There are days when we all want to quit our jobs. Being a pastor is no different. For the record, I love my job and am incredibly humbled to get to do what I do for a living. What I am about to write may just prove to be a personal therapy session in the form of a blog. I think many of my pastoral colleagues would resonate with what this post calls out.
There are some consistent realities about being a pastor that are incredibly frustrating. It has been said that every job has its bed pans. Working with people and in the ministry is no different. Certain things show up and they show up a lot. Here are a few that make me want to quit:
- Just tell me the truth – I expect people to make mistakes. I am ok that people leave a church. I know that people struggle in areas and drift away from the Lord and church. What challenges me is when you are asked about these and you do not admit to, own, or tell reality. I get that someone may have made it unsafe to be real and honest, but I am not that guy. I want the truth about where you stand and where you are with things far more than what you think I want to hear or what is safe. I long to know people’s realities. Even if that reality is you hate me. You hate the church. You are leaving. I failed you. Whatever it is, I just want reality.
- Please respond – It is hard to make people feel valued. One way is to try and reach out and connect with people. I know I’m not always what I could be in this area, but I work hard at this (and many pastors do). Sometimes to say hello. Sometimes to encourage. Sometimes we are asking you to do something. Sometimes to ask how are you doing. Sometimes to find out where you are. It is so hard to reach out and try and connect just have people ignore you. Maybe it is because someone does not want to have to deal with reality and tell the truth. I am always perplexed that people who are professing Christians are not even kind enough to respond an email, a text, or a phone call.
- Extend me grace – I forgot your name. I was not able to meet with you this week. My response was not as long as you hoped in my email response. I said something wrong to you in passing. I hurt your feelings in a message while preaching. I could not take the meeting with your friend who does not go to our church. You get the point — I failed you. And I do and I will continue to. But this you can know: it was not on purpose. I am not trying to disappoint anyone. I know I will, and I can live with that. I want to give up when the ethos of the person is “you did me wrong on purpose.” Why would I want to do that? I am not perfect, but I work hard not to be malicious. I also am limited in time and skill set. I want to extend you grace and I ask you to do the same.
I should not be shocked that these are the realities of my job. I work with people and people are sinful, including me. In the end, I love my job. But even in a job you love there are moments I think “I should go be a chef” or “I’ll be a tour guide in Rome.” I trust my pastoral colleagues have felt these tensions many times. In the end, I would not change my job for anything…therapy complete.
Keith, keep being real. We are responsible for our own reactions to whatever you may do or say, or not do or not say. Thanks for the candor. I need it every week.
You work for an “audience” of One. If He does not condemn (chastise, correct…) you at the end of the day then you have done well. “The problem is people,” after all! Those of us that you have served are extremely grateful that you answered God’s calling to be a Pastor. I think He is the only one that can change that, anyhow!
Im a huge fan of you! And miss your preaching so much its ridiculous. Keep being real like this. People need it… to see that pastors are real… flawed… and still awesome.
Thanks Keith. These do resonate. Try as we may try be real and model integrity, there is a public persona that comes with pastoring that inevitability leads to some distance and doubt as others relate to us. Unfortunately, my back up career as an Uber driver won’t work in Leesburg, Indiana. God’s best to you.
I am new to Grace and I enjoy your teachings. In our People are the problem series, you mentioned that I have purpose. You have no clue how that ignited my self esteem. Those were powerful words for someone who has been struggling hard to overcome this issue. Please do not think about quiting because you have purpose too! So far, you are doing a stellar job. Keep up the good work