Being a pastor is one of those jobs everyone thinks he understands, but few really do. I know I had no idea what it was going to be like.
So after 20 years of experience, here are a few things some of us wish you knew.
I love my job. Jesus a great boss, and I am doing the job I have wanted to do all of my life. I give up every weekend, live apart from my extended family, and often I am misunderstood or resented, but I do this job gladly.
I am a bad business manager. I am inefficient and slow to act on the business side of church. I wait too long to fire people, and do a bad job of budgeting, planning and marketing. Honestly, I am bad at all of those things because I don’t want to be good at them. I did not go into the pastorate to run a business. I want to help people by telling them the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I want to walk along side people and watch their souls develop. Attending to the “business” needs of the church feels like kissing a dementor, all my joy is sucked away.
My wife is not on staff. She is great, and she loves the church. But she has a life and a completely different set of gifts than I do. She would love to have you as a friend, but please do not put unfair expectations on her just because she has me as her husband. And please do not punish or ignore her just because you get angry with me from time to time.
My children are not role models. They are children. They did not get to pick what their father did for a living. Please do not expect them to act differently from other children.
I cannot fix your spouse, your children, or your friends. You may come to me with the problems of people you love. Sometimes those problems are really just your unwillingness to accept them for who they are. Other times your loved ones are self-destructive and need to change. Either way, I cannot help them unless they are willing to come talk to me.
I cannot fix you either. I wish I could. I thought for years that I could. Finally I have realized I cannot even fix myself. I can love you. I can limp along side you toward glory. But I cannot make you happy, and I cannot fix you.
I do not love everything about this church either. I do not pick the music, set the thermostat, or run the nursery. I have had to make concessions about almost everything this church does. Living in community demands concessions. I would love to hear your suggestions and have you help. But please remember, just because we reject your idea does not mean we reject you.
I don’t have as many friends as you might think. Just because I find it easy, even fun to stand in front of a crowd does not mean I have a crowd of friends. Most pastors I know are terribly lonely. You would be surprised how many of us spend holidays and Saturdays alone, because honestly, who would want to go out with a preacher?
I can see you from the pulpit, and yes it bugs me when you roll your eyes or play with your phone. I understand, it’s hard for me to sit still too. But I thought you might want to know I see you.
It hurts my feelings when people leave. I’m sorry if that is unfair, but there it is.
I love the church. She is filled with sinners, hypocrites and mean people. But she is my mother and I love her. She gave me life and hope, and I will love her until I die.
I am honored to be a part of your story. Almost everyone who comes to me for counseling apologizes. You have no idea how honored I am that you would share your heart and your struggles with me. I have not earned that kind of love and trust. Thank you so much for loving me enough to need me. Thank you for letting me serve you. When you do that, you allow me to feel a little bit like Jesus. There is no better feeling.
Ricky Jones has spent the past two years as a church planter and pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Before that, he was a campus minister with Reformed University...
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