Chances are, your minster won’t tell you what I’m about to. In no particular order, eventually, I want to share some insights with you into the inner world of being in ministry.
Before I get started, let me say, I’ve been preaching for over 25 years and I love the church and I enjoy the role I have in ministering. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than ministry. The road I’m on has been bumpy at times, smooth and extremely blessed at other times. I have no axe to grind here, but I do want raise your awareness on some areas we usually remain silent on.
Why do I want to articulate this? Congregations all across the nation are faltering, but one key component to a healthy church is stable leadership. The longer most preachers remain in a congregation, the greater their influence in the community can be. I simply want to help out here, and help you know what goes on in the mind of the minister so that maybe you can understand us a little better, and maybe something good can come from these points.
This is not a rant, I’m not angry, and I do not think negatively of the church. I simply hope to help you minister to your minster more effectively than perhaps you have in the past.
“But, aren’t we all ministers, aren’t we a priesthood of believers?” If this is really your first question, I hope you’ll keep reading. When I write “minister” I’m referring to someone who has dedicated their time and energy to full-time church work and occupationally they earn their bread from ministering in a local congregation.
Here are some insights into the mind of the minister for your consideration:
We are more introverted than you assume. It’s hard to imagine how a life of study and hours of reading wouldn’t attract introverted individuals. Yet, many members are surprised when we confess our introverted leanings — but since there’s a stigma attached to being introverted, we mainly keep quiet about it. We aren’t shy. It’s not that we don’t love people, and we aren’t hermits, it’s just that an overexposure to people leaves us sapped and drains our emotions and our ability to be creative. We are recharged and energized when experience the blessings of solitude. We relish the time we have to study quietly. I wish I could’ve been like Marvin Phillips, but that’s not how I’m built and more than likely, neither is your minister.
Often, we feel alienated and misunderstood. When we went to Bible college and Seminary, we were surrounded with “like minded” people who deeply shared our passion and our goals. Serving in a congregation, we are surrounded by people who have full time obligations like raising kids, working jobs, and commitments that stretch beyond the church. We don’t always make the transition into the local church without carrying this tension of being between two worlds as well as we should, and sometimes this keeps us from forming deeper personal relationships with you.
We frequently worry about how ministry impacts our family. There’s a memorable song from another generation that goes something like, “The only one who could ever reach me, was the son of a preacher man…” Worry about the stresses and strains of vocational ministry and its impact on your home go far beyond being concerned “will our children rebel?” The “fish bowl” analogy is real but it pales to the notion that the church expects far more from the minister’s family than it does most of the rest of her families. What we’d like to say is, “You ‘hired’ me, not my family,” but we don’t want to rock the boat too much. We need help guarding our family at home more than we let on.
We aren’t experts, but we have special skills you should utilize. It can be awkward having a room full of volunteers deciding your next pay raise, but it’s extremely frustrating when your ideas are neglected on a whim because someone doesn’t like to change. Forget that you’ve had a few courses on the subject and the time to study it out, and the good fortune to meet with other church leaders who’ve implemented the idea. Hear us out, we only want what’s best for the Kingdom.
We have real financial needs. Sadly, the average preacher spends more time in school than in the pulpit. The last statistic I read concerning this said preachers quit ministry before their fourth year. Yet, many of us rack up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt to get the training we need to serve. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard the saying, “We keep’m poor to keep’m humble,” but still many ministers languish with lower than usual salaries. Ministers would like to be ample providers for their families too. No, we don’t go into ministry to get rich, but we don’t pursue the ministry to struggle either.
We are workaholics. Unfortunately, we suffer from burnout long before anyone notices. We need, not want, but need sabbaticals. When the average person goes home from work, they leave their responsibilities at the office. Not us. We are on call 24/7, we “work” most holidays, and even when we are not in person-present serving, our minds never shut down. Every four or five years, beyond our vacation time, bless us with a month or two off to recuperate, the dividends that would pay are immeasurable.
There’s probably more I could add, but please think on this: Your minister needs to be ministered as much as anyone else in the congregation. We are constantly trying to feed the flock, and sometimes we end up malnutritioned ourselves. No one wins when that happens. For the sake of the Kingdom, if you haven’t already I hope you’ll consider meeting the needs of those who minister to you and mutually blessing each other.