Monday, March 04, 2013

Pastoral Stress

A common theme amongst the writings and struggles of pastors is that of stress - and especially that they (we) feel that the stress is never understood by church members. Scot McKnight quotes a pastor's struggles in a recent post.

 “I am appalled at what is required of me. I am supposed to move from sickbed to administrative meeting, to planning, to supervising, to counselling, to praying, to trouble- shooting, to budgeting, to audio systems, to mediation, to worship preparation, to newsletter, to staff problems, to mission projects, to conflict management, to community leadership, to study, to funerals, to weddings, to preaching. I am supposed to be ‘in charge,’ but not too in charge, administrative executive, sensitive pastor, skilful counsellor, public speaker, spiritual guide, politically savvy, intellectually sophisticated. And I am expected to be superior, or at least first-rate, in all of them. I am not supposed to be depressed, discouraged, cynical, angry, hurt. I am supposed to be upbeat, positive, strong, willing, available. Right now I am not filling any of those expectations very well. And I am tired.”
(Chandler W. Gilbert, “On Living the Leaving” in Edward A. White (ed.) Saying Goodbye, Bethesda, Alban, 1990, p.25)
 His post is a reblog from Australian pastor Mike Stevens. I found the comments on the post interesting. Here someone weighs in saying that the nursing profession and many others are just as stressful and it could be that pastors tend to feel a little bit sorry for themselves. I must admit that this is something that I have been afraid is true. I wonder if my life is more stressful than the average business executive or healthcare worker. People say that you can never overestimate the emotional stress involved in the caring professions and that is true.
But I wonder if there isn't something else. And that is that doctors and nurses are able to perceive a considerable amount of success in their work. If they did not, they would stop doing it (hopefully!). More people must be healed, saved, provided palliative care because of them than there are those who are 'lost'.
One of the difficulties in ministries is the inability to measure success. And so we fall back on 'God does not call me to be successful, he calls me to be faithful'. This may be true, but it leaves us in many ways dissatisfied because we know that we are edging around the real issue of whether what we are doing actually has any point to it. And that is stressful.

* Reflection - I don't find myself in that place right now - I can see measurable stuff happening. But there are times when one wonders . . .

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