Most people have a pretty good idea of what Senior Pastors do... on Sundays. But the reality is, not many truly know all the work that goes into this sacred and difficult calling. We don't get to see all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into sermon prep or the launch of a new ministry. We don't know the ins and outs (and hours) of the pastoral care that takes place. Most of us simply don't know what it takes to lead a church staff.
All of our Executive Search Consultants at Vanderbloemen Search Group have been in senior level positions of church leadership before coming to work here. They know firsthand the difficult and usually unseen truths that accompany sitting in the pastoral hot seat.
Here are 10 things that your Pastor (probably) won’t tell you:
There are a multitude of responsibilities in a Lead Pastor’s job description that require much more time and hard work than just getting on stage on Sunday. From sermon preparation to wedding ceremonies to staff leadership, Pastors must work during the week and on the weekend.
Not only is it difficult to find rest in this position due to the long workweek, but Senior Pastors could also be called away from their family at a moment’s notice. Their day doesn’t end at 5pm. If a congregant suddenly falls terminally ill, a Pastor is not going to ignore the problem until his or her schedule clears up. A Pastor who is called to care for the people of the church often has to put their personal life on hold to attend to others.
Sometimes a Pastor must bury a longtime friend, or see a couple he counseled and married be torn apart by divorce. Just because Lead Pastors witness these things more often than most doesn’t mean they are not affected by it. This could ultimately lead to emotional distress or burnout for any church leader.
Due to the nature of their work, Pastors' social, emotional, and spiritual worlds are very intertwined. It can be difficult to find someone to relate to outside of church who understands a Pastor’s life, and it can also be really hard to be close friends with people inside the church. There are many things a Pastor can’t talk about or share with others because of confidentiality. There is also sometimes difficulty being a both a Pastor and a friend to staff or elders. For example, in a moral dilemma, you might want the “friend” side to sympathize with you in the situation, but you’d need the “Pastor” side to be able to take wise action. We often see Lead Pastors connecting through a community of other Lead Pastors in groups like our Lead Pastor Coaching Network.
Pastors are often put on a pedestal with very high expectations from their staff, congregation, and community. They must consider everything they do while at work and outside of work, lest they make a mistake and be a bad example to others. This pressure can be difficult on Senior Pastors, who can sometimes be the subject of the community's or congregation's gossip.
Pastors hear criticism almost every day from congregation members or staff, be it about their preaching style, a topic they addressed, or last Sunday’s message. Pastors work very hard on each sermon and agonize over every message they deliver. Not only is it part of their job description, it is also their calling from God to lead and create disciples through preaching. Most Pastors take this criticism with grace, but it certainly can be disheartening to hear criticism on something they worked hard on.
As I've mentioned, Pastors are on call 24/7, work weekends and weekdays, and are constantly thinking about how they can care for their congregation and maintain vision for the church. Most Senior Pastors also possess the urge and desire to grow their congregation and mission, reaching more and more people for the Kingdom. While it is a high and noble passion, the intertwining of emotional, social, and spiritual worlds makes it even more difficult to “turn off” Pastor mode to focus on family or take time to rest and recharge.
Believe it or not, like most people, Pastors have other interests and hobbies outside of their job! Even if they struggle with constantly working, it is often a relief to be able to talk about fishing, a sports team, or the latest museum exhibit with someone. It is also much easier to foster deep friendships when you have other things in common besides just where you attend church.
While this challenge of keeping one’s identity in God is not exclusive to Pastors, it does prove very difficult when the basic definition of a Pastor is “one who leads a church.” Again, while the urge to grow the church is a noble one, it can be challenging for pastors to separate their self-worth and the success of the church. Pastors fight a constant battle to keep their identity rooted in Christ.
Surprise! Yes, Pastors went to school to study the Bible and continue to study the Bible for their job. Yes, they pray for wisdom and guidance daily. But at the end of the day, no Pastor is omniscient. They are fellow journeyers with us, following Christ and learning along the way.
If there is any important takeaway from this list, it’s this: Pastors are not perfect. A Lead Pastor is simply a fellow broken human called by God to lead other broken humans with His help.
How can you use these insights to encourage your Pastor this week?
If you liked this, you'll also enjoy 5 Things Young Pastors Should Know.