A pastor friend of mine shared a great article by Thom Ranier titled “10 Powerful Truths About Pastors.” After the first couple on the list, it’s a sobering article on the state of pastoral ministry. I sympathize with pastors who deal with burnout, conflict, and depression. But, I must admit, most of these do not apply to me. I think there are three reasons why. (1) I’m bi-vocational. (2) Our church practices a model of distributed leadership. (3) Our church has a spirit of cooperation and unity. None of these are really my doing. I’m extremely thankful to be working in a church with a congregation and leadership team that protects me from the common pitfalls pastors face.
Here is my response, as a bi-vocational pastor, to the items on the list. Ranier’s list, with commentary, is provided in the link above.
1) Pastors truly sense God’s call. Being a pastor is not “just another job.”
I agree, but neither do I view my other job as “just another job.”
2) They love their churches and their members.
3) They work hard. Pastors work an average of 60 hours.
I consider myself pretty busy but I don’t work 60 hours a week. Between my two jobs I work about 50 hours, 30 hours as an engineer and 20 as a pastor. By the end of the week I’m tired but not burned out.
4) Many are hurting from conflict.
In my time at the church we have had a few instances of conflict but all were dealt with openly, honestly, and with an eye towards reconciliation. I attribute this to the fact that our congregation shares some core values and beliefs which allows us to find common ground. Not every situation has ended in an ideal manner but neither are there unresolved hurts.
5) Most would like more practical training.
Generally, I feel good about the training I have received. Thanks GRTS!
6) Many are struggling financially.
Unlike many bi-vocational pastors I have a job in a field (software engineering) that pays pretty well. Most of my income comes from this second job. On top of that, we try to live simply, avoid debt, and spend within my means. It helps that my wife likes Dave Ramsey. This is another feather-in-the-cap of bi-vocational ministry.
7) They are challenged greatly by the rapid rate of change in the culture.
As a relatively young pastor (30 still feels young to me) this doesn’t really relate to me.
8) They are stressed for time.
Yes and no. You could always do more with more time but I generally feel like I’m not dropping the ball too many times. Although, the lack of “pastoral time” is one of the bigger disadvantages of bi-vocational ministry.
9) Many have struggling families.
Ranier shared a story of someone whose family was treated like “hired hands.” I’m thankful our church does not treat my family this way.
10) Some pastors are experiencing depression.
My prayer is with these pastors.
As I stated above, I think the model of ministry at our church, together with the model of bi-vocational ministry, has helped keep me from the symptoms of burnout described above. At our church we are intentional about shared leadership. We are a board led church and we have an extremely high rate of member involvement and ownership of ministry. On top of that, both I and the other pastor like to consider ourselves a “Pastoral Team,” sharing most pastoral duties without a strong hierarchical structure in place. We are on the same page in theology and values and, I think, our differences in personality are complimentary.
Our model isn’t perfect. Some people have left our church, at least in part, because both of us pastors are bi-vocational. I’m sure we don’t do as much visiting as we ought (at least I don’t). We have several elders who are extremely gifted in this area but, nevertheless, it’s possible that as a pastor I’m failing in this area. I have written before of the challenges of bi-vocational ministry, both for me as a pastor and for our church. I readily admit that’s what is good for us as pastors isn’t necessarily good for the congregation, though I think other excellent leaders make up for where we are lacking.
I can’t take credit for any of this. I just walked into an environment already in place. I’m so thankful for our church for taking such good care of its pastors!