them discipleship through Christ, as something to be practiced daily, step by step. To remember to be honest in the process, then you’d not worry so much about the sin of others, you’d be prepared to pray and help them on in their journey because of the strength and hope given to you by Christ, through his Spirit. I’d be frustrated because the world doesn’t need to see perfect Christians, it needs to see Christ, lived through us.
    What would a typical day look like? I have no clue, because my gut says if I could call a day typical,in this particular field, I’d be pretty blessed.

  3. 1.  What I’d like: People
    2.  What I’d have a hard time with: People 
    Seriously, as a close friend to a pastor’s wife, I see the blessings in her family’s life because they invest highly in relationships. I also see the pain that comes from relationships where people in churches find it easy to chew up and spit out a pastor. It seems like anything goes when it comes to critiquing a pastor and his family. 

  4. A lot of good stuff in prior comments, so I’ll just take a moment and add on.  As a pastor…
    I would probably fall into the trap of letting my Bible reading and study become all about the sermon and not allow it to penetrate my own heart.
    I would struggle with the balance of being a "spiritual giant" – a role model who’s expected to live with very high standards… and yet be "real" enough so that others feel they can relate to me and see me as a normal person.
    I would need to find the balance of being open and honest with the congregation… and yet putting the proper boundaries in place. 
    And I would expect that sometimes it would be very difficult to keep my priorities in place – namely, giving my family the time and energy that they deserve instead of sacrifing my time with them to minister to those in the church.

  5. Kari,Good observations.  I wonder if your last observation is not, in part, also a boundaries issue.  Thanks very much.

  6. Eclexia,You express this very well.  You observe the blessings of investing in people/relationships.  Yet, along with the pleasure and satisfaction of that comes the possibility (probability?) of pain.Thanks.  I hope you will comment again. 

  7. Lorene,You gave this a great deal of thought.  It is very helpful to me to try to see this role through the eyes of someone who is not in it.Perhaps it is just hearing the perception of another.  How does this look to a person in the church?  Thanks very much. I hope you will comment again. 

  8. Connie,Your reasons for enjoyment very closely mirror my own.  It was helpful reading these and being reminded of why I enjoy this work (most of the time).In your other list (what you would not enjoy), you  touch upon one one of the issues that can become  a major concern– the fear of disappointing.  Much more could be said about this one.  I think it contributes to the sense of isolation which you mentioned.Thanks so much. 

  9. I think it is a very demanding position.  You are "on call" 24/7/365.  You are usually among the first called in times of sorrow or tragedy. People unfairly expect you to handle all that without showing a lot of emotion, and they kind of expect you to make it all better with pearls of wisdom dripping from your mouth at all times.  I think that people’s perception is that you have it all together, you have all the answers to life’s situations, you are drowning in wisdom and knowledge about things like "how many angels fit on the head of a pin" as well as answers to everyone’s true spiritual questions.  I think it’s easy for us (non-pastorals) to assume you never sin, you never struggle, and your family never argues, fusses or strays outside the lines.  I appreciate the fact that you have personally been so open about the fact that you are human, you struggle too, and you don’t have all the answers.  Your precious family has been such an encouragement to us because you show us how a real Christian family deals with the nitty gritty of life.  I appreciate your openess and honesty more than I can express.

  10. What would I like:
    1. I love theology.  I read a fair amount on my own, but I’d love to have broader knowledge of the many different ways Christians articulate their understandings of the Divine.
    2. I’d love to regularly and deeply be parsing out the Word and helping others grow along that path.
    3. Being an instrument of how God is working in people’s lives.  Yes, yes, this is true for all of us Christians but in a somehow different way for clergy.  Maybe the difference just lies in the time available for such things.
    What would I not like.
    1. Unreachable expectations.  Maybe Paul could be all things to all people but I can’t be.  There are things I can do very well — and there are good valuable and important things that are beyond me.
    2. Relational overload.  I’m an off-the-charts introvert, not the most patient of souls, and a constant stream of needy people would overwhelm me quickly.  But of people have an absolutely legitimate need and expectation for their pastors to be there in times of need.
    3. Living in a fishbowl.  Everybody thinks they know you.  Everybody thinks they know your family.  And you’re supposed to be open and accessible, but at some point enough is enough.
    4. Absolutely interminable committee meetings!
    5. All the administration that is necessary to run a nonprofit organization — overseeing maintenance and finances and personnel etc. etc. etc.
    Hmmm … my "bad list" is getting longer and longer.  Probably a good thing I have a different career path!

  11. Kristen,I like your "likes!"  These are some of my favorites as well.I cringed at a few of your dislikes.  I dislike some of these as well.Thanks. 

  12. Lauren,Your comment means a lot to me.  Thank you for the affirmation and encouragement.  Again, that means a lot for someone who has seen myself/my family "up close."By the way, your dislikes are very true.Thanks.