In 2008, the Barna group released some statistics that might stagger you. The study dealt with “pastors” (in the denominational sense) and the stress of the work. At that time, the estimate was that 1500 pastors were leaving the ministry every month for some other reason that death or retirement. Those reasons might be financial, conflict with a congregation, or some other reason.
Also, in that study were these statistics:
- 81% reported stress and conflict in their marriage due to lack of time with their spouse.
- 80% believed that the ministry negatively impacted their families.
- 70% stated that they did not have a single close friend in whom they could confide and/or confess sin.
- 50% said they would leave the ministry if they felt they could earn enough to support their family in another role. [For more of the statistics from this survey, click here.]
I fully believe these numbers. As a preacher, I see stress in the faces of many of my fellow workers. And, yes, if I am going to be honest, sometimes I feel that stress, too. We are financially cared for at Lebanon Road, but sometimes, the sheer “unexpected” of ministry has a way of knocking anyone off his feet, and of taking a man away from his family for a stretch of time.
However, this article is about another dynamic that Barna and his cohorts failed to see. That is, why don’t we just organize the church God’s way?
You see, far too many preachers in Churches of Christ are being asked to fill the role of a “pastor.” He is asked by the elders to preach (at least twice weekly), teach a Bible class (or two, or more), visit hospitals and nursing homes, hold personal Bible studies, counsel wayward members or those who are hurting, write and edit a bulletin, run the church website, and even take out the trash. Some must unlock the building each week and make sure the auditorium is clean before anyone else comes in. Others are asked to keep the church calendar, make sure all worship leaders are lined up, and research any major purchases the congregation is considering. And on and on it goes.
Now, I am all for hard work. In fact, many preachers do some of these things because they absolutely love serving God and working in His kingdom. I do extra things (hello, you are reading a blog that is not in my job description!), as well. However, a preacher is not the pastor! I often say from the pulpit that I am one of the members of Lebanon Road, I just happen to be one who is asked by our elders to spend much of my time studying, preaching, and teaching.
It is amazing how God’s plan works. When elders are truly shepherding and tending the flock, the preacher can spend his time studying, and can then use his extra time to visit, encourage, and counsel–as should every member of the Lord’s Body! But, when preachers are asked to be an elder, preacher, deacon, Bible class teacher, program organizer, event coordinator, writer, editor, and janitor all rolled into one? It’s no wonder they are stressed, as is their home.
Preachers, work hard! Spend serious time in God’s Word and in continuing to grow as a preacher and teacher. Get out of the office and visit. Do the best you can to “fulfill your ministry.” If you struggle with time management or even with work ethic, you need to work on that. You need to work very hard and be organized. But then…go home and be a husband and dad.
Elders, demand that your preachers work hard, but also demand that they work hard at being a good husband and dad. Make sure that vacation time is not only allowed, but is taken. Delegate some of his “extra” responsibilities to deacons, or others with a heart for ministry. I’m sure he would be happy to train that person and be available as a resource. And, elders, you need to be doing the work of elders. Your work is to tend to the flock of God. If you pass all of that along to the preacher so that you can be a “decision-making board,” don’t be surprised when he leaves after just a few months. Oh, and in the meantime, don’t be surprised if his sermons aren’t exactly “home runs,” since he really lacks the time to prepare as he should while he is doing all these other tasks.
When we do things God’s way, not only does more get done, but more gets done efficiently. There is less strain and stress, and the work progresses forward. Amazingly, more people become involved, because they see a need and an area in which they can help. It really works…
…almost as if God planned it that way.