This month is Pastor Appreciation Month, a time where you can reflect on what you pastor does and how he serves the church. However, many times I get the question, “What exactly does a pastor do?”
Usually our work titles explain what we do. Doctor? They work with patients and healthcare. Teacher? They work at a school teaching kids. Secretary? Works in an office and usually handles office work and telephones. But what does a pastor do, other than preach on Sundays?
This is a good question, one I’ve even been asked even by close family members. What does Dan do every week? Does it really take five days a week to come up with a sermon for Sunday?
So I thought I would share a little of what Dan does (and probably many of your pastors) every week.
1) Study God’s Word and prepare a sermon. Dan usually plans his sermons months in advance, digging deeper into the series and the particular sermon as the Sunday draws near. This includes praying, studying the Bible, studying context, browsing commentaries and other writings on that particular topic or verse(s), finding illustrations, and praying some more.
2) Strategic Planning. A pastor doesn’t just preach every Sunday, he leads the church, usually in conjunction with an elder board. This means asking where is the church going? How are they reaching their community? How are they reaching the people already part of the church? How are they teaching and equipping their people? These are just a few of the questions he asks. Then he works with the elders and staff on how to answer these questions. If you’ve ever walked into our church and seen the whiteboards in the backroom, that’s Dan’s brain on strategy 😉 And not only is he asking these questions, he is in constant prayer about where God wants the church to go. After all, it’s not his church, it’s Christ’s church.
3) Meetings. Lots and lots of meetings. Dan meets with his staff every week to find out how they are doing, both in their ministry and personally, both as a group and individually. He cares about the people who serve the church and wants to help them in any way he can along with praying for them. He also meets with other pastors to encourage them, talk about the church community, and discover new ways of doing ministry. And he meets with the elders, to share his heart with them, to encourage them in their leading, and to work together to lead the church.
4) Counseling. Pastor means “shepherd” and as a pastor that means helping those in the congregation. Almost every week Dan meets with people who are struggling with their marriage, parenting, or life in general. He talks with them, shares what God’s Word says, and prays with them and for them. Trust me, this isn’t always an easy thing to do, to get involved in people’s messy lives, but when I watch Dan interact with people, I am amazed at his patience and love with those who are hurting.
5) Church events. Whether that is leadership training for small group leaders, teaching a class during an evening, or meeting with newcomers after church over pizza.
6) Pastoral care of church members. Sometimes this means conducting weddings, funerals, or hospital visits.
7) Prayer. Dan prays a lot. If you didn’t notice, almost all the points up above have some aspect of prayer. Dan is always on his knees for the church. I know, I’ve walked in on him on his knees, praying, even sometimes in tears.
This is just a glimpse of what a pastor does. Along with his daily and weekly duties, he also strives to walk with God. A pastor must be Biblically qualified to lead the church. 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 lay out the character and lifestyle that a pastor/elder should exemplify. Not perfectly, but walking with God in humility. (I share more about church leadership here).
Many pastors also go to seminary or a Bible school to gain more training in theology, doctrine, etc.. as well as how to lead a church. Some have a master’s degree, some have 2 master’s degrees, and some even have a doctorate. This is not so they can show how smart they are, but so that they can accurately teach God’s Word.
The pastor’s family also serves by giving their husband and dad to the church so he can serve. Now I’ve seen unhealthy examples of where the dad/husband is never home because he’s always serving the church. That is never good for the family or the church. Instead, a healthy church/pastor family relationship is built on the understanding that there are times the church needs daddy and there are times the family needs daddy home. I wrote an article about the relationship between the pastor, his family, and the church here).
Sometimes a pastor gives up financial stability to serve the church. Most pastors are not in ministry for the money (and if they are, that’s a big problem). But many pastors, for all of their qualifications, education, and years of experience, make very little compared to most professions that require the same. They do this to serve the church. However, a pastor sometimes walks the line between living on the resources provided by the church and providing for their family (I share my thoughts about doing what you love for a living here).
In the end, the life and service of a pastor is not easy. Much is expected of him. He wakes up thinking and praying for the church, he goes to bed thinking and praying for the church. He gives of himself, his time, his resources, everything he is so that he can shepherd the people God has placed under his care.
Because of that, pastors need your prayer and support. You may never know the pressure they are under or the battles they are facing.
I would encourage you this week to say thank you to your pastor and tell him how much you appreciate what he does. I know from experience how much a word of encouragement can mean to a pastor 🙂
3 thoughts on “What Does a Pastor Do?”
It is astonishing how much our clergy do, how much is required of them, and how they manage to get through the day, the week, the year without burning out. When I worked at the Boston University School of Theology Library in the mid-1970s, I was occasionally allowed to sit in on the classes students (who at the time were my age or not much older) and saw how demanding just the preparation for ministry would be for them. And that was before they went out into the world to shepherd, care, and try (to the best of their abilities) lead, mentor, empathize, and heal the members of their respective congregations. And prepare weekly sermons or commentaries on that week’s Biblical passage. There are also the annual meetings with other clergy in their denomination, interfaith connections, and (if they are fortunate and their congregations can afford their absence, however briefly), a visit or visits to the Holy Land. It is not an easy path, and is often underestimated by outsiders, as to how taxing and demanding a calling it is.
Yes, it is a very hard calling and profession. That’s why we need people in our lives, people who pray for us, love on us, and support us. Solo pastoring is a death sentence!
Even when pastors share the load i.e. have an associate or several associates (depending on the size of the church) from what I have seen they still work very hard. I have seen pastors burnout, give in to temptation that destroys their family and leaves church members deeply wounded, and in turn be hurt in unconscionable ways by church members they love deeply. Yes, we need to pray for our pastors and their families. It’s not an easy life. I know it can be rewarding and the blessings they receive may far outweigh the negative. I certainly hope so. I will pray for you, Morgan and your pastor husband.