Why ministry is different

25 Sep

When Pastor Pete Wilson resigned because “he’s not ok,” he joined a growing list of high profile pastors who’ve stepped aside, burned out, flamed out, or been pushed out. He also joins a much larger but less published tsunami of ministry leaders in smaller churches and organizations who have done the same thing with no media fanfare. When a friend posted an article about this, someone asked “how is ministry any different than running a business?”

I’ve spent some time considering over the last few days, and here are some ideas.

1.     Pastoral ministry is a lot like running a small business. Except with mostly volunteers. Who can be faithful for years, and then one day "need a break." Or for a million other reasons, valid or questionable. 

2.     Pastoral ministry is like a business in that there are budgets and deadlines. But speaking of deadlines, pastors don’t get to preach their sermons late. They don’t get to miss a deadline. Their most important deadline can never be missed. Ever. The grind of “Sunday’s coming. Sunday’s coming” is real, and its different that most areas of the business world.

3.     Lose your job in the marketplace and your family doesn’t lose their entire social network. They don’t have to find new friends, a new church.  Lose your job in the church world, the rules are different.

4.     Speaking of family, the success of a businessman is measured on his business, not whether or not his kid smokes weed. Ministry leaders are judged on how their kids, and all those under their tutelage, how they all respond to the teaching and ministry. If someone uses an iPhone for porn, no one blames Steve Jobs. But the church is blamed for all sorts of failures.

5.     Ministry is different because of the variety of skill sets a pastor is supposed to have.

a.     Teaching

b.     Public speaking

c.      Accounting

d.     Counseling

e.     Volunteer management and leadership development

f.      Interpersonal excellence

g.     Technical knowledge of ancient texts and deep knowledge about the human soul and about God.

h.     Multi-generational cultural understanding.

6.     Ministry is like a job in that you get a paycheck. But unless a business, you rarely get promoted out or up. Most pastors stay pastors. Even those who hold church leadership positions outside the local church are rarely fulltime. Pastors will be dealing with the same issues at 65 years old as they were at 23. Even in large churches. 

7.     Ministry is not like a business in that financial success put a question mark beside your character.

8.     Ministry is NOT like business in that the care of the human soul isn’t the primary concern of business. Many of my friends who are in business are aware of the responsibility they carry for providing for everyone in the company. It’s a big weight. But they don’t carry the weight of the soul. Paul, the apostle, tells of how he daily carries the weight of the churches. Pastors get this.

9.      Pastors love numbers. They love success. Who wouldn’t? Its human. But pastors feel the failures and rejections of those under their care deeply. Hurting families, broken marriages, divorces, wayward children, all these feel like a personal failure to the guy God entrusted those sheep to. So often we measure ourselves not by the wins, but by the losses. The families that leave. The marriages that fail. The kids that walk away. 

10.Ministry is not a 9-5 job. Like parenting a child with a disability, there is never a moment when you can’t be called on. 

Is running a small business stressful? A 6AM to 8 PM public school teacher? Crazy. No one is claiming that ministry is harder. Its stresses are unique and the combination can lend itself to burn out very easily.

What do you think?