I have heard many tales of clergy being horribly treated by members of their congregations and have seen firsthand how poorly some of my clergy friends have been treated in my 20 years of bivocational ministry and 13 years of denominational leadership.
I am well aware of the unfairness that sometimes goes along with serving in ministry positions and the pressures ministers and their families face.
Nevertheless, some clergy need to cut back on their complaints about how poorly they are treated, how difficult their lives are and how underpaid they are.
Historically, most ministers have been underpaid, but did you go into the ministry thinking you would become rich?
Some of this is our fault because we are reluctant to tell church leadership about the struggles our inadequate income causes.
Instead, we tell our colleagues who can’t do anything about it.
I also hear from some pastors about their churches opposing every change they propose.
In reality, a large percentage of people will be against any change the first time they hear it.
In a smaller church, they are afraid the change may result in the loss of people.
They don’t want to lose those relationships and are unsure how your proposed changes will impact their roles in the church or if they will even have a role.
It takes time to introduce significant change into a church so that it will be accepted by most of the people, and there is an art to doing this as well.
Instead of complaining that people don’t like your recommendations, learn the art of leading change and be willing to invest the time it takes for your recommendations to be accepted.
Another complaint I often hear is that pastors are always on call and never have any personal time.
That goes with the territory because people get sick and even die at inconvenient times. Accidents happen without being on a schedule.
By the way, I never hear pastors complain about having the freedom to attend a day event at their child’s school or being able to spend a day with their spouse shopping in a nearby city while the church members are working their 9-to-5 jobs.
Yes, there are occasions that ministry seems to require a lot of time, but there are also those down times when we can enjoy some free time to do things with our families that others can’t always do. I’ve found it balances out.
Some of you will challenge me and say that you’re working at the church seven days a week and you never have any free time.
If this is your situation, it is important to remember that the Bible talks about the importance of Sabbath and nowhere are clergy exempt.
There came a time when I found that I was not taking a Sabbath. I confessed that to our church and defined for them when my Sabbath would occur. They honored that throughout my remaining years in that church.
If your congregation expects you to work seven days a week, it’s because either you or a previous minister have taught them by example to have that expectation.
Don’t complain about it. Instead, begin to teach them that you need time to refresh yourself and your relationship with God and your family, and do it.
A final common complaint I often hear is that very few people in their churches are willing to do anything. My advice is simple: ride the horses that want to run.
Instead of spending your time and energy complaining about the people who won’t do anything, invest yourself in those who are willing.
While you love and pastor everyone, you have to invest yourself in the people who are going to move the church forward.
As a pastor, I spent too much time whining about things that would not change instead of focusing on the things that would make a positive difference in the life of our church and my own life as well.
I see too many other pastors making the same mistake in their own ministries, failing to realize that complaining won’t do anything but distract you from seeing the positive aspects of ministry life.
We are called to the greatest opportunity that exists—to be invited into people’s lives at a time when many of them are vulnerable and need someone to provide them with guidance and grace.
Those times when we see people’s lives radically transformed through the grace of Jesus Christ can make all the difficult times fade away if we allow ourselves to focus on those positive moments that happen in and through our ministries.
Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Bivocational Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.
Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky.