This article originally appeared here at LifeWay Facts and Trends.
“We’d like you to be superman.” That was the answer a search committee member gave me to the question, “What are your expectations of a pastor?” He qualified the answer by saying how the previous pastor had done so much for the church and for the community. He admitted he was being a little tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless, his statement was telling, and I did not become their pastor. I’ve thought about that conversation several times since then. It’s probably true that some church members have unrealistic expectations for their pastor. But it’s also true that sometimes we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves. We try to do too much or carry too much.
Oftentimes ministry is non-eventful, but sometimes it is overwhelming. A recent day in my ministry looked like this.
4:40 AM alarm went off.
5:15 AM left the house.
6:00 AM visited a church member before a rather serious intestinal surgery.
6:45 AM visited another church member at another hospital.
9:00 AM arrived at the other end of the state for a denominational meeting.
10:30 AM received a phone call about the sudden death of a church member.
1:00 PM expedited the meeting and left for home with plans to visit with the family of the member who died.
3:00 PM received a call from my dad’s neighbor that he had fallen and she was going to call the ambulance.
4:00 PM met my dad and the ambulance at the hospital.
11:30 PM arrived at home after my dad was given a hospital room for extra tests.
This day was not typical, but I’m sure you’ve had similar days. I never made it to visit the family who had a sudden death. I don’t relate this for your pity or for your praise. My motivation is simply this—I am not superman. I cannot possibly wear all the hats and do all the ministry that my church needs. I need others and so do you. Here are several realizations about pastoral ministry.
- Don’t try to be superman. You can’t do it all and you shouldn’t try. When I try to do everything, I usually mess things up and create tensions. Discover your ministry strengths and weaknesses. Share ministry with others especially in your weak areas. Shared ministry may not be good for your ego (we like to think we can do more than we can), but it is very good for your church and for the kingdom.
- Rely on others. Two staff members and at least two other church members visited with the family who had a sudden death. I couldn’t be present, but our church was present. Reactive ministry is necessary and important. But so is proactive ministry (making disciples, reading, studying, leading, evangelizing and planning ministry). If you’re going to do significant proactive ministry, you’re going to have to rely on others for both proactive and reactive ministry.
- Make time to rest and recharge. A pastor friend of mine told to me recently that he struggled to admit that he needed rest and time away. Even Jesus took time away to rest and recharge. If Jesus rested, we need to rest. Don’t be ashamed of taking a day off, taking a holiday or going to be early enough to get a good night’s rest. We are better off and our ministries are better off when we are rested and recharged.
- Be human. Admit your weaknesses and struggles. I know that we have to be careful how open we are, but we should be vulnerable. Most of those in our congregations see us from a distance in the pulpit. That means they often see the best of us—sometimes not the real us. So, it’s not surprising that sometimes church members expect us to be better than we are. Wisely sharing your weaknesses will help your congregation take you off the pedestal and remind them of your need for others.
- Be honest. You need to tell your church leaders when you need help. Paul declared that a primary role of the pastor is to equip others for ministry. It is not my job or your job to do everything in ministry. Be honest by building adequate margin into your ministry and share responsibility for ministering to others.