There are many stereotypes people have concerning pastors: They do not make much money (unless they pastor a megachurch, in which they then make too much money). Most of their week is spent studying and memorizing the next sermon. They are definitely Type B personalities who could not survive in a Type A business world; that’s why they became pastors. And between the stress of not making much money, spending too much time on sermon prep, and not being the Type A leader that is required to manage a staff and schedule effectively, they must always be a stressed-out, pulling-hair-out, insanely busy person who needs everyone’s pities and prayers constantly.
But what if this doesn’t describe you? Does that mean you’re doing something wrong? Does it mean you’re not as sold out for the gospel as your crazy busy peers from seminary appear to be? You have budgeted well and stayed out of debt. Does that mean you make too much money and need to ask for a salary that qualifies you for food stamps and Medicaid?
Basically, what should you do when—now brace yourself, because this may sound incomprehensible to some—taking on all the responsibilities and concerns of full-time ministry actually agrees with you and your personality? What if, despite being a “crazy busy, poor, stressed-out unprofessional who couldn’t survive in the business world,” you somehow manage to have free time for yourself and your family, money to eat out at places that take longer than five minutes to cook your food, and a tight-knit, effective staff who keeps the ship straight under your leadership?
Do not feel guilty about this. Some of your fellow ministry workers have not done the best of jobs keeping it together in their pastor positions. Why would you look to the stressed-out, insane colleague as the role model? In what other occupation would someone do that? You also cannot help what stereotypes have been preconditioned into your church members up this point concerning pastors. If they have different expectations or assumptions concerning ministry workers that came from prior pastors, you had nothing to do with that—it was before your time. Do not feel guilty for having it more together than some of your colleagues or for not fitting a stereotype.
Do not rush to add to your plate or make drastic changes. Nothing ever truly gets added to your schedule. It only replaces something else. Maybe it replaces something you can stand to sacrifice, such as a lazy morning or an administrative duty that someone else can do for you. But it’s not adding additional time to your day; you still have 24 hours to work with, just like everyone else. So with that in mind, do not disregard the possibility that your day-to-day is quite manageable and effective because God has allowed you to have the best team to work with, the financial mind to budget well, and a personality that fits well the pressures and duties of being a pastor. Finishing each day on time, happy, and with your family does not mean you have it too easy; it means you are blessed.
Look for ways to become more the rule, not the exception. No, I’m not contradicting myself here. This is not an argument to now become the “rule” of the insanely busy pastor and less the exception of the pastor who manages life well. This is a suggestion to look for ways to encourage other pastors and invest in them with the intention of changing the “rule.” Much more often than we would care to admit, pastors have begun viewing insanely busy schedules similarly to how many view gluttony and not taking care of their bodies—it’s only hurting themselves so it’s not really that bad. Wrong! God clearly commands us to take control over keeping our bodies, the temple of the Spirit, healthy; and he is quite clear about the length of the day and the rest that he requires our bodies and minds to have. If you believe this is an area in which God has given you a proper, healthy perspective, then look for ways to invest in other pastors and change the rule of the pastor’s lifestyle.
Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, his most recent being All You Want to Know about the Bible in Pop Culture. He also writes at BibleInPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter under the handle @PopCultureKevin.