The Demands are Huge And We’re Grossly Unprepared. Such is the Life of a Pastor.

After graduating from college, I was torn between pursuing a career in ministry or in psychology. I happened to find a degree that integrated Christ into the center of psychology and found out that there was a long history of people who had gone before me in attempting to integrate their faith into a counseling ministry.

As I began an internship during seminary, I had the opportunity to sit with people in many forms of “career ministry” or full-time ministry; some in the church, some from the mission field, in seminary. The common theme that unfolded: People were unprepared for what the role of ministry would require of them and their families, they were grossly unprepared for the desperation of the people they were serving and the demands this would put upon them. I have heard many heartbreaking stories and my heart weeps for those that have been abused within ministry roles.

Since graduating, and beginning my own practice I have had the opportunity to work with many people in full-time ministry, from catholic priests, to pastors of mega churches, and have been so blessed to be able to help them navigate through this crazy world of ministry. This is a passion of mine, and sadly something that is so underutilized in churches around our country.

One of the things that I would include after reading this article on burnout is the lack of trust demonstrated by so many people that I have seen in ministry. Everyone always wants something from their pastor. Many of them never know whom to trust and who is really on their side. Sometimes I have thought of this as PTSD-like symptoms as with a soldier; one becomes hyper-vigilant, self reliant, and often reclusive to escape the demands both seen and unseen.

Another thing I have witnessed over and over which contributes to feeling alone is the lack of mentorship on a spiritual level. It is as though when you become the pastor, all of a sudden your spiritual walk isn’t questioned anymore. You just simply become holier than the rest of humanity and nobody worries about you anymore, until they find out that you have been watching porn for hours, your wife leaves you, or you have an unhealthy relationship with one of the volunteers at the church. At that point you are removed from your position and spit out into the world to make a go of it.

Pursuing a role in full-time ministry requires maybe, more than ever, that you find people that you admire and seek them out. Get help and accountability for those possible temptations in your life.

Be creative as you pursue a ministry position. Ask potential employers if there can be a stipend for counseling and spiritual direction as part of the hiring package. If you are already a part of a congregation, ask if they have a program in place that can provide you with marital and family counseling.

Know that you are not alone and that there are others that can and are trained to support and guide you through the world of full-time ministry.

POSTED ON March 28, 2014

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Brandon Pendergraft, M. S., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and is devoted to bringing God’s love and healing to individuals, couples, families, and groups. Over the past ten years, Brandon has worked at Fuller Psychological and Family Services at Fuller Theological Seminary and Turning Point Counseling, a non-profit Christian counseling agency before starting Freedom Family Counseling, Inc. He is devoted to bringing health, spiritual maturity, and psychological well-being to the body of Christ.