pastoring now tougher than ever
There’s something to be said for the days when pastors were the most educated in their community. They were able to run the church (operationally and organizationally), do the pastoral care, get very involved in community life. And, none would be the wiser. This probably worked well in a smaller community where the church was the town center, and life revolved around the neighborhood, and not with daily commutes, not with international business travels. Now, in the 21st century, with the totality of knowledge doubling every year (and increasingly faster,) pastoring is more difficult and challenging than ever. Rarely is the pastor ever the most educated in his/her spiritual community.
This means the pastor’s glaring lack of knowledge may be called out by congregational members who have expertise in other areas of life beyond theology: be it business management, organizational processes, human dynamics, technology, academia, etc. Those who signed up to be traditional pastors b/c they genuinely wanted to give their life to minister to people via pastoral care are now left in the lurch. Arguably, people still need personal care, and for many churches, it is a shift away from “pastoral care” to “congregational care.” My unanswerable question is: what does someone who set themselves up on a career path to be a traditional pastor do now, if they can’t retool? What transferable skills does a traditional pastor accrue?
My viewpoint tends to be more organizational, so my take on being a pastor is that it is an impossible job. Here you are asked to be the lead preacher and teacher, available for counseling sessions, leading a staff of people that can span such responsibilities as missions and janitorial, serving as the public face for your organization in the community, networking with other leaders at Christian conferences and denominational gatherings. That’s a lot of hats! … Let’s finally consider the financial issues. I don’t believe pastors are paid very well, so that’s obviously a downer. And if you are paid well, and sometimes even if you aren’t, that has it’s own issues, for congregants can quite easily feel they own you, since they’re paying your way. What other organizations is the person at top in such an awkward financial relationship with his or her co-workers and clients?
[update 10/10/07] Mark D. Roberts weighs in with his retrospective in The Hardest Thing About Being a Pastor