Let’s cut the fluff and get real for a moment. Being a pastor is incredibly difficult.
The church is often guilty of only painting a picture of the wonderful blessings of being called to ministry—like it only gets better day after day.
We somehow forget to talk about the suffering involved. Did we forget, or are we afraid people won’t go into ministry if they know the truth?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are some things we are failing to prepare new pastors for.
Here are some things I wish someone would have sat down and told 20-year-old me. I have spent the last decade learning these the hard way:
Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Pastor
1. It will be the hardest thing you ever do.
No seriously, it is really, really, really hard! Imagine the most difficult thing you have done and multiply it by a hundred. That may be close to how hard ministry is. If you want to be a pastor because it sounds fun or easy, do something else.
2. Integrity and a love for Christ will not be enough; you have to be able to lead people.
Your character and love for Christ are the requirements for entry. These are crucial and more important than anything. However, no matter how godly you are, if you cannot lead people, you will struggle.
3. People will avoid you, and act weird simply because you are a pastor.
People will act one way when you are around, and another when you aren’t. Others will avoid you because you represent God, and they feel guilty. This is why many pastors dread the inevitable question when meeting someone new: “So, what do you do for a living?”
4. People will expect you to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You will get midnight phone calls and texts. Some will be urgent; others can wait. You will have to set boundaries in your schedule because a pastor’s job is never finished.
5. Workaholism will be rewarded, but it will destroy your family.
Pastors who work too much get praises and raises… until their family falls apart. Then we pity them. You will have to choose often between doing ministry and being around for your family.
6. When people stop attending your church, it will hurt.
No matter how awesome you are, some people will leave. It is inevitable. It may have nothing to do with you, but it always feels personal.
7. You will have to fight the urge to compare your ministry to other churches.
You always lose in the comparison game. If you compare to a smaller church, you will feel pride. If you compare yourself to a larger church, you will feel envy. Both are sinful.
8. Attacks from inside your church will be worse than from the outside.
You will expect some attack from the enemy outside of the church. It’s the enemy’s attacks from within, like Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, that hurt the most.
9. You will not be discipled unless you seek it out yourself.
The people who you want to mentor you are busy. Nobody has ever seen my “great young potential” and gone out of their way to disciple me. Every mentor I ever had in my life I had to pursue myself.
10. You will have to fight pessimism, bitterness, and even depression.
You will have seasons of doubt in God’s provision, resentment towards people in your church, and even depression. One of the darkest years of my life was the result of a bad ministry experience.
11. Your success in the eyes of others will be measured by how many people you can get in a room.
I wish this weren’t true, but it is. If your ministry grows, people will praise you. If it shrinks, they will blame you. Like it or not, that’s how people think.
12. You will never be good enough.
No matter what you do, some people won’t like you. You will never be good enough to please everyone. You will also often feel inadequate and unprepared in your own eyes. You have to let this drive you to a greater dependence on Jesus. You are not the savior everyone needs; he is.
13. Your family will be profoundly affected either good or bad.
Like it or not, your ministry will profoundly impact your family. Some families grow closer to the Lord together in ministry; others grow further apart. Ministry will either make your family better or bitter. Fight bitterness.
14. Without a seminary degree, you will be considered less qualified.
I wish I would have pursued seminary earlier in my ministry. Not just because of perception, but also because the education has been invaluable to me. You can argue about whether you need it or not, but you will be judged if you don’t. And not getting proper education might hold you back.
15. Money will be a problem.
You will struggle financially—especially early on. Most pastors are not compensated enough. You have to be ready for this going in. Will you be OK if you can’t buy new clothes, a nice house, or get your wife and kids the things you wish you could?
16. You will likely move many times.
The average stay of a pastor at a church varies depending on their role. However, most pastors I know, including myself, have lived in multiple cities working for multiple churches over their life. The pastor who works in only one church their entire life is admirable and rare.
17. When you have to leave a church, you will leave many friends too.
Whether you choose to leave, or the choice is made for you, you will lose more than a job; you lose a church family. There is always a painful sense of loss when leaving a ministry. Your wife and kids will also feel it.
18. Spiritual warfare is real, and the enemy will attack you and your family in ways you never imagined.
Every pastor can tell you stories of crazy things that happen at the worst times. If Satan cannot derail you, he will go after your family. My family always gets attacked before God does something great. Pray often, and ask others to pray for your family too.
19. You will be discouraged, and think about quitting often.
Most pastors call these days Monday. Even if things go well on Sunday, the enemy will use that one negative comment to bring you down if he can.
20. It will all be worth it!
There is nothing greater than the reward of a life submitted faithfully to Christ. You will suffer. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Accepting God’s call to ministry is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
You will have a front-row seat to see lives changed, marriages healed, and prodigal sons return. The impact you leave will outlive your life. Generations of families will change because you were faithful and did not give up.
If this article sounds too negative, there are also many reasons I am thankful that to be a pastor. If this article makes you upset, it should. Unfortunately, this is the reality most pastors face every day.
Can you relate? What do you wish someone told you before becoming a pastor?