Ten Things I've Learned About Pastors in Two Years

Though this blog is four years old, I did not get serious about the pace of my blogging until about two years ago. If you have spent any time at my blog, you know that I devote a lot of my writings to local church matters in general, and to pastors specifically.

The world of the pastor is not unknown to me. I served as a lead pastor in four churches and, when I was a seminary dean, as an interim pastor in eight more churches. I also served as a church consultant for about 20 years before coming to LifeWay.

But it has been at this blog the past two years that I really feel like I know pastors more in breadth and depth than ever before. I hear from them in the comments of the posts. Others read my posts and leave comments at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Some choose the privacy of direct messages on Twitter. They number in the thousands.

If you read my posts, you know I often like to do numerical lists. I will do so here, but I struggled to stop at ten. Perhaps I will continue the list later. For now, here are ten things I've learned about pastors in the past two years.

1. They truly sense God's call in their lives. It's not just another job for them; it is, as one pastor told me, "an inescapable reality."

2. They love their churches and the members. The metaphor of "shepherd" is truly appropriate for these pastors. They care deeply for those they serve.
3. They work hard. The typical workweek of these pastors is about 60 hours, a number I hope to verify in a future poll.
4. Many are hurting from conflict and hurtful church members. Noted one pastor, "I hate that I find myself running from her, but every time I see her she blasts me!"
5. Most would like more practical training. This quote was a common theme: "I feel prepared to study the Bible and theology; but I am still ill-prepared to deal with leadership issues, money, and strategies."
6. Many are struggling financially. They are struggling with their own personal finances; and they are struggling to understand church finances.
7. They are challenged greatly by the pace of change in culture. Some of the older pastors (50 and up) particularly lament how different the world and serving the church is today than just a decade ago.
8. They are stressed for time. Sixty hours a week, noted above, is not sufficient time to meet all the demands upon them.
9. Many have struggling families. This comment came on another post as I was preparing this post: "I have pastored my church for 13 years now, and I am looking for a secular job. My kids have abandoned the church as they became adults as I have fought a small group of power peddlers the entire time. I am tired of seeing my family treated as hired help and employees not to mention myself. I will never leave the ministry. I know more than ever God has called me to the ministry. I will always serve Him in whatever capacity I am in. I love preaching and will continue to do so as the opportunity arises. But I just can't deal with this situation any longer."
10. Some pastors are experiencing true depression. See my post on this topic on July 18, 2011. Note the comments as well.

Pastors are my heroes. Chuck Lawless will address our heroes in the upcoming post on July 4. I pray for my pastor and others. I truly love pastors.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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