We asked our bloggers what 3 things they thoughts pastors wish their congregations knew. This is how they responded.
1. We struggle with our faith too.
If anything, we might struggle with our faith more than you do. After all, we are tasked with the challenge of answering the unanswerable questions, dealing with the undealable theological issues and explaining the unexplainables of life. Having to venture to these dark places has an effect on us, sometimes good but often times bad.
The hardest part of being a pastor is being privy to the highest highs and the lowest lows of the congregations we love so much. Most of things you want to share with us are either answered prayers or the sources of new ones. Throughout the course of a day, we witness the undeniable faithfulness of God in your lives as well as the terrifying silence of the One we worship and love.
All this being said, we want to continue to journey with you to the peaks of the mountains and the depths of the valleys. It is our honor. It is our privilege. It is our calling. But just know that sometimes the doubts you are feeling echo the ones radiating in our hearts as well.
2. We want to be your friend…
…but that doesn’t mean we can be your “best friend.” Every pastor has a different take on whether or not you can really be “friends” with your parishioners. Sure, you can be friendly. Sure, you can do things together that friends do. But authentic, mutual friends? Most pastors will say that kind of relationship is impossible; after all, there is a potential danger in becoming best friends with any of our flock.
I know this sounds self-important, but we maintain those boundaries for your sake. In times of great need, you need us to be your pastor more than your friend. You need someone who will do many of the things a friend will do too, but with the intention and accountability of someone who is prioritizing your relationship with God over your friendship with us. The pastorate is a very lonely place, but we care more about bringing your closer to Christ than becoming besties with you.
3. We need time off.
One of the most common questions I get as a pastor is: Do you do this work full-time? I understand where this question comes from. After all, as far as most people are aware, we only “work” on Sundays. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are few jobs that are more FULL-TIME than ministry. After all, crises and major life events don’t abide by a Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm schedule. And our church members can rarely have committee meetings during regular office hours. So throughout the day, we are also attached to our computers and minding the business of the church, and then by night and by weekend, we are making ourselves available as your pastors.
Then, when do we get time off? Well, for those of us that are very intentional about not burning out, we TRY to take a day off during the week. Most likely Monday. That’s the day we catch up on our shows, do the laundry, meet our non-church friends and family and stare at the wall. We hear our phones pinging and see the email/voicemail/text alert light flashing, but we are desperately trying NOT to work. So help us out. Don’t get mad or feel slighted if we don’t respond to you during our time out of the office. And if you really want to help us out, don’t even contact us during those times about things that aren’t an emergency. We know Monday is your first day back in the office, but it is our only day NOT in the office.
All in all, if there is one thing all pastors want their congregations to know, it is how much we love you. We don’t have the hours in the day and the resources at our fingertips to constantly let you know this, but it is true.
Charlene Han Powell is currently the Associate Pastor for Christian Education at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. She oversees Adult Education, Young Adult Ministries, and Family Ministries at this historic Manhattan church.