I’m going to admit up front that I may be a bit optimistic or even naive in what follows. Nevertheless, I think it’s an important conversation to engage. We need not take my solutions as the final answer, but I don’t think churches can continue with the model we have at present or we will continue to turn pastors into zombies. So let me begin with a few questions…
Do you ever wonder why your pastor’s sermons aren’t as good as they used to be? Do you ever wonder why her lessons aren’t as fresh as they used to be? Do you ever wonder why he looks tired? Does your pastor ever look like the guy in the picture to the left?
If I may, let me answer this question directly: It’s because your pastor is doing a millions things that aren’t really his/her job.
Your pastor is not a business man.
His seminary degree did not train him to work with complex, multi-million dollar budgets. (Heck, some of them aren’t even equipped to handle the budgets in their own homes….ehem…like me!)
Her education did not anticipate that she would be heading up a building committee.
Fundraising was not a class he ever took in seminary because it was not offered.
Sound investment strategies for the church’s tithes and offerings were never part of her course work, either.
In fact, if your pastor wanted to be a business man, he would have gone into business. If she wanted to be in charge of finances, she’d go work at a bank.
But, if I could, let me add to the other things your pastor is not: S/he is not a CEO, a chairman, a technology buff, an executive director, nor a human resources expert.
Your pastor is trained in Biblical Studies, theology, discipleship, Church Leadership, Pastoral Counseling, exegesis, Christian Ethics, Church History, Greek and Hebrew, Homiletics, and Church Government.
And honestly, of the items in the previous paragraph, your pastor is probably only really good at two to three of those things, at most. No pastor does all of them well.
In fact, no pastor should have to do all of them well.
If we believe Scripture when it says that we are all gifted in different ways for the benefit of the body of Christ, then your pastor has gifts which benefit the church in unique ways. But that doesn’t mean your pastor is gifted in every way. And where s/he is not gifted, that is where the church ought to pick up the slack. That’s what it means to be church.
One of the problems hindering the modern church is the outdated model of pastor-as-CEO-Chairman-Techno Buff-Executive Director-Human Resources-theology expert-Bible expert-Counseling expert-etc. The expectation is that the pastor is gifted and skilled in all these different ways. And this expectation is killing our pastors and our churches.
Our pastors are tired and burnt out because they’re not doing what they’re gifted to do, and instead, are spending vast amounts of their time handling things they are neither gifted nor trained to do. Such things zap their creative energies and their spiritual fervor. And too much time doing this, ends up hurting the areas where they are gifted. If your pastor used to be a good sermon writer, but now isn’t, consider that the reason may be because all his/her creative energies are being used on things s/he’s not gifted in doing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, “If your pastor doesn’t like some aspect of his job, he shouldn’t do it.” No. Everyone has aspects of their vocation they don’t like. But I’m saying that the church, as the body of Christ, has gifted people who could take up the reigns where a pastor is not gifted. There are executives and business people in the church who know how finances work, and they should lead the discussions regarding such matters, instead of allowing the pastor to stumble through it.
Also, don’t get me wrong, I believe this is as much the pastor’s fault as it is the church’s. Pastors can be control freaks – myself included – because when something at church is messed up, their name is on the bulletin. So they don’t want to have to wait on volunteers or trust a volunteer is going to care about it as much as they do. But in this, we fail to see that our impatience hinders the growth of our fellow believers in their areas of giftedness, and it hinders our ability to spend our time in the word and prayer. We are called to make disciples, not control disciples, and that means we’ve got to let some things go – delegate – hard as that may be. But that also means we need volunteers worthy of such delegation.
If I could encourage churches of all sizes – from small to large – to do one thing, it would be to free your pastor up to do what s/he is gifted to do. You might be amazed at what will happen to his/her sermons. You might be amazed to see that his/her lessons might become fresh, once again. You might see vitality come back into their faith. You might see that they are an all new person!
If I could encourage pastors of churches of all sizes – from small to large – to do one thing, it would be to learn to delegate, learn to turn things over to people who are gifted. You might be surprised at how much better your sermons are, and how much more you like your job. You might even find out how much more other people like working for you. And best of all: You might just get your family back. You may even be able to recover from being a zombie and actually become a fully functioning human being again….maybe.
This is not a note about my church, or any church in particular. I’m just observing a general trend that I see. I interact with a lot of pastors, and these are repeated aspects of conversation.