As I sat in church last Sunday, the pastor took a moment out of his sermon to pay tribute to the people who were involved in repairing the damage done by the 9/11 attacks. He spoke of doctors who performed life-saving surgeries, firefighters who pulled people out of buildings and police officers who directed the flow of traffic.
There was, however, a significant group of people that he left out. He forgot to mention the individuals who played a large role in providing the emotional support of victims’ families. He didn’t talk about the people who conducted funerals, visited hospitalized victims and counseled families of the deceased. He forgot to mention the very group that he belonged to: pastors.
On a daily basis, we applaud the work of doctors, lawyers and officers of public service. This is fitting because of the contributions they make to shape our environment. However, we continually exclude the people who dedicate their lives to the work of serving our community in a more personal way. Contrary to popular belief, spiritual leaders actually do more than stand to deliver sermons from the pulpit every Sunday. They have one of the most difficult jobs in existence.
The work of a pastor is more extensive than we can imagine. It does not come with the luxury of clocking in and clocking out; the job requires a heart to serve people at all times. The vocation comes with the expectation of ministers to approach the most vulgar situations with peace. It demands their greatest efforts regardless of how much they get paid.
According to surveys conducted by The Fuller Institute, 90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week. This may seem unbelievable because we cannot see all of the work they do from our seats in the sanctuary. Along with the role of a preacher, pastors also have to maintain the responsibilities of a counselor to the weak, a manager to other church leaders, a coordinator for events, a benefactor to those in need and anything else that the community lacks. A typical week in the life of a pastor includes hospital visits, meetings, counseling sessions, sudden tragedies and a massive amount of exegesis to tailor sermons according to the needs of the church.
The most common reason we forget to honor pastors is because we often forget that they are humans just like the rest of us. We do not think about the time they spend dealing with our issues that could be spent with their own families. We do not consider their resilience despite being constantly criticized by the very members they work so hard to care for. We do not ponder their willingness to listen to our individual problems at any moment despite how overwhelming it must be to hear the dilemmas of an entire congregation of people. Take a moment to consider these questions with me. Who prays for the one that constantly prays over an entire congregation? Who can the pastor go to with his own burdens?
To be clear no one is perfect by any means, and there are pastors out there who are not doing their jobs well. This article only speaks to the pastors who work tirelessly behind the scenes without expecting so much as credit in return.
Even people who aren’t in the church should show appreciation for pastors. Pastors are always attentive to what is wrong in the community because they have a heart for people in general. As a result, they have a strong influence in our communities by working to create programs to better society and provide opportunities to benefit the less fortunate. Consider ministers such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Jesse Jackson and Joseph Lowery, who were leaders in the Civil Rights Movement while pastoring. As members of the community, it is our responsibility to encourage these pastors to continue in their tedious labor for the sake of our society.
Pastors have a significant job that they take on with pride and passion, and there are many ways we can show appreciation for them. It could be something as simple as writing a letter or email of appreciation. Go up to them after service and throw them off by encouraging them instead of asking for something. The smallest sign of appreciation could go a long way towards encouraging our pastors to continue serving our communities in excellence.