It’s really weird for me to meet with a group of other United Methodist pastors (which our Conference requires that we all do, at least once a month). You know how, in almost every group, there’s always at least one geezer who loves to say, “You know, back in my day…” Well, what’s weird is that I am now that guy! I have been doing this for 28 years, and most of the pastors around here have been at it a lot less. So, I keep catching myself trying to amaze them by how things were in the olden days. “I remember when you got ordained twice.” Or, “I remember when you went to Annual Conference and the first thing they did was hand you a check!” The young’uns just smile and humor the old geezer.
So, if you’re wondering what us pastors talk about when we get together the answer is obvious: we talk about you. Sometimes we tell funny stories about you, sometimes sad stories, and sometimes infuriating stories! (Though I promise we always do it in a nice way, and most importantly, we never name names. Almost never.) Sometimes we want advice from the others, but often it helps just to know that other people have stood where you are now and have lived to tell the tale.
I worry about these folks – I really do. I don’t want to sound whiny or anything, but it’s tough being a pastor. Carrying around a heart load of other peoples’ problems all the time can get downright wearisome, no matter how much “professional distance” we try to maintain. And even though the vast majority of the churches you see are doing amazing things for Jesus, the honest truth is, many of them are struggling to stay alive as well. And pastors carry that around too. And you have to come up with something completely new and different to say every week – people will notice if you try to slip last week’s sermon in again! And then our denomination itself provides a lot of drama. Sometimes “United Methodist” is kind of an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp.” Part of the reason our insurance is so high is because most companies consider us to be a high-stress occupation. I know some of you probably find that hard to believe and that’s understandable. You’re just gonna have to take my word for it.
But I also respect my colleagues a lot. In fact, strangely enough, the older I get the less cynical I become about them. Almost every pastor I know truly loves people. And they truly want to serve God the best they can. They blow my minds sometimes with their passion and devotion. And if there’s only one thing in my life that I’m proud of, it’s the fact that I have been able to be a part of this group. I’m still not exactly sure how that happened.
So anyway, I guess what I want to say is, please join me in praying for all our pastors. I don’t say that because I’m one of them – please don’t take this article as some kind of plea for attention! It’s just that I think a lot of these folks, and praying for them blesses us all.
You are blessed, and you are a blessing,