Friday, May 18, 2012

Ten Things Pastors Should Probably Not Whine About

There has been a blog post floating around among my clergy friends that really frosts my cake!  I know being a pastor can be hard work.  I know preaching can seem like an overwhelming task at times.  But really?  We are blessed to be a blessing.  Whining is not a part of the call.  And so, in response to "Ten Things You Forget About Pastors," here is my amended list. (The black is the original blogger, the red are my responses.)

1. Preaching is a lot of work.
I should hope so!  Like many jobs, preaching is something that has more hours of preparation than presentation.  Consider teachers, musicians, cooks, lawyers, just to name a few.

2. Preaching is stressful.  If you mess up in your job, your boss might get upset with you. If we mess up…God is upset with us. I’d rather get the stink eye from your boss than mine any day.   This theology totally offends me.  If God is a preacher’s boss, wouldn’t you rather have the all-gracious Lord as your critic than some human being who could yell at you, embarrass you or fire you?

3. Preaching has a lot of moving parts.
We feel the weight of preaching the Scriptures faithfully, in an engaging way, every time. We have to balance humor, theology, and application, making sure to pepper in just the right number of illustrations, but not too many so that people remember the illustration and not the Truth. That’s a lot to balance on a small stage.  Whining, pure and simple!  See #1.

4. We don’t always have it all figured out.  If the people you are preaching to think that you know everything, then there is something screwy going on.  Even children should be invited to understand that the pastor is a fellow traveler on the journey of faith.

5. We get worn out, too.
Delivering a sermon is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Expect that we’ll be pretty zapped afterwards.   Again with the whining.  After you take your nap, rethink this one. 

6. If you tell us some important detail on a Sunday morning, we’ll probably forget it.  For some people, Sunday morning is the only opportunity they have to talk to the Pastor.  The fact that it is an “important detail” means that as pastors we need to try harder not to forget.  Carry some post-it notes and a pencil in your pocket.  Or text yourself.  Put the burden on you, not them.

7. Preaching is a gift, but it doesn’t always feel that way.
Some jobs always feel like work-  never feel like vocation.

8. Criticisms need to wait.
Seriously, if you have a bone to pick, call us on Tuesday. We’ll be in a much better spot to handle criticism then, than on your way out the door on Sunday.   There is a lot of ego involved in this one!  You are telling someone to complain when it is more convenient and less embarrassing for you.  You are not inviting them into a more thoughtful conversation, just a time that is more expedient for you.
9. We see you texting.
Don’t act like you’ve listened to our sermon…we know better.  Again, check your ego!  Stop being so sanctimonious.  What were you thinking about when you should have been focusing on the liturgy or the lessons?  Personally, I am guilty of thinking through grocery shopping and all kinds of mundane stuff while standing at the altar.

10. We have to do it all again next week.
Tell it to the dairy farmer, trash collector, factory worker, retail clerk – and see what they have to say about repetitive work.


Teri said...

much truth here...though I respectfully disagree with you on number 6. if it is important, the person who believes it to be so needs to find a way to communicate it in a way that conveys that importance--an email, a phone call, a drop-in. Telling me as you pass through the door 30 seconds before worship begins is not okay, and (probably incorrectly) communicates that this is a passing thought, not an important issue. I would never tell a church member something important when I casually run into them when they're in the midst of the lunch rush or tax season or as I drop off a kid for school (we have a lot of teachers/principals and accountants, obv!). If they expect me to remember, I expect them to tell me in a way that communicates that I need to remember.

Crimson Rambler said...

Very helpful, and truthful, and I thank you! I agree with Teri -- I used to say to the "while you're here at the church door" announcements, requests, "oh by the way" etc. -- I WOULD listen -- but then I'd say, "one more tiny thing: when you get home would you either phone the church and just leave name, number and one word on the answering-machine? Or send me an email of about that length? Cuz my brain isn't a tabula rasa, it's an Etch-a-Sketch, one shake and it's GONE -- and I don't want this to be GONE".
People took that in good part.

Martha Spong said...

I haven't seen the original post, and I am in complete agreement on all points except #6.
5 minutes before worship is not the time to tell me anything. My mind is stayed on Jesus, not the newsletter or even the announcements upcoming in 7 minutes. Having been berated, bullied and even having had to break up a fight *in the chancel* right before worship (the last one not in my current church, thankfully), I continue to struggle with how to protect that space right before the service so that I can be focused on presenting what I have worked all week to prepare, not for my ego but to open the gospel of Jesus Christ. If it's about an announcement, I ask the person to raise a hand or remind me. I know I will not retain it. If it's a personal matter, I invite them to give me a call (my cell number is on the answering machine, so they can literally call me anytime and have a good chance of reaching me). If it's a crisis, I do my best to be sympathetic for the short haul. If it's a complaint, well, that's the hardest. I try not to get engaged because I know how hard it will be to do the part of my job they called me to do if I go down the rabbit hole at 9:28.
Does that really sound like whining? I find the people who do this the most are the ones who *do* see me often, including outside of Sunday morning. They have less of a sense of a boundary than the people who come to church only for worship.

Martha Spong said...

Yes, like CR, I take that inability to remember on myself, good-naturedly.

Martha Spong said...

In agreement with you, that is. I hope that was clear.

RevHRod said...

In my current non-parish job I also ask people to email me when I don't have a moleskine notebook in my pocket. The thing is, I don't disagree with my own number 6, I just don't want people to think I'm too busy to hear something important. And some days, it's the little "I don't want to bother you" things that are really important. Bottom line- it's tricky.