Monday, October 8, 2012

The Hardest Lessons

Thriving Pastor on Facebook posed this question: "What are some of the hardest lessons you've had to learn as a pastor? I couldn't pass this up, so here is a partial list.  

1. Seminaries train people to be theologians, but they don’t train us to run or start churches. We can’t do without theologians in a world that loves its pop spirituality, but we also need to know how to read a financial spreadsheet, organize volunteers, deliver a message, supervise staff, do the work of a social worker, maneuver in political waters, and relate to the public, all of which I’ve had to learn (somewhat imperfectly) on my own.

2. You won’t get the love you need from your church. No matter how much they say you're part of their family, it is not true (I expect some argument, but I'm right about this)  They pay you to do the job and when you can’t do it for them, they want you to leave so they can get someone else. Your family has to be ready for this, too.

3. God is never who you think he should be and she is never really what you teach others about him/her.  Theologians need to remember that the search to understand God never ends. That’s hard enough to accept for yourself, but it’s sometimes intolerable for your people who want you to tell them concrete answers to their spiritual questions. 

4. The quest for truth often needs to be put on hold so you can help someone in distress.

5. Most of the time, the people you help cannot return the favor. Don’t expect their loyalty. That’s not why you helped them in the first place (or is it?). 

6. Friends are hard to come by and come from unexpected places. The ministry can be unbearably lonely, so never, ever take a true friend for granted. 


  1. Replies
    1. I speak of lessons forged in my heart during times of loneliness, bitterness, and confusion. And you want to speak of pronouns?

  2. Hey, thanks for sharing Clergy Guy! Some of the best training for the pastorate might be the psychology and counseling ones?

    1. Yes, I had some pretty good ones. I had them a little late and they helped me realize how many mistakes I was making. Shoiuld have taken them earlier.

  3. Glad to see your words again! Our vicar's on sabbatical at the moment. It's obligatory for the C of E, and I suppose I can begin to see why. To be a resource to be used and used by your congregation - eventually, I suppose you get used up. Then who do you turn to?

    We do need theologians. I worry about those who don't have that depth, and still seek to lead churches (do they have "Rev" from the BBC where you are btw? Different world, but you might find it familiar...)

    1. Sabbatical? What's that? I was burned out fifteen years ago but somehow found my way.

      Not sure what you mean when you refer to "Rev" from the BBC.

    2. Sorry - uk tv, probably doesn't travel. Good to see you back, anyway.