October happens to be Clergy Appreciation Month. After a wonderful celebration for my 25th anniversary in the ministry, and recognition in our worship today, I feel very well appreciated. I serve a congregation that loves me and honors me more than I deserve. It can most certainly be debated whether a whole month should be set aside to “appreciate” clergy. Other professions deserve just as much, if not more, appreciation. In addition, it seems like we are called to do our duty and nothing less. And yet the very existence of things like Clergy Appreciation Month and the high demands of the vocation cause fear in some pastor’s hearts.
Here are five things that some pastor’s fear. Some of them are founded. Others are unfounded. But they all are a legitimate concern for many pastors at one time or another.
- Losing members. Pastors shouldn’t take it personally. But when someone leaves the church they most always do. They feel as though it’s a personal judgment on their ministry.
- Low attendance. When attendance goes down many pastors ask, “What am I doing wrong?” It may just be a combination of many factors such as natural transition, people moving, deaths in the congregation, or the time of year. But pastors are passionate about the Gospel and want people to hear it on a regular basis.
- Missing someone’s need. As much as some might think, pastors can’t read people’s minds. They fear missing a hospital visit or some other kind of personal need. But if they don’t know what the need is, they can’t meet it. Tell your pastor what you need. He* will be happy to respond to the things he knows about.
- Inadvertently offending somebody. Sometimes decisions are made for very good reasons, and due to human nature a decision offends someone. I can assure you that there is hardly ever (never?) any intent to offend someone when a decision is made. But the fear is that when someone is offended a member will be lost or attendance will go down (see #1 and #2), and the pastor will feel personally responsible.
- People who are unwilling to be themselves. Pastors love people. And since pastors are sinners just like everyone else, they know we’re not all perfect. Pastors really appreciate it when people are comfortable enough to be themselves without putting on a front or facade. Be who you are. Your pastor loves you for who you are.
The key to overcoming these fears is to remain confident in the One who drives out all fear. Our God give peace to all people, even pastors. He assured it by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. He forgives all those who offend or are offended. He covers all misunderstanding and sin with His grace.
What fears do you have in your vocation?
*I intentionally use this pronoun because it is the accepted practice of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, of which I am a member.