Seven things your pastor wants you to know but probably won’t tell you
by Al Descheneau
1. “I’m a guy, treat me like a guy.”
Right off the bat I want you to know that I’m a dude like you, so stop treating me like a chick. I’m so sick of guys apologizing to me when they cuss, as though I might burst into tears or faint. Trust me, I’ve heard those words before…and yes, even used them. And you know what? I like guy stuff too! I don’t spend all my time sitting in my office, cross-legged with a Bible on my lap. I like cars, motorbikes, monster trucks, fishing, shooting, movies where things blow up and even the occasional malt beverage. And yes, I even struggle with all the same guy-issues you do. So, if half the reason you’re not talking to me is because you think we have nothing in common—you’re wrong.
2. “Often I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Now, there’s something I’m not supposed to tell you. A big part of me wants to keep up the image that I have it all together, have a 10-year plan and every step I make is guided by God. But that’s just not true. I say dumb things, do foolish things and sometimes I’m so confused by my job that I don’t want to do anything because I’m scared I’ll make it worse. When I stood up and boldly proclaimed that new ministry idea, half of me thought it was a great plan and the other half was certain it would blow up in my face. That’s why I need you with me. I need some courageous, godly men to stand with me, not be afraid to make me defend my ideas. And then I need you to stand beside me when I inevitably throw the fertilizer into the ventilator and it all comes flying back at us.
3. “Sometimes I’m not very spiritual.”
It’s true. There are days when I just don’t want to read the Bible, pray, meditate or do anything spiritual at all. I’d rather read the paper, watch TV, go for a walk, check my e-mail, get ready for a meeting or just sleep in. You’re not alone in your struggle to stay consistent in your daily Bible reading and prayer life. I’m right there with you. I just thought you should know that. Pray for me just as I’m praying for you.
4. “My job is not as cushy as it looks.”
I know some of you fantasize about being pastors because you think it’s such an easy job. Buddy, you have no idea. I may not have much heavy lifting to do, but things do get pretty heavy sometimes. I have a passion for this church and this city and spend more hours thinking, praying, serving and weeping over them than I can remember. I have a heart for seeing people come to Jesus, but it always feels like our ministries are going uphill with a headwind. There are so many things I want to see done, but I can’t seem to get people to come with me to do them.
You might be moved or convicted by one sermon every three months, but I am trying to let every one of them penetrate my heart, every week. On top of that, I have people call me out of the blue with every problem under the sun. They need money, a friend, a job, a place to live, protection from an abuser, freedom from an addiction or an answer from God (they think I can get it for them). And despite my efforts and prayers, I watch marriages and families break up right in front of me—and can’t do anything about it.
There are days that I want to do something else—anything else—because being a pastor hurts too much. But then I remember that I didn’t choose this job: I was chosen for it.
5. “I feel pretty insecure at times.”
I have the only job I know of where, even if you are doing your job, people who don’t like you can vote to get rid of you. Imagine walking around feeling that not only is everyone in the community and congregation watching you, but as James 3:1 says, God is going to judge you more strictly than most people! That’s a tough row to hoe. I’m not insecure about my salvation, or God’s love for me, but I get a lot of feedback and it gets to me sometimes. I don’t know what it is, but people feel free to comment about and criticize everything from how I dress to how I parent my children, and everything in between.
Everyone seems to know how to do my job better, and they’re not afraid to tell me. “Pastor, what we need is more _______ (outreach, hymns, new songs, prayer, fasting, potlucks, dieting, events, announcements, recycling, small groups, Bible studies, …).” “Pastor, we need to do less ________ (arguing, worrying, meetings, technology, eating, hymns, new songs, preaching, new stuff, old stuff, …).” You know when you sent me that email “to help me understand some things”? Well, I got 10 of those and four phone calls—on my day off.
6. “I don’t want to talk to you right before service.”
Listen, I love you. I really do! I want to talk to you, hear about your life, your worries, cares, concerns and what God is doing to and through you, your family, your friends and even your pet Chihuahua. I carry a cell phone and publish my home number in the directory so you can get a hold of me anytime. I have office hours at church and make myself available for meetings in the evenings. I promise that I will be thrilled to chat about anything that is on your mind during any of the other 164 hours in the week. But PLEASE, for the love of Pete, let me have the time before service without a bunch of problems, conflicts and issues that I can’t possibly fix in the half-hour before service starts.
Pray for me. Give me a pat on the shoulder say, “Love you, Pastor!” or throw out a hearty “Go get-em!” Ask me if there is anything you can do to help (or better yet, find some way to help without asking), or just give me a smile. Like an athlete before a big game, during that time, I’m trying to get in the zone and there is a lot of spiritual opposition working against me, and I need your help.
7. “I’m lonely.”
Believe it or not, I don’t have a lot of friends. Sure, I talk to a lot of people, and care for them, and go to a lot of events and even have fun. But when it comes to having a real, tried-and-true, can say anything to guy-friend, I don’t have one. And if I’m like most pastors, then I probably don’t have family around either. I get along with people, but most folks don’t understand what I do or the struggles I go through. If I get vulnerable with the wrong person, they use it against me. Trust me, it’s happened before. So I guard myself, my ministry, my family, and yes, even you, from that fallout that can happen if I get double-crossed by someone who I thought was my friend. And the cost is that I’m very lonely.
Your pastor is probably not the exception, even though he might hide it well. Pray for him. Take care of him. Cut him some slack and help him out. Being a pastor is a tough job and he needs your love, support, prayers, encouragements and willingness to stand up for him when the going gets tough. Thanks for listening.
Al Descheneau is the pastor of Nepean Baptist Church in Ottawa, Ontario.
The article above was featured in the November 2009 issue of SEVEN magazine.