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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Behind in Their Reading

I’ve talked to quite a few pastors recently, and I am concerned about them. I don’t think they’re keeping up with their internet reading.

These pastors tell me that they consider themselves blessed to be serving where they are. Their congregations are supportive, encouraging and understanding. While there is a steady throb of disagreement within those congregations, the pastors understand that as a sign of health, people wrestling with hard issues together. These pastors say that human beings are going to disagree over all kinds of things, but for the most part that disagreement is not becoming destructive. These pastors find it hard to imagine themselves doing anything other than what they are doing. They work hard and passionately, but are flexible enough to have good family time as well, an aspect of life that is encouraged and expected by their congregations. Oh, and in my conversations with them, they laugh a lot.

These are not all pastors in “cushy” situations. They are not all enjoying membership growth. Giving is down in some of their congregations, and budgets are being cut. As a result, they aren’t always able to do what they would like to be able to do. They are not all getting raises. People die in their congregations and divorce and have their houses foreclosed. Their congregations are not in Disneyland. But these are happy pastors. Pastors with tender hearts and thick hides.

If they kept up with their internet reading on the topic of clergy morale and satisfaction, they would know that they should be unhappy and harassed. They would know that their congregations are out to get them, that church councils are hard taskmasters who count every working hour. They would know that their congregations are packed with people whose knowledge of Lutheran doctrine is limited, whose theology is deficient, and whose commitment to the faith is feeble. They would know that conflict is always destructive and that the church hierarchy is not to be trusted. They would know that real pastors are miserable and misunderstood.

I’m sure there are unhappy pastors out there, struggling through painful circumstances. But maybe not as many as you might think. Most pastors I know seem to be amazingly... well... happy.

I guess until they have time to sit down, check the internet, and find out how miserable they are, they’ll just go on being happy and productive.

At least I hope so.

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