Throughout the years I’ve heard several myths about pastors. With October (and Pastoral Appreciation Month) getting ready to start, I thought I’d do a little pastoral myth busting.
Myth 1: Pastors only work one day a week
Most people only see their pastor on Sabbath. What they don’t realize is that pastors are on call 24/7. Their work takes them to homes, hospitals, nursing homes, cafes, business, schools, the telephone, email, social media, and their home office. While the range of hours per week is wide, the median workweek for pastors is about 50 hours a week.
Myth 2: Preaching is easy
What could be so hard about talking for a half hour? Nothing, if a pastor has nothing to say and hasn’t prepared. Fortunately, most pastors take their preaching seriously. Good preaching involves studying the needs of the community and the congregation; immersing oneself in the context, historical setting, audience, language and words of Scripture; praying over the application for today’s setting; squeezing in 15 hours of prep time needed between all of the other scheduled and unscheduled ministry demands, with the vulnerability of standing up front and talking to a bunch of people; and then doing it all again next week. Despite the difficulty, most pastors love preaching and teaching and rate themselves better at this than any other pastoral skill.
Myth 3: Pastor’s families are perfect
“You should know better than that. You are the pastor’s kid.” I was appalled when I heard those words spoken to my 11-year-old son and realized that some folks have unrealistic expectations of pastoral families. Spouses and kids are not employed by the congregation and are in that role through no choice of their own. They deserve the unconditional love of the congregation just as much anyone else.
While pastoral marriages are not perfect, 96% of married pastors are satisfied with their marriage and divorce at a much lower rate (10%) than the general population. Pastors also rate their relationship with their kids at a higher rate than the national average. Those pastors who report lower family satisfaction report they are in difficult ministry settings. Pastors who lack seminary training are also at greater risk for family dissatisfaction.
Moral of the statistics? Take good care of your pastoral family, make a way for them to get the education they need, and your pastor will take good care of your church family.
Myth 4: Pastors appreciate regular criticism
No one flourishes in a climate of regular criticism, not even pastors. Yet for some reason, some pastors are exposed to more criticism than others. Pastors in smaller congregations, younger pastors, and female pastors, are more likely to report getting criticized than older pastors, pastors in larger congregations, and male pastors.
So how do you give helpful feedback to your pastor, particularly to pastors in smaller congregations, or younger, or female? Select an appropriate communication method carefully — here are some tips.
Anonymous note: only if it is exclusively filled with praise.
Text: time sensitive information only.
Social Media: only if it is positive.
Phone call: text first to establish the time of the call, and then keep it short.
Email: good for information but lousy at emotion laden content.
Face to face in public: only if is filled with praise.
Face to face one on one: for those important authentic conversations
Myth 5: The Pastor’s job is to do ministry
Actually, the pastor’s job is to equip the saints to do ministry. The biggest frustration of pastors today is lack of lay commitment. If you let your pastor do all the work, you are facilitating a dysfunctional relationship. Instead, let your pastor equip you, empower you, teach you, mentor you, and let you flourish with the spiritual gifts God has endowed you with.
Myth 6: Pastors don’t need to go to the Pastors' Family Convention
OK, I’m ending with a shameless plug for the June 21-24, 2020, Pastors' Family Convention. Pastor’s appreciation month is in October and as your congregation thinks of ways to affirm your pastor, why not take up a collection to help send your pastoral family to a convention designed especially for them? They loved the 2015 convention and your financial help would be a wonderful “thank you” for all they do for you.
While the NAD, the union and local conferences are helping defray most of the costs, a little extra from the congregation could be enough to make the trip cost free for your pastoral family. At the convention they will be connected, equipped, inspired, and valued. And they will return to you with a fresh fire burning in their hearts.
— Dave Gemmell is an associate director of the NAD Ministerial Association.
The Barna Group, The State of the Pastors, p. 102.
The Barna Group, The State of the Pastors, pp. 35-37.
Observations from a Ministerial director from a conference that had a significant number of pastors who did not have a seminary degree comparing their family satisfaction with those who had completed the seminary.
The Barna Group, The State of the Pastors, pp. 76-79.
The Barna Group, The State of Pastors, p. 99.