“Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again.” – 1st Thessalonians 2:17 NLT
As a young pastor, I felt exactly as Paul describes in this verse: I could’ve stayed at church all day if my wife had let me—having as many one-on-ones as I could fit in, lingering long after services to hear people’s stories and to pray with them. But the longer I’ve been in ministry, the more I’ve caught myself feeling a little differently.
I’m a big fan of Seinfeld and I’ve collected handfuls of quotes from the shows, ready to dole them out whenever the moment is right.
One of my favorite moments is an interaction between Elaine and Jerry.
In a moment of indignation, Elaine declares, “I will never understand people!” And without skipping a beat, Jerry says, “They’re the worst!”
The quote is something I think from time to time, and laugh to myself, especially since I work in ministry.
It’s hard to admit, but pastoring people is hard. Relationships are the most important parts of our lives and, if you’re a pastor, your work is relationships. I wonder if you’ve ever had a moment where you’ve thought to yourself: “people are the worst!”?
If you’re like me, you got into ministry because you love people and wanted to be a part of their lives. But as time goes on, you might find yourself distancing yourself from the relationships around you, allowing the administration of the church to be both a distraction and a refuge from the work we really came to do. It’s easy for the “business” side to take focus—it’s more tangible, easier to control.
Let’s be honest: it’s less taxing.
But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to love people even, and especially, when they’re the worst.
So how do we get back to a place of pastoring—of longing for our people instead of feeling like they’re sometimes the worst?
Be careful with your time, spread the heavily relational meetings out, and give yourself some time to unwind. The more time you take for yourself, the more you’ll have to give to the people you really want to serve.
- Go home
It’s easy for us to become resentful of people we feel are taking too much from us. The more you can have a healthy separation from the church and the people you’re pastoring, the less you’ll resent them when you’re tired, cranky, and away from your family.
You alone are not solely responsible for the emotional and spiritual health of every person in the congregation. You are not meant to be everything to every person. Your goal should be to resource people with mentors who can speak into people’s lives, and friends who can do life alongside them. Sharing that weight will give you the rest and freedom you need to do your job well.
- Hire a great admin team
Along with delegating some of the relational responsibility, you need a great team in place to take care of the administration of the church. Put your energy into hiring a great staff, and to training them well. That way you can help with the administration of the church, while also having the free time to be a pastor—what you’re there to do in the first place.
On hard, exhausting days, people can feel like the worst. But take care of yourself, and insist on giving yourself some space, and you’ll find yourself full and fueled enough to be more like Paul, loving the people you are here to love.