Pastors Are Just Like Everyone Else… Only More So!
Dr. David A. Currie
Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program, Vice President of Cohort-Based Education, and Professor of Pastoral Theology
As I’ve reflected on my own experience as a pastor and had the privilege of teaching many pastors in the Pastoral Theology in Practice Doctor of Ministry track, I’ve come up with a saying to remind myself and my students of two realities that we pastors forget to our peril: “Pastors are just like everyone else…only more so!”
Some of us forget that pastors are people, too. That can get us in trouble when we set inhuman expectations for ourselves or let others do so for us. “I shouldn’t struggle with that (fill in the blank: depression, sexual temptation, family tensions…). I’m a pastor.” Or, “I shouldn’t have to do that (fill in the blank: have a Sabbath, be accountable, wash the dishes…). I’m a pastor.”
Others of us forget that pastoring intensifies many of the struggles that all people have because of the nature of our office. The leadership expert, Peter Drucker, singled out pastoring as one of the two most complex and demanding leadership tasks he ever encountered in his long and varied career as a consultant. The spiritual responsibilities and dynamics pastors navigate are additional intensifiers. We carry burdens in pastoral care that we can’t share with anyone else: “Pastor, I’ve never told anyone else this…, and you won’t tell anyone?” Paul described how he himself struggled with these unique challenges for pastors in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29: “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (NIV).
Holding in tension the twin reality that pastors are just like everyone else…only more so, informs how congregations and pastors should approach “Pastor Appreciation Sunday.” Pastors are just like everyone else: they need to feel appreciated…but not only for what they do, but simply for who they are. Only more so: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17, NIV).
However, “Pastor Appreciation Sunday” shouldn’t be the only time pastors are appreciated. I’ve heard too many stories from pastors, and even more so from their spouses, who find this Sunday more painful than upbuilding, since the other 51 usually feature “roast pastor” on the post-service menu! Pastors also need to remember that they are not the only people who congregations need to appreciate by fostering a general atmosphere of appreciation in their regular affirmation of others, especially of those who serve Christ in humbler, less public ways, outside as well as inside the congregation.
Dr. David A. Currie is the Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program and the Vice President of Cohort-Based Education. He is currently serving as a priest in the Anglican Church of North America and is the faculty advisor for the Hamilton Campus Anglican Formation Program. He is also the Doctor of Ministry track mentor for Pastoral Theology in Practice, Spiritual Formation for Ministry Leaders, Outreach and Discipleship, Church Planting