Have you ever been a part of a career day? Or a "bring-your-dad-or-mom-to-school" day?
Last Sunday night I had the privilege of speaking to the AWANA kids in our church about what it's like to be a minister. I was surprised by the result. In an attempt to simplify the answer for younger minds, I was reminded that there is a great advantage in keeping things simple. Simple is clear. Simple is understandable. Simple is inconveniently doable. (See, we often much prefer to make things complicated so as to avoid responsibility).
So, this is what I told the children (with some expansion here).
A minister of the gospel is a servant of God and a servant of God's children. A minister / pastor / bishop / overseer / elder / preacher / teacher can find a clear job description in the Bible. The first pastors of the first church knew that they should devote their greatest focus to 2 things: ministering the Word of God and prayer. In simple terms: preach and pray. I am supposed to listen to God, talk to His sheep about Him (and about what His Word says), talk to Him about them, and talk to Him with them. Surely there is more, but that is where I stopped with the children. That should be enough to keep a pastor occupied. But, there is more...
There are also responsibilities that come from our church constitution. The only one I mentioned was that I am the co-chairman of all church committees. They laughed a little. The adults laughed a lot. Our church is an exceedingly busy congregation. There are many programs, projects, ministries, and many ministers. It isn't very practical really to imagine that I could be a functioning co-chair of each ministry team. The right and privilege is there, but in practice I'm hardly involved at all in most of the ministries of the church. Praise God! Competent Christians should be empowered and released. So yes, while there are other duties (related to the business of the church and such), I'll leave that to those who want to go read it.
Then we come to the expectations that arise from the congregation. Sunday night I only mentioned one. There are many (of course) and most are included under other headings as well, but the dominating desire that I have sensed from church members throughout my ministry is the desire for friendship. It is relationship that people seek. We call it fellowship. People don't care how much you know unless (and until) they know how much you care. And, people have no interest in what you believe until they discover that you are truly interested in THEM! So, if they don't come see me (in the assembly) for a while, or if they can't come - then I usually feel the need to go see them.
But, what about people who are not part of the church? Does the community make demands of the pastor? Well, yes. Actually they do. And no doubt they should. The church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth, the light of the world, the salt of the earth, the army of God sent to charge the gates of hell. Not that the unregenerate know what they need. They actually need the gospel. But what they think they need is charity and counseling. At least, that has been my experience. In their mind, the church (led by the pastor) is expected to help the community with some kind of social benevolence and also be prepared to answer hard questions when life becomes unmanageable.
Moving on - there is also tradition. While the Bible does not prescribe it, traditionally the pastor is expected to preside over weddings and funerals. And so, I do. In fact, I think I have 6 weddings in three months on my 2020 schedule (October - December). These traditions are fast changing though. Fewer weddings are held in church facilities. And the nature of how people mark and morn the loss of their loved ones is changing too. Don't be surprised when funerals become rare or cease completely. I've witnessed it myself several times. So, doubtless the role of the pastor in these critical moments will be affected.
Then there is the pastor's own personality and experience to consider. In this way, each pastor is different. Depending on the gifts and abilities of the pastor, other duties can become quite prominent. In my case, I love to work outside - so, there are several tasks around the church grounds that I take on happily. I'm frequently piddling around with the trees and shrubs scattered over the church property: planting, trimming, mulching, etc. And, I love music. I choose most of the songs we sing, play most of the songs, and help lead many of them as well - not because I have to, but because I want to do it. I treat it like a duty, a responsibility, a necessity. But really, it's mostly good fun and a kind of spiritual therapy for me.
The last category is rather broad. It includes minutia as well as significant responsibilities. Because I am the only full time staff member in our church, there are times when tasks fall to me simply because I'm the one present. Whether it's checking thermostats, locking doors, turning off lights, filling the baptistry, answering e-mails, printing bulletins, or a myriad of other tasks, there are simply many practical things that need to be done, and most the time I love doing them. I have also found is very important for me to stay current on technological applications (computer work and more). I produce audio, video, and printed media on a weekly basis and actually enjoy the process.
Now, all of that is well and good. It's not an exhaustive description, but it is enough to give you a taste of what the life of a minister can be like. It's very diverse. And, it really is a wonderful life. BUT, none of that is possible or worthwhile if the pastor isn't maintaining a personal walk with Jesus Christ. Being a minister is not just a career or a profession. Clarence Sexton has told his people that they don't pay him to pastor them; that they couldn't pay him enough to pastor them. They pay him so that he can pastor them. If you think about that, it's much better that way. Being a minister is a divine calling; an assignment from God Himself. What an honor!
And, the pastor also has a family. I grew up as a pastor's kid and with pastors' kids. I've watched and listened to my own children, to my wife, to my mother, and to other pastors' wives. It's hard. The ministry, I mean. They live in a glass house. They endure scrutiny even from their biggest "fans" and the kindest church members. It is an inescapable pressure. For the most part, we have found ways to make it a blessing. That kind of influence can be positive, if you let it be. But it is a weight nonetheless, and so the preacher's family always needs prayer.
This month is considered by some to be "pastor appreciation month." But let me say that whatever the pastor does, one way or another (at least in my experience), his wife does; his kids do. So let me say loud and clear, I appreciate my family! I couldn't do what I do without them, and I wouldn't want to try.