Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tired of Being a Pastor

I am very tired today of being a pastor, even as much as I love this church.  I'm weary.  I'm tired of people refusing to talk with me, and hearing about things being said about me and my pastoral leadership only after the fact.  "Did you know such and such is leaving?"  "Do you know about all the controversy and unhappiness?"  Well, no, I didn't.  Sorry.

I came to this church three years ago, and found a lovely community of people with dashed hopes stuck in the most unworkable church building I had ever seen.  I came and did what I was told to do:  get the building built.  With my type of entrepreneurial personality, with my love of the impossible challenge, with my passion for spreading the news of the Good News of Jesus Christ, it was a good fit.

And so we did it.  Unbelievable hard work, extraordinarily sacrificial giving, countless volunteer hours, a spectacular building committee, all undergirded by prayer and the leading of the Spirit of God:  we did it. 

In the midst of doing this hard work, the incredible people of this church have created new ministries, found new ways to reach out to their neighbors, new ways to care powerfully for one another.  Our membership has grown by 25%, our ministries have grown with a far larger percentage than that.  So many more children finding out about Jesus through these good people.  Our elderly and shut-ins are getting more care and attention than ever.  Almost daily right now, someone says, "I've got an idea for another ministry."  And I say, "It sounds like you are hearing the voice of God.  Go for it!"

Now, I am still who I was when I came here, although I'm older and deeply weary.  I still have the entrepreneurial personality, I still love the impossible challenge, and my passion for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ centers and drives my life as it has since I was twenty years old.  But now . . . I keep getting this sense that they got what they needed from me, and suddenly I'm supposed to morph into a passive little pastor who spends her time making sure everyone is comfortable and unchallenged.  I'm sure this is a stretch, but I admit it, I'm hurting and hurting badly.  Wounds bleed today.

For weeks now, I've been working 13 hour workdays.  I collapse into a muddled heap when I get home.  People say, "you need more time off."  Yes, and then I'm supposed to ignore those who contact me with urgent health or life and death issues?  With crumbling marriages who need just a bit of time and help to see their next steps?  With dreams for expanding Kingdom work and deserve support and guidance?  My writing ministry is gaining significant attention, and bringing in more people who then offer their services and gifts for the growth not only of this church but of the whole God-with-us world of grace.  I should stop this?  As for preaching weekly . . . how many would really like the responsibility of preparing a creative message week after week after week seeking to interpret ancient literature into modern understanding in a way that fully engages people of wildly mixed ages, interests and educational backgrounds?  And then, remember, the number one fear of most people is that of public speaking.  But I do this multiple times a week.  I'm not immune to that fear any more than anyone else is.

Does anyone understand this?  Can anyone recognize how very hard it is to be up in front, utterly vulnerable to constant criticism, to have every word, every action held up for scrutiny, to have every decision questioned?  To have people really say, "You just work two hours a week."  It is easy to say, "But you choose this work."  And I answer, "this work chose me."  However, right at this moment, I fully understand why the ministry of Jesus lasted only three years, why the crucifixion happened by then.  I just hope I can leave this pity part and find the resurrection as Jesus did. 


Anonymous said...

YES I understand. I feel your pain.
And I'll add my own thoughts to yours.
No I don't want a pastor who just goes through the motions and says all is well so we can rest on our laurels. We will surely die if we don't continue to move forward.
As for the comment about Jesus' ministry only lasting three years. Here are my thoughts on that. Jesus tried to get the world to change while he was alive, but they refused to see. Only in his death could sin be conquered and the world made right again with God.
That being said, your death my beloved pastor is not necessary because Jesus already died for you. So while you carry your cross each and every day, know that the resurrection is always there for you. And that my dear pastor is life and life abundantly and it is yours always.

And for those of you who think a pastor doesn't work more than 2 hours each week. I say to you, then don't bother to call for the pastor unless it is during office hours. After all she doesn't do anything else or so you've said.

God Be With You Pastor Christy!

Joe Emerson said...

It is still a "good fit" Christy. The building is near total completion bringing the challenges of new ideas and new ministries that God has always had for us to a head. Perhaps many of us want to sit on the sidelines for a while. Some have always been on the sidelines and always will be. Others have fresh ideas and visions, and many need guidance and encouragement. There are also members who are afraid of success, for they may be asked to help. Some, although they don't want to see failure, know only failure and unhappiness and can only project negative thought.
I sense a cry for help from you. Thats good. Please reach out to us, for many of us know how hard you are working and share your vision.
The ole boogy man has pulled out a fresh can of tricks but God's grace will win. We love you Christy, Joe

JediPastorKen said...

As a fellow clergy, I know that feeling all too well. I can only hope that the season has passed for you. Mine has not. Peace on your journey.

Anonymous said...

Ya... been plugging 18 years at my church. I indentify, I am tired.

Anonymous said...

Lord do I know how you feel. Im so discouraged too, but dont know what to do!! I dont know what to do. Lord please help me!

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I don't even know what to pray for sometimes. I just sit still. I am tired and honestly don't want to be a leader in the church anymore.

Christy Thomas said...

I wrote this post over three years ago and weary and exhausted pastors still find it through search engines and identify deeply with it. I've hung in, but recently took a three month sabbatical as my health took a nosedive. It was either extended time off or leave completely. The church was gracious and gave me the time I needed. I came back renewed, but . . . I am now back to where I was, except now I'm preaching three services on Sundays, teaching two studies Sunday evenings, seen my work load expand gigantically--and see my discouragement grow again. It's very, very troubling.

The same patterns are here. People get upset, don't talk directly to me, and then just disappear. I'm supposed to be all things to all people, and end up emptied out and unable to function.

There's just got to be a better way to do this.

Anonymous said...

As a pastor, I can definitely relate. I came to a prominent church that had gone through some problems. By the grace of God, I helped turn the ship around. The church is now as strong as it has ever been. But I feel taken for granted. I'm tired of mean-spirited people. I'm tired of the way church folks let mean-spirited people say whatever they like without challenging them. I try to remind myself that I follow one who carried a cross, and that does help. But, truth be told, I'm still hurt and angry. Sometimes I'd like to walk away and say something not too nice on my way out the door.

Anonymous said...

There is no better way, Christie. Pastoral ministry is about serving until you drop, get up, go again, drop again, etc, etc. Leadership, whether it is in business or church leadership is all about motivating and serving. It's a cycle that never ends as long as you take the reins. Jeremiah did this for 50 years (well, a little different, but....). He had ZERO converts, lots of discouragement, and was sick to death of his ministry. Yet he knew he was called, remained obedient, loved God, and in the end loved the disobedient. Pastoral ministry is about sacrificing yourself....ALL of yourself. Just as Jesus did. He too got wearied and annoyed. And He STILL intercedes for ALL the saints, hourly. His ministry hasn't stopped. If you're tired of serving, loving, and shepherding then resign and go work in a flower shop, but as long as you're a pastor IT WILL BE HARD -- from a fellow pastor of 26 years.