Things Your Pastor Won’t Tell You…The Pastor’s Real Job

I think I have found the perfect job description for a pastor.

The pastor should:

  • Preach exactly 10 minutes.
  • Condemn sin vigorously but never hurt anyone’s feelings.
  • Work from 8am until midnight and also serve as the church janitor.
  • Make $100 a week, wear good clothes, drive a good car, buy good books, and donate $30 a week to the church.
  • Be 29 years old and have 40 years experience.
  • Be attractive.
  • Have a burning desire to work with teenagers, and spend most of his/her time with the senior citizens.
  • Smile all the time with a straight face because he/she has a sense of humor that keeps him/her seriously dedicated to the church.
  • Accept and implement all constructive criticism.
  • Make 15 home visits a day and always be in the office to be handy when needed.
  • Always have time for church council and all of its committees.
  • Never miss a meeting of any church organization and always be busy evangelizing the unchurched.

Note: The perfect pastor is always in the church down the street!

It is always a revelation to find out what a church really expects when you arrive, and sometimes the expectations look suspiciously like those on the list above.  I remember one church I was assigned to held a lunch for my wife and me the first Sunday we were there. That would have been nice except that the first thing anyone said to me when we arrived at the “fellowship” hall was, “You’re not what we wanted. We wanted somebody with children.”

My response: “But what if I’m what God wanted you to have?”

Regardless of what the church leaders tell you, the pastor of a church has one major job requirement: To be the spiritual leader of the congregation they have been called to serve. There are certainly responsibilities that come under that requirement, but to be the spiritual leader is paramount.

In the United Methodist tradition (my denomination) a pastor’s responsibilities are divided into four categories:

Word (preaching; worship; studying and applying Scripture to daily life), Sacrament (celebrating the Sacraments), Order (developing congregational leaders; attending to the day-to-day business of the church), and Service (caring for the spiritual and temporal needs of the congregation and community; modeling for and leading the congregation in acts of compassion, mercy, and justice; and nurturing the congregation for mission and ministry in the world as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ) as set out in the Book of Discipline (¶331)

The pastor is the primary spiritual leader in the congregation and is responsible for helping members grow closer to God through worship and spiritual disciplines by serving as the primary worship leader, preacher, and teacher. The pastor also oversees the training of laity by equipping lay people to accomplish the ministries they have been selected for or called to do.

The pastor is the administrative leader and steward of the congregation’s vision of how they are called to make disciples. And the pastor is called to be the custodian of institutional integrity: In other words, it is the pastor’s job to protect the integrity of the reputation of the church in the community. To ensure it is always seen as a place of honesty, safety, hope and reconciliation which upholds the traditions, polity, and beliefs of the church.

And while everyone is not a Methodist, most denominational hierarchies I am award of expect some version of the same thing from their pastors.

The thing your pastor won’t tell you: Too many churches will allow their pastor to carry out those responsibilities only as far as they are comfortable with them.

  • Some churches are comfortable where they are and see no need to go into the community to either serve the people or attempt to make disciples of them.
  • Some churches attempt to dictate to the minister how the worship service should be conducted and even what Bible translations they can use.
  • Some churches attempt to dictate to a minister what their schedule will be and how much time they should spend at certain tasks.
  • Some churches attempt to use financial and social pressure to make their pastor conform to what they want.

Oddly enough, it is often when a minister is doing his or her job that certain members of the congregation feel threatened or feel they are losing control. And that is a dangerous place for a pastor to find himself or herself because a church can be transformed over time from being a place of ministry to an empire where a few people set the tone for what will and won’t be tolerated…and the job official description is a moot point.

Next time: What Your Pastor Won’t Tell You…Who Runs the Church?

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