Lots of posts by pastors and other church workers have been about the negative side of being called to serve the Church. I have read lots about pastors not being appreciated; not being paid enough, being run out of town by hard headed church members. Recently Jared Moore had a Blog post called, “Ministry Isn’t for Wimps”. He talks about how the blessings of ministry outweigh the realities in his post, but how difficult it is to be a pastor. He went on to list difficult things about being a pastor. I would never call into question anyone's experience. I know that being a pastor has difficult moments. However, I wanted to offer the blessings of being a pastor. My experience of being a pastor has been overwhelming positive. Sure, I have moments that have been difficult, but not many. I have served in a small congregation on Long Island for six years. Those were rich years filled with great ministry. I have been serving for the last four years at a small congregation in Concord, New Hampshire. Again, my life has been richly blessed at this congregation. Here are some reasons why being a pastor is such a great calling.
Every day is an adventure: There are some tasks that need to be done. (i.e. Writing sermons, setting budgets, council meetings, worship planning.) However, every day I have something new to tackle, some new wrinkle that I never thought I would have to confront. I love that feeling when I wake up that today anything can happen. People will walk off the street come to the church looking for something and I have the opportunity to be part of their lives for that time. A parishioner will call to ask something of me. I will get to testify at a hearing against the death penalty, or for food stamps. I will get to plan an interfaith worship service about AIDS. These are all different things that make this a very interesting and exciting calling.
I get to be there at the most precious moments of people’s lives: I am there when people are first born, when they first receive communion, when they are learning about faith, when they get married, when they are sick, and when they die. People come to me when things in life fall apart. I always feel that is such a great honor. To have people trust you with their most vulnerable and a broken self is really a sacred and holy thing.
Every week I get to make a speech: I love preaching. I love writing sermons. I love thinking about the people in the pew and what message they might need to hear this week. I love reading the Bible and figuring out how to make these old stories of God’s love come alive and give life to people today.
I love that I am part of the community: At both places I served I felt/feel that I am more than the pastor of the Church. I am also the pastor of a community. I have always felt that people who are not members of our congregation still feel they are able to come to me with issues they face. I have always believed that people serving in public office like having the moral voice of the Church as part of the discussion. I have always lived next door to the Churches I have served and feel like this has only been a blessing to me and my family. It has made me more than a pastor of x church, but a full blown participant in the life of the community I serve.
Lots of time my job is fun: A couple of years ago during the advent season I had a couple of weekends of doing some really great things. I went with our youth group into New York City to see a play and have dinner in china town. I went with the seniors of our congregation to a holiday luncheon. I took a bus ride to Pennsylvania to see a nativity play with people from the congregation. I got paid for doing these things! I get to go to synod assemblies and bishop convocations were I get to be with my colleagues and parishioners in a fun way. My wife will often accuse me of not working because I am having too much fun.
I get to serve others in need: I could do this without being a pastor. However, my job involves serving other people and this is a joy. Sometimes it is heartbreaking because you can’t live someones life for them, but lots of time I get to see miracles happen right in front of me. Someone who was struggling with drugs or alcohol get sober. Someone who was homeless get a job, car, and a house. A family ripped apart by infidelity finds a way to forgiveness. Someone give a moving eulogy for someone they love. I always feel that it is a privilege to serve others.
People thank me often: Lots of people go to work and never get a thank you for doing those jobs. People all the time are telling me how thankful that they are for me as their pastor. Even something little like visiting someone in the hospital is an occasion for people to say how grateful they are that I showed up and prayed with them. Through the years I have gotten hundreds of thank you cards from parishioners, people in the community, and others who thanked me for merely doing what I am called to do. I don’t know many other professions were that happens.