Friday, October 4, 2013

The Demands of Ministry

As one seeks to understand the temptations of a single minister one must have a good understanding of the demands of ministry. Ministry of any type is a job that deals with the eternal. While others have jobs that are important, demanding, and stressful, ministers have the burden of knowing that what they do has the potential of impacting every part of their congregants’ lives. It affects the present and eternity. It is a calling that deals with the most profound issues of humanity. If one is not equipped with the needed skills and knowledge and not empowered by the Holy Spirit, ministry can quickly deteriorate from a blessing to a curse. It is truly a vocation, a calling, with huge rewards and at times gut-wrenching losses.

Recent statistics report that there are thousands of pastors and ministers who walk away from ministry every year. In Ruth Haley Barton’s article, “Re-thinking Success,” she tells of how many are leaving because of their own sense of failure, discouragement of how they compare with others, and how they are critiqued by others in light of the present day’s definition of success in ministry. This has always been something that pastors have had to deal with, but now the pastor/shepherd model is often being replaced with that of a chief executive officer.[1]
In the past, ministry was focused more on the shepherding of the flock. That was mainly comprised of preaching, counseling, weddings, funerals, hospital visitation, and periodic meetings with church leaders. In our day, this definition of pastor or minister has been expanded to often include much more.
The Barna Group has summarized the challenges of being a pastor in its research of pastors:

To appreciate the contribution made by pastors you have to understand their world and the challenge they face. Our studies show that church-goers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks. That's a recipe for failure - nobody can handle the wide range of responsibilities that people expect pastors to master. . .
Most pastors work long hours, are constantly on-call . . . carry long-term debt from the cost of seminary and receive below-average compensation in return for performing a difficult job. Trained in theology, they are expected to master leadership, politics, finance, management, psychology and conflict resolution. Pastoring must be a calling from God if one is to garner a sense of satisfaction and maintain unflagging commitment to that job.[2]

Barnabas Ministries, a ministry whose mission is to care for pastors, has described the challenge of ministry in these words.
“In today's world, ministers, missionaries and other Christian leaders are all on the front lines of spiritual conflict. Even in the best of times, those in ministry can feel isolated and alone, overwhelmed with the demands of ministry, burned out, and experiencing relational difficulty with family, staff, or those with whom they serve.[3]
When the church’s expectations are combined with biblical expectations the standard can seem quite daunting. These pressures and expectations can make one vulnerable to various forms of tempting behavior that seek to escape, to impress, or at least to find relief.[4]  To add to the pressure the single minister may find himself overlooked for a ministry position because of his marital status.  [5] [6]
Another trend that affects the work of a minister is the use of modern technology. In some ways it has alleviated some of the stressors by helping people to communicate more efficiently and by helping them be better organized. In others ways modern technology has made things worse. Modern technology only heightens the demands on a minister who is now believed to be always in reach because of smartphones, email, instant messenger and various other means of communication. Technology has now blurred the lines between work and personal life so that now, if one is not careful, he may be lured into working at all hours of the day and night. Because of greater internet use those in the church can now be exposed to some of the greatest speakers and preachers in the world by a click of a mouse. While that is a benefit for one’s spiritual formation, it may lead congregants to unrealistic expectations of their pastor as he preaches and leads the church.
This is a short view of the demands of ministry. Now let us combine that with the stressors of being single.

[1]Ruth Haley Barton, “Re-thinking Success,” Transforming Center, (accessed May 9, 2013).

[2] Barna Group, "A Profile of Protestant Pastors in Anticipation of Pastor Appreciation Month,” (accessed September 25, 2011).

[3] Barnabas Ministries, "The Need," (accessed March 7, 2011).

[4]An August 2010 article in the New York Times told of how “Many Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.” Paul Vitello, “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work”, New York Times‏, (accessed May 9, 2013).

[5]This was highlighted in the March 2011 New York Times article, “Unmarried Pastor, Seeking a Job, Sees Bias.” It told of how “Single pastors remain uncommon, especially among conservative churches, where the figure is one in 20, according to the same survey. Among mainline Protestant denominations, roughly one in six senior pastors are single.” Erik Eckholm, “With Few Jobs, an Unmarried Pastor Points to Bias,” New York Times, (accessed July 25, 2013).

[6] ATS, the Association of Theological Schools, is the largest accreditation organization for theological schools in North America. It is affiliated with 173 theological graduate schools. When looking at their data from graduate surveys since year 2000, 37% of the graduates who are leaving seminary and beginning ministry are single. (The Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting, “Graduating Student Questionnaire, 2000-2011,” (accessed June 2, 2010).
In preparation for this project the author examined 200 churches from different denominations and different parts of the United States  by phone, email, and internet. While the vast majority of their staff members were married, 85 of the 200 churches had at least one staff member who was not married.
While researching ministry job sights online, such as one out of every eight pastoral resumes were from ministers who were not married. (, ”Resumes,” (accessed December 13, 2011)).
When looking at youth ministry job sights online such as, over 50% of the resumes were from unmarried ministers. (Youth Specialties, “Job Bank,” http:/​/​​jobs (accessed December 13, 2011).)

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