What your pastor isn’t

Your pastor is someone who is trained to provide spiritual guidance over a congregation of people. This person usually has skills in preaching, teaching, Bible interpretation and leadership. The qualifications for the job include interpersonal skills, counselling skills, musical talent, financial competence, and political savvy. Occasionally a pastor has skills in other areas as well.

But because pastors often try to be everything to their parishioners, church members sometimes get confused. They give their tithes and offerings, and in the spirit of getting more bang for their buck, they expect their pastor to have the responsibility to do a multitude of other jobs for their congregation.

As a pastor’s wife, I not only sit in the front row during the service, but I field calls, emails, and text messages for my husband just about 24 hours a day.

So I feel the need to clear things up.

Your pastor is not your taxi driver, your personal ATM, your travel agent, or your mother. I understand in many parts of life (and ministry) there are some grey areas, so I’ve made a little list to help you (the church member) decide whom to call in the following emergencies:

When you want to learn more about the Bible?
Call your pastor.

When you want to make a donation to a good charity?
Call your pastor.

When you want premarital counselling?
Call your pastor. 

When you want to volunteer your time as a deacon at church?
Call your pastor.

When you forget to pick up a bulletin at the door?
Call a greeter or deacon.

When you haven’t received your end of the year giving statement?
Call the church treasurer. 

When you want to reserve the church fellowship hall?
Call the church secretary.

When your child heard an inappropriate word in their Bible class?
Call the kid’s Bible teacher.

When your child gets an F on her math test?
Call her teacher.

When your dishwasher breaks?
Call a plumber.

When you are having chest pains?
Call 911.

When you need a ride to the airport?
Call a friend or Super Shuttle.

When you are planning your child’s first birthday party and need someone to dress up as Elmo?
Call your best friend!

I know at most contemporary churches these days, the pastors are pretty cool.  They dress in jeans. They talk about their families. They go to the movies. But you have to remember, though pastoring is a life call, most have a life beyond pastoring.

No matter how friendly, funny, or kind your pastor is, your pastor is not your best friend. This may come as a shock to some of you. Take a moment if you need to. But it’s really hard for pastors to be good friends with their parishioners and still maintain the role as spiritual leader and mentor in their lives.

I don’t want to make it seem like pastors don’t ever want to hear from you. By all means, ask them to pray for your MCAT exams, invite them to your children’s birthday parties, bug them about the music/heat/length of their sermons, but do it during church or during “business hours”. Many pastors don’t know how to turn off their phones, or say “no” when called upon for help; many studies show that problems with work/life balance is the biggest predictor of ministerial burnout.

If you really love your pastor in his/her role, love him/her as a person. Respect those boundaries — or be willing to take no for an answer.