Recently, I was with a number of ministers from across the country. Many of them were fairly young. I would guess that most of these young ministers are conscientious people who want to do the right thing for their church.
I have preached for over three decades. I know many preachers. Most of them are good people. The following are some realities of ministry that may not fit every single minister, but it is certainly characteristic of so many of us.
- Your preacher may not tell you about how difficult this task really is. Of course it is true that there are some lazy ministers who do not honor their calling through their lack of a work ethic. However, most ministers I know work very, very hard. Most work long hours. When I was a young minister, I remember hearing several times someone use the old line about preachers working one hour a week. Those were awkward moments for me. I knew how hard I was working. I knew the stress I felt. Somehow, this old line was supposed to be funny or relevant. I never quite understood that.
- Your preacher may not tell you how hurtful and frustrating some remarks really are. Some years ago, we were seconds away from beginning our morning service. I was about to say, “Good morning! I am glad you are here.” I was standing at the front of our auditorium, on the floor, just about to speak, when a lady in the second or third pew said aloud to me “I am so angry with you!” I was not expecting that at all. I paused for a few minutes and then said “Good morning!” However, her comment felt like someone had let all the air out of my spirit for the morning. I talked with her later and things were made right. It’s important to choose words that encourage rather than harm.
- Your preacher may not tell you how difficult it is to preach week after week. Someone asked me a few years ago, “Jim, how do you come up with new and fresh material week after week?” I don’t remember my answer. However, after thinking about his question for a few years, I realize that whatever he saw in my preaching each week reflected many hours of prayer, paying attention to the congregation and culture, reading, and intentional growth. Know that most preachers don’t simply have the gift of gab. Rather, they work hard.
- Your preacher may not tell you that he is right in the middle of life right along with you. Marriage concerns. Child concerns. Dealing with aging parents. Health issues. Problems with siblings. Financial issues. Problems with elders, etc.
- Your preacher may not tell you that he is a person who probably needs encouragement. Yes, in most congregations, there are people who are generally very encouraging to their preacher. However, I believe that elders often underestimate how much encouragement their preacher needs. Quite often preachers (particularly in small to medium sized churches) deal with many troubled people, address family issues in the congregation, and minister to the sick and dying. Encouraging words help greatly. Some congregations may have a couple of people who are constant critics. Unfortunately, in far too many congregations, the people who love their preacher and appreciate his ministry are silent. They don’t criticize. They don’t praise. They say absolutely nothing. If you appreciate the person who is preaching to your church each week, it might mean so much if you were to express encouragement to them in person or through a note.