When Church Responsibilities Distract From The Word

Inspiration, Perspectives

Recently I looked at a job description list for a local pastor. As anyone would expect to find on such a list, I read things such as: “plan preaching schedule”; “deliver gospel-centered sermons”; “lead weekly staff meeting”; and “perform weddings and funerals.” But knowing well the pastor who was currently in this position, I also knew many of the unlisted items on his job description list, things like: creating logos and other graphic designs; ordering letterhead and envelopes; attending every little sub-committee meeting; cleaning the bathrooms on Sunday mornings; and picking out and ordering Mother’s Day gifts for all the women in the church.

Logos? Letterhead? Muffin baskets? How did this all become a pastor’s job?

Indeed, we as pastors need to never forget what Jesus told his disciples in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” With that in mind, it is always wise to err on the side of servanthood. No matter who we are, no matter our position or title, we are to serve just as Jesus served.

Just don’t forget to serve as a pastor.

In Acts 6, the writer Luke tells us the exciting news that “the disciples were increasing in number.” Hallelujah! That is exactly what Jesus intended when he left the growth of his church in the hands of his few followers before his final ascension to heaven.

But as we all know too well, with growth comes new duties, new areas of need, and new problems. And when a complaint grew among the early church about widows being neglected, the Twelve came together with the rest of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” And they asked the church to appoint others to serve in these needs so that the Twelve can “devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

To the overworked pastor concerning himself with everything from bulletins to baby diapers, let me ask you a question: If the apostles felt the need to delegate and appoint helpers to deal with something as important as serving widows (keeping in mind passages like James 1:27 that command us “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction”), what do you think they would have to say about attending budget meetings and shopping for the cheapest copy machines?

“Devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” That was the job description for the apostles, and it is your job description today. In order for you to be able to focus on that, if you have not already, you must immediately begin today . . .

1) Hiring all the proper help. I’ve heard the pastor of a small church plant say that the church could not afford to not hire administrative help. And he was absolutely right. More important than countless other things already in your budget perhaps is finding immediately the right detail-oriented, self-confident administrative assistant who will not bother you with questions about letterhead, ink toner, or ordering Mother’s Day gifts.

Beyond administrative help, what positions in your church need to be filled, even if just part-time, so as to relieve some of your current duties? Almost certainly there needs to be someone empowered to oversee all things children. Picking out Lifeway material for three-year-olds should not be on any pastor job description list. The same goes for leading worship. Even if you write music in your spare time and love to strum a guitar, if God has asked you to be the lead pastor of a church, you need to entrust someone else with the worship side of the service.

2) Appointing and empowering lay pastors and other willing servants in the church. If we truly believe all of God’s children are called to minister in some way, then we need to live that out by example. Elders need to be asked to do more than meet once a month and bicker about the budget. Place each one of them as an overseer in some area of the church—overseer of finances, missions, worship, small groups, and so forth. And allow them the freedom (with your oversight, of course, as the lead elder) to run with their roles. They can form their own committees, run their own meetings, and handle their own budget.

Some areas won’t need elder or pastor oversight. They simply need the right person for the job. You and the other elders do not need to be handling the volunteer schedule for the nursery, and maybe even the children’s pastor doesn’t need to be as hands-on about that either. But I bet there is a woman in your church who thrives with coordinating schedules and loving babies. Find her and let her roll.

3) Outsourcing in a few areas too. Chances are, God didn’t equip you or any of your other staff with both the ability to preach the Word well and handle all the IT concerns of the office. You need to have on speed dial a computer guy to help you set up your networks. Maybe your church is big enough that you need to hire an outside bookkeeper to handle payroll and other financial business. And though cleaning bathrooms and mowing grass are duties of wonderful servants, ask other servants to take those responsibilities.

In all of this, remember Acts 6 and what the apostles did as soon as the church grew to the point of distracting them from praying and preaching the Word. I am sure other things I have not mentioned will come to mind for you as perhaps taking you away too often from your main duty as lead pastor. Whatever that is, pray about how God may be asking you to give that up.

All so that you can “devote yourself to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”


Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, which can both be found here at Amazon. You can also read about his family’s ongoing journey of adoption through foster care at www.OrphanToOrphan.com. Find him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.

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