Preachers speak, but we don’t talk about everything. If you are a preacher you may read this series and find some encouragement that you are not alone. If you know a preacher you may read this and find some understanding that you did not have before.
This series might prompt some communication … maybe it will give you conversation starters with any preachers you know. And for the preachers? This might give you some links you want to “accidentally” pass on to certain people in your church (please don’t do that. Instead pray about a more honest way to raise the subject!)
So let’s jump into the list with number 1, not because it is most important, but just because it starts the list. You might want to let folks know about the series now so they don’t think you are particularly concerned about post 4 or whatever!
1. As a preacher, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the expectations of others.
Some preachers preach every week in their own church and find it incredibly draining. They might enjoy the actual preaching, but the expectation can feel relentless. I have a friend who preaches 9 Sundays out of every 10. That feels relentless. Is there room to breathe? Preaching is not half an hour’s work. In fact, preaching cannot be measured merely by hours spent in preparation and delivery. Preaching takes something out of you, and the relentless rhythm of week after week can become a very heavy burden.
Visiting preachers can also feel the pressure of expectation. Just as a pastor can be expected to lead every event that happens in a church, so can a guest feel that extra expectations just get dropped on them. I was chatting with one speaker who said he would prepare for weeks for a big event, then when he arrived they would nonchalantly ask if he wouldn’t mind doing an extra seminar or two during the weekend. Every preacher is different. Some will thrive on unexpected opportunities and challenges, some will struggle massively, all will find it harder as the years pass to live up to this kind of request.
As well as the expectations to preach and lead, there are countless other expectations too. You have to be positive. Your family has to be picture perfect. Your sermons have to be as good as each other, ideally as good as your best. Your reaction to the challenges of life should be ideal in every way. Your ministry should cope admirably when under-funded. Your ministry should continue whatever crisis may be hitting in your extended family or private life. You shouldn’t really have a private life. You should always be available. You should come around at no notice to help with a family crisis. And you should still be ready to preach a slam dunk message come Sunday morning.
I do not want to ask for sympathy for preachers. I don’t know preachers that want that. I do know preachers that wish people understood a bit more of the burdens that they feel.
Next time we will break out number 2 . . .