Being in full-time vocational ministry, I know we have a lot of emotional stress and weight from leading a church.
Being in full-time vocational ministry, I know we have a lot of emotional stress and weight from leading a church. Do pastoral jobs (I hate using that word “job” as it is serving we do) give more excuse than a non-pastoral job for dealing with pressure and becoming an unhealthy statistic of stress?
I have worked in jobs outside the church before I became a pastor on a church staff. I worked in a Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning office in San Jose for a few years, as well as for an structural engineer and architectural firm in Santa Cruz. There was a lot of stress and pressure and deadlines. There were plenty of lunch meetings and late nights working on projects that were due. There was the intense traffic commute every day which was a stress. For those who owned the companies there was an intense financial stress to keep things going, the weight of not wanting to have to lay off employees, the pressure of having competition with other companies and keeping clients happy etc.
I also know that as an employee in a non-church offices, there was hardly the freedom we have as pastors or staff in church offices to adjust and set our own schedules, be flexible on time, take a day off if we are overworked, etc. In the business world, you had to be in the office every day. You didn’t just get to take a day or half-day off if you were out too many nights that week. In the specific vocation I was in before, there was a very strong accountability to how you spent your time, because the company would bill clients per the specific time (even to the minute) you spent on every project. In non-church offices, I don’t believe that employees can check in with each other and spend 20 minutes catching up on how they spent the weekend. So this talk about stress and the life of a pastor vs. a non-pastor got me thinking a bit. I will say that in terms of stress as a pastor, a big difference between a non-church staff role and a secular company is that we are thinking of lives, souls, eternal destinies, grieving with those who struggle—where that isn’t always a factor in the for-profit business world. We also have spiritual warfare (which I don’t want to underestimate) in the mission we each are on. I remember the incredible pressure during my many years as a youth pastor to assure parents that they could have confidence in what we were doing in the youth ministry. But at the same time, there are hospital workers dealing with high stress jobs where actual life and death situations are the norm and lives are in the balance. There are social workers, counselors and psychologists who help people and care for them and their problems. There are people who work in all types of others-focused jobs outside of the church. The Scriptures teach we who are shepherds (and that includes volunteers in churches who shepherd people) will have to give an account for what we do. So it isn’t just the paid staff pastors who should feel the weight of responsibility. I assume many caring and faithful volunteers in churches feel the weight and stress of ministry just as paid staff do in the areas they oversee. I try never to forget that every volunteer in the church has jobs every day that they commute to, have their own set of pressure and stresses, yet make the time to volunteer in the church in their free time. Volunteers are stuck in commuting traffic in the early morning after a late night out at the church. They don’t have the option to stay home a little longer in the morning after a big event or late night out at the church building, as a pastor can choose to. Volunteers who care about the ministries that they serve in also feel the weight of souls, lives, people and the mission.