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If you have never pastored, perhaps an illustration will help you get your mind around what it means to be a pastor. The picture that comes to mind is Dick Van Dyck playing Bert, the One-Man Band in Mary Poppins when he had multiple instruments strapped to his body. He was multi-tasking at a high level. That picture gives you an idea of what it means to be a good shepherd.
Even pastors who have the luxury of delegating responsibilities because of the size of their churches and the revenue to hire additional leaders are still busy individuals. It’s not just the busyness of their lives, but the weight of their congregations’ burdens. Similar to counseling, you can only carry so many people’s problems. Pastoring is a complex intersection of physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental experiences. I have much respect for those who strive to do it well.
And do not forget the more vital responsibility of leading their families well. Caring for their wives and children is of utmost importance. If your pastor is doing all of these things well, you should let him know how much you appreciate him. Go and tell him, and if your pastor struggles in any of these areas, pray for him and ask how you can be part of the solution.
I trust the picture I’m presenting gives you an idea of how all-consuming being a pastor is. Then there is one more complexity: God is holding him accountable for how he shepherds (Hebrews 13:17). Every pastor will stand before God, giving an account for how well they cared for the Lord’s children. The sobriety of the calling cannot be understated. I know of what I speak because I did this job.
I pastored for five years. It was like swimming non-stop during that season of my life. Even on my days off, I was treading water. Truthfully, you never have a day off because you cannot get away from the job’s weight and responsibilities. There is no such thing as decompression for a pastor unless you take a sabbatical. (I do recognize that some pastors have a different kind of “motor” to where they can run like the Energizer Bunny. Most pastors are not this way.)
When I knew that I would be leaving the pastorate, I began strategizing about my next career. During that transition, I started a blog, which proved to be the foundation for this ministry. One of my church members saw the blog and asked, “How do you have time to blog in light of all you do for us?” They recognized the all-consuming work of the pastor. What they did not know is that I was transitioning. I would never have considered a side-hustle if I were not leaving the pastorate.
All of us have stories about ineffective pastors. If you Google some version of good pastors versus bad ones, the overwhelming data would reveal more complaints than positive things to say about shepherds. Perhaps part of this outcome is because we’re more apt to complain than compliment. I understand.
You know someone who has been affected by bad shepherds. My goal here is not to beat up pastors. I’m being honest about some of them not doing their jobs well. It’s a problem in the body of Christ. We all know this. Part of the “pastoral problem” is because of the vetting process to become a pastor. It’s one of the most accessible jobs out there.
Because of a universally understood “pastoral complaint,” it’s essential we talk about a pastor taking on a part-time ministry job. In context of this podcast episode, I’m speaking about when he does not have to do it. I understand the financial reasons for having a part-time job and applaud any pastor who loves his people so much that he’s willing to make that sacrifice.
Let me illustrate. What do you think about a father, which is a full-time position, adopting another family to serve in addition to his full-time father role? What about a full-time production worker who also has a family? He gets a part-time job though he does not need it. Perhaps he’s doing it, hoping it will be his future, full-time gig. I understand that desire, though I’m not speaking of that situation.
What do you think about a church that tithes to support their pastor and his family, and he’s working part-time doing something else? Perhaps his part-time job pays him, too. Are you okay with that? Are there any potential integrity issues that you should examine? What are his thoughts on called to shepherd a group of folks while moonlighting on the side? I’m not making an accusation, but merely asking a question.
The age of social media has given rise to pastors moving beyond their churches into cyberspace. The costs are minimal, and the gospel advancement possibilities are more significant than ever. Of course, that is the problem: we can spiritualize our ambition to build our brands. There’s virtually no cost, at least in the beginning, we can do something fun, and get a break from the hard work of pastoring. There are a lot of moms who work outside the home for this reason.
Perhaps some pastors are stepping into this portal because it’s going to be their future careers. More power to them, as long as they are honest with their congregations. If a future, but different, ministry job is their goal, you must ask what they anticipate will happen if their side-hustle takes off. If they do become “in demand,” what is the plan to accommodate their new fame? How are they preparing their churches to lose them? Here are a few more questions.
A few years ago, I was sitting in a small group that was supposed to talk about the pastor’s sermon. Most of the time was a discussion about what John Piper said. The pastor’s message served only as a short-link in the conversational chain that led a more popular discussion about John Piper’s thoughts. I’m not tossing Piper under the small group bus, but pointing to a potential unwitting oversight among some church people.
Most parents have had similar experiences. They have talked to their children about morality and choices all their lives. Seemingly, those words fell on deaf ears. One night, the child comes home from the youth meeting and barges into the parent’s room, broadcasting how God spoke to them through their youth leader. The parents bite their lips as they recall the number of times they said the same thing. It happens.
We all benefit from Christian men and women who are not part of our churches. You should not feel guilty because of these means of grace to the body of Christ. However, you must be aware of how your words of gratitude for your favorite famous preacher’s sermons can tempt your pastor to discouragement. For the tempted pastors, I want you to know it’s okay not to have a para-ministry. You are pleasing God to labor in your small church, in a small corner of God’s world. May you find contentment in your role in your people’s lives while resisting doing more than you should because others are doing it.
I’m not saying it’s wrong for a pastor to have a para-ministry. I am speaking about a few possible problems with it. If we’re afraid to ask the right questions and if the pastor has nobody to talk to him about the dangers, then it is dangerous, and people will hurt because of it.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).