Reflections on the Pastorate from the Outside

It’s been two months since I left the pastorate. The transition has been more emotional than I anticipated. Please don’t misunderstand; I’m confident that I made the right decision to accept the new ministry position at Pentecostal Theological Seminary. Even so, I find myself suffering grief. After thirty-eight years of pastoring the transition has taught me a few things.

First, I never really understood the level of stress involved in pastoring a church until I no longer served as pastor. The emotional stress of pastoring can be overwhelming for a pastor who genuinely loves the people he/she shepherds. Every word spoken in moments of counseling, preaching, and prayer must be measured and wise. Just as every caring parent grieves the disobedience of a child, every caring pastor grieves the disobedience of those in his/her care. To watch someone make willful wrong choices that bring immense pain to their lives, and to the lives of those who love them, is depressing. Soul care is filled with tears.

Second, sermon preparation is tough work. I haven’t preached in two months (and I’ve really got the itch!). One of the reasons my stress level has significantly decreased is because I’m no longer preparing three sermons/teachings each week. The conscientious pastor who really wants to present a prayerfully and carefully prepared message to God’s people works diligently. Preaching is hard work.

Third, until now I never really understood how much our family sacrificed to serve the church. As pastors, we understood that our first priority was to family and then the church. But, even as we tried to make family first, the pastoral family’s life, schedule, vacation, privacy, etc. is dominated by the church.  We don’t regret serving the church, nor do we regret rearing our children as “preacher’s kids.”  We tried to guard our family time. Even so, it is really true that pastors live in glass parsonages and every aspect of a pastor’s family life is affected by their commitment to serve the church.

We have no regrets for our years in the pastorate. I really miss it – especially preaching and leading God’s people in worship. I really love my new ministry role. But I must give a “shout out” to all pastors out there. It’s a tough job. Take care of yourselves, and take care of your families.